15 February 2012 - In downtown Frederick, Md., blocks from a Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, four new duplexes nearing completion were sold with complimentary iPads to monitor energy use.
For nearly the same price as other new homes, they have solar panels, geothermal wells and ultra-efficient, factory-made exterior walls. They're designed to generate as much power as they use, along with thousands of dollars in renewable energy tax credits.
"We think of ourselves as early adopters," says Mike Muren, of Nexus EnergyHomes, which is building 55 zero-energy homes in the historic town. "Our homes go way beyond energy codes."
His company may be ahead of today's curve, but that curve is changing so fast that net-zero homes may soon become archetypical. Despite the concerns of builders, an increasing number of states are adopting codes that require new homes and commercial buildings to use considerably less energy.
Maryland is leading the charge. It became the first state nationwide, beginning last month, to require new residences to meet the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which requires an estimated 30% more efficiency than those built five years ago. Durham, N.H., also adopted it last month, and Houston did so with a three-year phase-in.
More are coming. Next month is the official release of the first International Green Construction Code, a voluntary guide for commercial and public buildings to improve indoor air quality, as well as cut energy and water use. Maryland plans to adopt it, along with — in varying degrees — Florida, North Carolina, Oregon and Arizona's Scottsdale and Phoenix, says the International Code Council, an association that develops the widely used codes for the construction industry. read more>>>