As the world goes electric, so should our homes. Not only do electric homes show great efficiency, but they help mitigate the global greenhouse gas emission crisis. Plus, the latest generation of homebuyers—Millennials—are considered to be very environmentally-conscious, and expect their homes to be as well.
In December, Utopia editors discussed these issues and more during the Building Smart and Sustainable Homes webinar, featuring Deana Vidal, trend consulting manager at New Home Trends Institute; John Barrows, owner of P3 Builder Group; and Brad Wills, director of strategic customers & programs at Schneider Electric. David Barista, Utopia’s content director, moderated the discussion.
BUILDING SMART AND SUSTAINABLE: BEST PRACTICES
Building an all-electric home requires forethought, but it can begin with simple steps. Here are a few tips and takeaways from experts in the industry:
1. Work from home is here to stay—adapt to new expectations.
Guided by research from John Burns Real Estate Consulting, Deana Vidal shares what the WFH landscape looks like for 2022. Eight million full-time workers plan to work exclusively from home this year, a significant increase to the 4.5 million that said the same pre-pandemic.
Additionally, 22 million employees across the country plan to work from home at least part-time or more.
This has led to much-needed changes to the structure and amenities of remote workers’ homes. Vidal lists some key takeaways and opportunities for homebuilders to utilize in order to reach these demands.
Most of all, developers should pay attention to providing ample natural lighting, creative storage spaces, privacy and noise reduction solutions, and enhanced wireless connection across the home. Of course, adequate air and temperature treatment is a big concern for homeowners and industry leaders as well.
2. Be smart about smart home technology.
Everyone loves a shiny new gadget, but builders should be aware of which smart home solutions are most requested by residents.
We are on the cusp of smart home tech integration, according to research from the New Home Trends Institute. Gateway implementations of this advanced technology include video doorbells and smart thermostats.
Almost 60% of homeowners list smart doorbells like Ring in their top three products they would pay to include in their home. Forty-six percent said the same for smart thermostats.
Home security is the most important use of smart home technology for consumers. The research also finds that smart home control systems are more important to homeowners than tech that automates tasks.
Essentially, security and safety will be the best bet when it comes to which smart home solutions to include in a home build. After that, Vidal recommends eight smart tech solutions that 50% of homeowners are predicted to buy in the near future.
However, the best thing for builders to do is make sure the whole-house wiring is solid and sound. Some products may need to be added or upgraded by the homeowner in the future; as long as the home has good wiring, they’ll be in good shape.
3. All-electric homes fit most homeowner demands.
Characteristics of an all-electric home are simple, and it starts with the building envelope. John Barrows suggests five characteristics of an all-electric home, which will be discussed further in a future article.
Besides the envelope, builders should implement a good HVAC and water heating system, as well as rooftop solar (PV). Something that all builders should keep in mind is working with these systems holistically, and early.
However, the feature that consumers are least likely to give up is their beloved gas stoves.
4. Consider ditching the gas stove.
According to Barrows, 60% of homes that cook with gas once a week reach pollutant levels exceeding federal standards for nitrogen, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide.
Barrows has found that after giving consumers a good conduction cooktop, they are perfectly fine with it, and just as happy when using it to cook.
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5. The grid may be old, but these solutions are new.
Homes face many challenges within their lifetime. Energy resilience is important to consumers, especially now with millions working from home full-time.
Brad Wills states that the average age of an installed energy base is 40 years—25% of our grid is already more than 50 years old. Backup power for individual homes is becoming a greater necessity than ever before.
So what can builders and developers do to adapt? Supplying homes with ports for backup generators and batteries to exist is a start. In some areas, a plug for bidirectional electric vehicle charging also makes sense.
Wills suggests consolidating all of the wires for these sources of energy into one sleek hub, such as with the use of Schneider’s Energy Center. Residents can also make use of the smart service that products like these provide in energy monitoring and alerting.
The full webinar can be watched on demand, including further insights and information for builders to follow.
For those who want to download a PDF with all 47 slides, click the button below.