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Building a New Home - Beyond Code

Most people assume that a new construction home is perfect, or at least as well done as can be expected of mortals.  Though often, the reality can fall short of expectations.  And while a Code built home today is much better than those of just a few years ago, it is still the minimum standard.  When building new, why not build to a future standard.  Builders in Chicago, and around the country, have been doing it. 

Energy Star certified homes is a national program for building and recognizing efficient new homes.  Energy Star homes are 15-30% more efficient than a code-built home, and even more when compared to most existing homes.  Greater efficiency means even comfort throughout the home.  These homes cost less to own and hold their value since they are built to tomorrow’s standards.

Zero Energy Ready Homes go a big step beyond Energy Star in performance and are as low energy consuming as they come.  Passive House certification is another variation on this theme.  An outstanding & durable building enclosure minimizes energy use and maintenance.  Adding a solar array or other renewables can take these homes to a “net-zero” utility bill. 

Off-Grid Homes are another option.  For locations away from electric or gas utilities, these homes generate & store their own power and collect, store, and treat the water & sewage generated.  Most municipalities will require the home be connected to the various utilities, so it’s important to check for these requirements before designing & building an off-grid home.  Building off-grid generally means no building code enforcement, so it is critical that the builder follow some established standard and third-party oversight is highly recommended.  Once complete, these homes are self sufficient and are not affected by utility rate increases.

Whatever level performance you decide your new home should achieve, select a builder with appropriate experience.  You don’t want to pay for someone’s education, on top of the stress that comes with building a new home.  And all ‘beyond code’ homes should involve a third-party energy rater at the planning stage so that insights can be incorporated before construction and another set of experienced eyes are helping to ensure your goals are met.  Healthy, Durable, Comfortable, and Efficient – high performance homes are worth the investment.