Photo courtesy of Solid Green Systems.

Is Zero the Home Building Uber?

By Richard Willingham, President motum b2b and Member of Advisory Board, Net Zero Energy Coalition

The fact that the home-building industry is slow to change is old news. Very old news.

Unlike the taxi, lodging, telecommunications, music and automotive sectors, there’s no Uber, Air bnb, iPhone, iTunes or driverless car equivalent incubating in the imagination of some home-building hotshot. Or is there?

What’s interesting about those five examples is that they are not only all made possible by technology, they represent seismic change in the way business is done.

So what’s that got to do with home building, you ask?

Plenty. The technology to design and build affordable zero energy homes is already here. And I don’t mean ‘near zero’. I mean homes that produce more energy than they use.

What’s missing is that business model hasn’t really changed since the first homebuilder website at the end of the last century.

What if it could change? How might it change?

Imagine the off-the-grid home. An electric car in the garage parked in front of a battery array that stores energy generated by low-cost renewables. Those batteries can charge the car as well as provide comfort conditioning and plug load.

But that’s just fast-evolving and cost-lowering technology.

Just as the first cell phone cost thousands of dollars and is now free with a plan, solar and battery installations could soon follow the same model.

What about how homes are bought and sold–real estate companies, show homes on site? Why? Look at Tesla—quite probably the car in the garage we just mentioned. Where’s the car dealership? Where are the suburban corner lots? Gone. Replaced by Apple look-alike elegantly designed stores in upscale shopping malls.

What if Tesla didn’t stop its forward integration at Solar City? What if it went all the way and partnered with one of the growing number of production builders switching to zero energy? And what if it also found a communications technology partner to exploit the Internet of Things?

Next time you to the mall, what if you could walk into a zero-positive Tesla/Google show home in the atrium and buy a home the way you’re already buying just about everything else?

You heard it here first. Go Zero! Go Uber!