Photo courtesy of Solid Green Systems

Zero Energy Residential Construction: Competition helps us move from Ideas to Reality

Those of us in the residential net zero energy community have lived on the fringe for quite a few years now. Each year we expect more change and greater acceptance. We have loved our conferences that brought new ideas and encouragement. Bright innovators with limited capital were commonplace but too few marque zero energy residential projects resulted. Many new ideas fell on deaf ears in the early days.

Being first has always had some disadvantages, but we believed and pressed on. In the last 18 months I have seen more new solutions enter the marketplace with greater acceptance and traction. Some of the many venues to see those products include Resnet, TecHome, and Build Exchange events where product manufacturers, builders, and the energy community convene.   It is fantastic to see the creativity resulting in superior products replacing inferior solutions.

Pulte’s recent announcement to start building net zero energy homes means mainstream housing is in for a big change. The acquisition of Goodman by Daikin in 2012 to create the world’s largest HVAC company is yet another clue that industry leaders believe energy savings and sustainability will be highly valued in the US marketplace.

It is very exciting to move from the bleeding edge to early adoption, too. Persistence has it rewards along with that creativity. If you are one of those fortunate few that have kept at it for many years, kudos!

Dave Trott (The Gate) once said, “Creativity may well be the last legal unfair competitive advantage we can take to run over the competition.”

As our industry moves from being misunderstood to more mainstream, we still have much work to do. Educating consumers, transitioning the building community and product manufacturers to better performing homes, and demonstrating outcomes clearly is all part of the next phase of the zero energy movement. While we wait for regulation to support our mission, we have to proceed quickly and effectively with every free-market approach we can use.

Reporting on the successes in our space is critical. The Net Zero Energy Coalition has undertaken the arduous task to collect, organize and report on every net zero energy residential project. We are entering our second year of this work with much traction and support from the industry.

Another way for our movement to garner attention is a good, old-fashioned contest! For the past 4 four years, Construction 21 has been using this method of promotional showcasing how viable sustainability can be. In 2015, 11 countries and over 1 million people visited the Construction 21 website to see contestants’ entries in five different categories related to zero energy, sustainability and cutting edge innovation. Some of the contest winners have gone on to commercial success.

Perhaps more importantly, every entry in the competition brought with it many more people involved in our mission. From world-class sponsors, judges and companies ready to commercialize new product introduction… winners abound.

SmartHome Hero is happy to support the Net Zero Energy Coalition as the sponsoring organization for the 2016 Construction 21 USA competition. More importantly, the US joins 11 European countries to make this upcoming competition the biggest ever. Momentum is what we are after. We want to showcase what North America is doing in the areas of energy, sustainability, heath and more. Our US Grand Prize winner will compete along with international countries for awards announced this Fall.

Take the time to visit our US site starting May 11th and enter your project(s). It’s free to apply, underwritten by generous sponsors that have a mutual commitment to sustainability and good stewardship.

If you would like join the growing list of sponsors, please email Jim Bledsoe at