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10 Things We Learned Building High Performance Homes

Unlock the secrets to a high-performance home with UrbanLUX Builders. In our latest article, discover the 10 key lessons we've mastered in a decade of crafting sustainable homes. From debunking the myth that energy efficiency means compromising style to showcasing how a high-performance home can transform your budget, well-being, and environmental impact. Dive into insights on cutting-edge technologies, cost-saving measures, and international standards that elevate your dream home's efficiency, comfort, and sustainability. Join us in the journey towards a home that's not just a haven for you but a gift to the planet.
November 16, 2023
7 Min Read

A high performance home is one that meets or exceeds the highest standards of energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, comfort, and quality. A high performance home is not only good for the planet but also good for your wallet and your well-being.

At UrbanLUX Builders, we have learned a lot about building sustainable homes in the last 10 years. We’ve seen first-hand how the industry has changed and evolved, and how new technologies and innovations have made it possible to create homes that are more efficient, more durable, and more beautiful than ever before.

In this article, we will share 10 things we’ve learned from our experience in building high performance homes, as well as why you should consider building one for yourself.

1. Energy efficiency doesn’t require sacrifices

One of the main benefits of building a high performance home is the significant reduction in energy consumption. high performance homes are designed and built to maximize energy efficiency, utilizing advanced technologies and strategies such as:

  • Solar panels and batteries to generate and store renewable energy
  • State-of-the-art HVAC systems to provide heating and cooling
  • LED lighting and smart appliances to reduce electricity usage
  • Programmable thermostats and sensors to optimize temperature and ventilation
  • High performance windows and thorough air sealing

There are various ratings agencies and certifications that measure and verify the energy efficiency of homes, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), NetZero, Energy Star, Passive House, and HERS (Home Energy Rating System). Homes that meet these standards can receive a certificate of efficiency.

In the last decade of revolutionizing homes, we’ve learned that energy efficiency does not mean compromising on other aspects of your dream home. You can still achieve efficiency without sacrificing design, style, comfort, location, or your budget. In fact, you can enhance these aspects by choosing from a wide range of options and customizations that suit your preferences and needs.

2. The cost savings can be life-changing

Building a high performance dwelling is an investment that pays off in the long run. By reducing your energy consumption, you can save a lot of money on your utility bills. Depending on the size and features of your home, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.

The cost savings are not limited to energy with a sustainable home. You can also save money on water usage, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and taxes. For example, high performance homes often feature advanced water filtration systems and efficient fixtures that promote water conservation. These homes also require less maintenance and repairs due to their durability and quality. They may also qualify for lower insurance premiums, tax credits, rebates, and incentives due to their environmental benefits.

Plus, green homes can have higher resale value due to their high demand in the real estate market. This demand will only continue to increase as environmental consciousness and tax incentives expand. In fact, the global single-family green homes market in the U.S. is expected to double to $240 billion in 2027.

3. Environmental sustainability is more important than ever

Another major benefit of building high performance home systems is the positive impact on the environment. High performance homes prioritize eco-friendliness by incorporating natural materials, sustainable building practices, and efficient systems that minimize their environmental impact. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, improve air quality, and reduce waste.

Environmental sustainability is more important than ever for buildings and homes, in both the short and long term. Buildings account for about 40% of global energy consumption and carbon emissions, making them a major contributor to climate change. Homes also affect the health and well-being of their occupants and communities, as indoor air pollution can cause respiratory problems, allergies, asthma, and other diseases.

By building a high performance home, you can do your part in mitigating these issues and creating a better future for yourself and others. You can also enjoy the benefits of living in a healthier, safer, and more comfortable environment. And you can increase your chances of selling your home in the future, as more home buyers seek out environmentally friendly homes in the coming decades.

4. Air sealing cannot be overlooked

A crucial aspect of high performance homes is thorough air sealing, which helps to minimize drafts and optimize energy efficiency by maintaining airtight construction. Air sealing prevents unwanted air leakage between the inside and outside of your home, which can cause heat loss or gain, moisture problems, noise pollution, pest infestation, and indoor air quality issues. It’s estimated that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs with proper air sealing.

At UrbanLUX Builders, we use Aeroseal as our preferred choice for air sealing services. Aeroseal is a patented technology that seals air leaks from the inside out using a non-toxic aerosol mist that fills gaps and cracks in ducts and walls. AeroSeal can seal up to 90% of air leaks in a typical home, resulting in significant energy savings, improved comfort, enhanced indoor air quality, and reduced environmental impact.

5. HVAC systems and air quality are a top priority

High performance homes should always integrate state-of-the-art HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems that ensure optimal air quality while maximizing energy efficiency. HVAC systems are responsible for providing heating and cooling to your home, as well as ventilating and filtering the air to remove pollutants, allergens, and moisture.

At UrbanLUX Builders, we work with the best manufacturers in the industry to provide you with the most reliable and effective HVAC systems for your high performance home. Some of our preferred manufacturers are Mitsubishi and Daikin, which offer high-quality products that are energy efficient, quiet, and durable. Their mini-split, multi-zone, ductless, and heat pump systems are essential investments for ensuring your home's sustainability in the long term.

6. Low-voltage lighting looks better and is safer too

Energy-efficient homes often incorporate low voltage (DC) lighting systems, enhancing energy efficiency and reducing electricity usage. Low voltage lighting uses less power than conventional lighting, which means lower energy bills and less carbon footprint.

Not only is low voltage lighting more efficient, but it also creates better quality light. Low-voltage lighting produces clearer and more natural light than conventional lighting, which can improve your mood, productivity, and health (all while being more aesthetically pleasing).

Low-voltage lighting is also safer and more durable. This type of lighting is safer than conventional lighting because it operates at a lower voltage (12V or 24V), which reduces the risk of electric shock and fire. Low voltage lighting is also more durable than conventional lighting because it lasts up to 50,000 hours longer and is more resistant to vibration, shock, and temperature changes.

7. Insulation should depend on your climate type

Utilizing advanced insulation types tailored to specific climates and regions is a hallmark of high performance homes, optimizing energy conservation and comfort. Insulation is the material that prevents heat transfer between the inside and outside of your home, keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer. Insulation also helps to reduce noise pollution, moisture problems, and air quality issues.

There are different types of insulation available for green buildings, such as fiberglass, cellulose, spray foam, mineral wool, rigid foam board, and more. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the climate type and the location of installation (attic, walls, floors, etc.).

In Texas, we’ve learned that one of the best insulation types for our hot, subtropical climate is fiberglass. Fiberglass is the pink, fluffy padding that many picture when they think of insulation. This insulation is actually made of thousands of tiny pieces of glass derived from recycled material and sand. Fiberglass is fire retardant, water resistant, and now formaldehyde-free. It is a long-lasting, durable material that retains its R-value over time (the rating that indicates the material’s ability to slow heat transfer).

8. It’s not an efficient home without efficient water

Green homes should feature advanced water filtration systems and efficient fixtures that promote water conservation and enhance water quality. Water filtration systems remove harmful contaminants like chlorine, lead, bacteria, and pesticides from your tap water, making it safer and healthier to drink, cook, and bathe with.

An efficient water system also includes efficient water heaters and smart fixtures that monitor your water usage. For example, efficient fixtures such as low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets reduce water usage by delivering water at a lower pressure or volume, saving you money on your water bills and reducing your environmental impact.

At UrbanLUX Builders, we have learned from experience that Elite Water Systems is a top provider for high performance homes. Elite Water Systems offers whole-house water filtration systems that use a patented process called kinetic degradation fluxion (KDF) to remove up to 99% of contaminants from your water. Elite Water Systems also uses activated carbon filters to further enhance water quality by removing chlorine, organic compounds, and odors.

9. High performance windows can make or break efficiency

The use of high performance windows, designed to provide excellent insulation and reduce heat transfer, is a key characteristic of energy efficient homes. High performance windows can significantly lower your heating and cooling costs, as well as improve your comfort during any season.

The minimum code for windows in the U.S. is typically double-pane low-efficiency windows. However, just because it’s standard doesn’t mean it's good enough. To meet LEED standards, windows that receive direct sunlight must be triple-pane. Triple-pane windows have three layers of glass separated by air or gas-filled spaces, creating two insulating barriers that prevent heat loss or gain. Triple pane windows also offer other benefits, such as:

  • Better noise reduction – Triple-pane windows can block up to 50% more noise than double-pane windows.
  • Better UV protection – Efficient windows can filter out up to 99% of harmful UV rays that affect your health and fade your furniture.
  • Better security – Triple-pane windows are more resistant to breakage than double-pane windows.

10. Follow international standards

If your high performance home builders aren’t adhering to top international standards, they’re not doing enough. European countries tend to have more stringent standards for high performance homes, incorporating more rigorous approaches and technologies. The U.S. is increasingly aligning with these standards to enhance energy efficiency and sustainability. However, the current US.. standards should be the bare minimum for creating a high performance home.

One international standard outline to consider is the Passive House Standard. The Passive House Standard is a rigorous certification for ultra-low energy buildings that originated in Germany and has spread worldwide. Passive House requires buildings to have a very high level of insulation, air tightness, ventilation, and solar orientation, resulting in minimal heating and cooling demand and very low energy consumption.

As for U.S. standards, the Living Building Challenge is growing in popularity. The Living Building Challenge is a holistic certification for regenerative buildings that originated in the U.S. and has spread worldwide. These standards require buildings to meet 20 imperatives across seven performance areas: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty. The Living Building Challenge aims to create buildings that are net-positive in terms of energy, water, waste, and social impact.

Build Your Dream Home with UrbanLUX

Building a high performance home is one of the best decisions you can make for yourself and the planet. You get to enjoy the benefits of living in a home that is energy efficient, environmentally friendly, comfortable, healthy, and beautiful, all while saving money on your utility bills and maintenance costs and increasing your home's resale value.

At UrbanLUX Builders, we have the expertise and experience to help you build your dream green home. We have learned a lot from building high performance homes in the last 10 years, and we are always up to date with the latest technologies and innovations in the industry. We work with you to customize your home according to your needs and preferences while following the highest standards of quality and performance.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you build the high performance home of your dreams.

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