Monday, November 28, 2022
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The Path to Sustainable Properties

If we want to meet our climate neutrality goals by 2050, I would argue we need to start at home. Residential homes are responsible for up to 34% of carbon dioxide emissions. Let’s look at how we can combat this.

A new study by Schneider Electric titled Transforming Homes from Smart to Smart and Sustainable shows while technology is going mainstream, homeowners are less aware that 62% of electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, and 13% of all emissions are directly tied to commercial and residential usages. Further, consumers largely believe industrial facilities and transportation are responsible for carbon emissions.

We need to flip the script. Homeowners, along with homebuilders, property developers, architects, and contractors, are essential players in this effort. Solutions exist today that will allow us to make our homes not only smart, but sustainable, as well. Let’s take a closer look at how we can do this by looking at that report from Schneider Electric.

Make homes more sustainable: Only 48% of consumers in the United States believe it is their personal duty to reduce energy use at home, and less than one in four feels guilty about the amount of energy they use. Active energy management is essential to helping homeowners be more efficient with their energy consumption. As I always say, data, data, data.

Meet resiliency challenges: Escalating energy use at home has generated two growing concerns. The first involves electrical faults. Home electrical problems caused an estimated 67,800 home fires and $868 million in property losses. Much of this can be avoided by making homes more resilient. The second concern relates to sustainability and the impact of carbon emissions. This study found 67% of consumers place safety and savings at the top of the list of smart home benefits, followed by reduced energy consumption and costs, which are mentioned by 60%.

Counter consumption with efficiency: Demand, not supply, drives energy transitions. Our lives contain more gadgets and appliances than ever. With these new demands, energy costs have been trending upward. To help, homebuilders can include energy-management solutions. This is something Boomers (yep, that’s everyone who parented those Millennials) are looking for, with 75% of them more likely to focus on the benefits of cost savings in their consideration of smart-home technology.

Add a personal touch: Architects, homebuilders, and contractors are taking notice of consumer interest in smart-home technology, and for good reason. According to the Schneider Electric study, 36% of consumers believe smart-home products should be standard in newly built homes. In the future, residential living will be a more personalized experience, with smart technology enabling the home to interact with individual family members and provide actionable insights and advice for each of them. For example, a smart-home system can tell homeowners when to do their laundry or run their dishwasher based on their utility’s time-of-use electricity rates; help them plan solar energy usage based on upcoming weather forecasts; automatically adjust lighting in different rooms at different times of day based on the season; and so much more.

Living smart after COVID-19: The timing for all this evolution in the home might be right too. Schneider Electric found 43% of people have considered changing the location or the structure of their homes since the onset of the pandemic. People are flocking to less densely populated communities otherwise known as the suburbs. New construction is on the rise, as is retrofits of existing homes. Now is the time to put this technology into homes.

The rise of net zero homes: These homes produce as much energy as they consume and the result is a zero energy bill and a carbon-neutral home. These homes are not just for the sustainability enthusiasts. Research suggests net zero housing stock is expected to increase by 28% between 2019 and 2028 from just 57,800 households to 534,500. We are soon going to move out of the early adopter phase with these homes. In order to enable this, there are number of tools and technologies that can help make this possible. Things like: solar, energy-efficient appliances, geothermal pumps, smart thermostats, weather-sealed doors and frames, radiant floor heating, and energy-management systems, just to name a few.

This is only one part of a sustainable home. How these homes are built is critical too. Therein lies the rub. There is a cost barrier to making all this happen. When building a sustainable home, I am quickly discovering there are some companies that do not make it as equitable or even affordable for the average person—like me—and perhaps you—which brings me to a big announcement. That’s why we are embarking on a journey to understand what works, what doesn’t, and how to make homes more energy efficient and even equitable. Not everything is doable, unless you are Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, with seemingly endless cash.

We are, however, looking to work with sustainable manufacturers and tech companies that are concerned about civic engagement for all. And we are creating a Living Lab to understand how best to leverage technology to build a greener home. It will be a model for sustainable, resilient, and efficient residential homebuilding practices.

This individual project will incorporate the most advanced products and systems from leading manufacturers and technology companies to demonstrate and educate both industry and consumers alike about how we can create a sustainable, clean, and green future for all homes and communities for which we live, thrive, and prosper.

This Living Lab home will be developed and designed to restore and regenerate natural ecosystems from grey to green and looking to blue; in a cost-effective manner leveraging the best building materials and focusing on future generations today with innovative solutions and working with the highest quality builders, trades, and techniques, to create the best approaches to building a home and renewing the natural environment.

The goal is to build, as much trust awareness and education, and demonstrate a model for sustainable living that can be replicated for a community that proves sustainable living is important and viable for future generations beginning today.

What do you believe is the next step to ensure our homes are smarter, resilient, and more sustainable—and how can we bring that to all? Our hope is the Living Lab will answer this very question. Stay tuned. More is to come.

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