Can I build a zero energy home for $100 per square foot?

Can I build a zero energy home for $100 per square foot?

A new home built for $100 per square foot (PSF) is a difficult task these days, but that’s not to say it’s not doable!  We’ve outlined a few design/build models that can help you achieve this goal, including a model we’ve recently adopted in partnership with Solar Village Homes. We now provide on-site assembly services for SVH’s off-site built homes, a service that complements our high-end custom projects and makes zero net energy affordable to a much larger group of home and land owners.

Modular/Pre-Fabricated/Off-Site Built Homes | $150-$200 per square foot

Modular homes today are a far cry from the trailer homes of old. While the process is the same – they are factory-built so costs are cut by streamlining the process down to an assembly line – they can be designed to be indistinguishable from a stick-built home.  In addition to highly-advanced techniques to maximize energy efficiency in the finished product, these homes often have a much lighter environmental impact because waste is reduced in the building process. And, because they are literally delivered to the job site in some finished state, there is very little construction waste, or the need to disturb soils extensively. One of the best features of an off-site built home is the time needed to “build” the home on-site – it’s cut nearly in half!

if you’re considering such a home, we recommend Boulder-based Solar Village Homes. Their off-site built homes start at about $150 PSF and are beautifully-designed and well-priced. Plus, your home would be manufactured locally, keeping materials, labor, and transportation all in Colorado! Check out the pre-designed models here, but keep in mind that they can take any design and have it produced in the factory to your exact specifications.

The popular magazine, Modular Today, is a great resource for this kind of building and can also give you a list of other manufacturers, pricing, and design ideas, too.

NREL’s Habitat for Humanity Home Model | $95 per square foot

In 2005 the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) successfully completed its first zero net energy Habitat for Humanity home in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.  The home continues to perform competitively to our high-end custom zero net energy homes! At $95 per square foot (PSF) for 1,200 SF (including a solar electric system!), it is a great example of what can be accomplished when budget is the primary driver.

NREL published a technical case study on the home that includes a detailed cost analysis. The case study contains many of the keys to low cost/high-efficiency building (how to weigh out the trade-offs for the best thermal, comfort and energy systems benefit).  More information can be found on the NREL website.

Low-Income Housing Models | $100 per square foot

There are architects out there that specialize in low-income housing building design that, by law, has to hover around the $100 per square foot range.  Try looking at some low-income housing developments to get ideas on how to cut costs without cutting luxury, and check out the architects who designed them.  They may be willing to sell you a set of prints to build your own home.  One example of a neighborhood like this is the Holiday Neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado.

Finally, if you’re serious about trying to build your home for around $100 per square foot, we highly recommend that you read the book entitled “The perfect $100,000 house” by Karrie Jacobs. The book is a chronicle of Jacobs’ 14,000 mile mile cross-country trip in search for the perfect $100,000 house.  It’s an adventure trying to find creative ways to cut costs to build your very own dream zero energy home, but the book proves that it can be done.  Have fun, and get in touch with us if you need help!

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