You might think a house loaded with cutting edge, energy efficient technology, would cost too much for most people. But a brand new home buying option has emerged that might change that.
"These are the most advanced, affordable homes in the world," says David Goswick, Chief Executive Officer of HOUZE Advanced Building Science, Inc., standing outside one of 2 model homes in Houston's Independence Heights.
"Anyone could build a home like this for a million dollars, but getting to a lower price point was the challenge and the opportunity, Goswick said.
HOUZE debuts on the market with 4 models of varying size, ranging from $145,000 to $225,000. But the modest price tag isn't even the best part.
Goswick says the cost to live in the home rivals what you'd expect to pay in rent for a comparable-sized apartment.
"What makes them affordable is we're taking a systems built approach. The homes are built stronger and more durable, they earn an insurance discount of somewhere between 40 percent and 70 percent, and they have zero electricity and zero gas payments. It's totally redefining the total cost of home ownership."
What's the catch? HOUZE houses generate their own electricity with a power cell fueled by natural gas. The power cell generates easily enough electricity to power the home, and several others. HOUZE maintains ownership of the power cell, pays the natural gas bill, and sells the extra electricity back to the power company. So, the homes are reasonably priced for buyers, because they continue to generate income for HOUZE years down the road.
What's in it for the homeowner is a brand new, high quality, energy efficient home, that costs hundreds less per month to live in than just about any other house... anywhere.
HOUZE capitalizes on all the best energy efficiency. It has thick steel framed walls lined with pre-fabricated Styrofoam-filled panels. Thick insulation in the attic, and tightly sealed windows and doors complete what the builders call the "envelope." Inside the envelope, HOUZE installs only the most energy efficient appliances. The homes are rated 44 on the Home Energy Rating Scale (HERS). That's twice as efficient as the average new home according to the US Department of Energy. The DOE says the average newly built home has a HERS rating of 100, and the average home on the resale market has a HERS rating of 130.
While it's easy to see how HOUZE houses save homebuyers money, there are intangible benefits. Energy security is one of them. Because the home generates its own electricity with natural gas, power won't be interrupted by storms or failures of the electricity grid. HOUZE claims the homes are built to withstand 130 MPH winds, and because they're steel framed and utilize minimal amounts of wood, they are less susceptible to fire. These safety features are why the home qualifies for substantial homeowners' insurance discounts.
Goswick says the HOUZE business model has been two years in the making. What his company is launching here in Houston could work in any climate, in fact Goswick says it's easier to do in colder climates, but this is the first time it's been tried anywhere in the world.
"We looked at solar. We looked at wind. We looked at geothermal," Goswick said, "but there's a perfect storm here, and that is, there's abundant domestic, clean natural gas. That really creates an unprecedented opportunity, and that's one of the reasons this hasn't been done before."
HOUZE owns upwards of 60 lots in Independence Heights, ready platforms for new HOUZEs. But Goswick says they'll build on any lot of the buyer's choosing. Homes officially go on sale in December.
On the Web:
Houze -- http://thezeroenergyhome.com/