by Alisa Petersen and Michael Gartman, Rocky Mountain Insititute
Zero-energy (ZE) homes—efficient homes that produce or procure as much renewable energy as they consume over the course of a year—are often marketed as luxury homes, only available to the select few that are willing to pay a significant premium to do the right thing for the environment. In keeping with this luxury perception, research shows these homes are often more comfortable and healthier than conventional homes for a variety of reasons. Mainstream media outlets have suggested cost premiums as high as 40 percent for sustainable real estate.
However, the economics for these homes have changed: ZE homes have quietly passed cost thresholds that make them not only good for the environment but also cost-effective. As the underlying technologies and design elements continue to improve and scale, these costs will continue to decline.