By Cameron Sullivan
Not only are new-home builders not letting California’s 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards sneak up on them before the Jan. 1, 2020, deadline, but they are going several steps further than required. By combining “need to have” features with “nice to have” features and expected features, builders are ensuring that energy efficiency, water conservation and access to the highest technology tools for living, working and playing are no longer siloed.
Instead, new-home builders are getting ahead of the needs of buyers by bundling efficient and high-tech features in new homes.
“The tech side of homebuilding changes as fast as home styles change; maybe faster,” said Jim Kauffman, director of purchasing for The New Home Company, which currently has new-home communities for sale in Fremont, Milpitas and Vacaville, along with several other Northern California cities.
Each of The New Home Company’s new homes includes the UltraSync system standard. “The alarm keypad is the brains of the system,” said Kauffman. Using whole-house Wi-Fi, the system can communicate with any other Wi-Fi device that is connected to it, including the thermostat, the door key locks, the garage door opener, the fireplace starter, and even Wi-Fi-enabled drapes and blinds.
“It’s one of the only systems that’s a free app to the consumer,” said Kauffman. “It’s a single, affordable system that works with other (brands of) devices, so you don’t have to be brand-loyal to one system,” he said, noting that The New Home Company continues to explore several other possible tech features for its homes.
Smart-home features are made even smarter when they work in concert with whole-house systems that provide energy efficiency. In fact, the smartest features are not only the easiest to operate while adding value in day-to-day living, but also increase the comfort level of the home. Many new homes now allow for whole-house Wi-Fi, with some also offering convenience options for surround-sound wiring and prewiring for wall-mounted TVs.
In addition, multizoned heating and air conditioning is becoming standard in new-home construction, especially in homes with two or more levels. Temperature control takes place via a smartphone app or at the central “smart” thermostat. Other features that may be less visible but are becoming standard are the inclusion of low-e (low-emissivity) glass windows and high-performance walls for greater insulation.
At Walnut Creek-based Davidon Homes’ Park Ridge community in Antioch, each home features the elegant, upscale interior finishes that Davidon Homes is known for, while promoting energy efficiency, comfort and safety. Features include dual-zone HVAC systems (per plan); whole-house exhaust fans for rapid cooling; low-e vinyl windows; water-saving shower heads and toilets; tankless water heaters; fire sprinklers; and full security systems.
Going a step further in convenience and efficiency are a number of appealing new townhome communities built in urban infill areas near public transportation or employment centers.
“Every townhouse community we build is solar all-electric,” said City Ventures CEO of Homebuilding Phil Kerr. The company’s townhome communities are selling in Union City, Oakland, Scotts Valley and Alameda. “This is extremely unique to City Ventures. It not only saves homeowners a tremendous amount on electricity bills, but most people find that it’s a better way to live.”
Kerr noted that the solar all-electric capabilities of City Ventures townhomes are made possible through the integration of Nest thermostats, energy-efficient appliances, prewiring for electric vehicles and water-saving features. “It eliminates the gas bill and uses advanced technology to power everything in the home, while exceeding the state requirement for energy efficiency.”
As explained by Kauffman of The New Home Company, the list of high-efficiency, comfort and tech features in new homes continues to grow. With so many builders getting ahead of the curve, net benefits to buyers include energy and money savings, endurance and flexibility for lifestyle changes over time.
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