In all its communities, Garbett packs in often-pricey green technologies by keeping construction costs and overhead low, says Oehlerking, who estimates that the Zero Home’s sustainable features add about $60,000 to the cost, including the $45,000 PV system. Other products that add cost include a solar hot water system and an energy recovery ventilator that provides air filtration and controlled ventilation. The home also has low-E argon-filled double-pane windows and two tankless water heaters.
To offset these expenses, Garbett cuts costs in many areas. For starters, the production builder carefully weighs each green product’s contributions and costs. In designing the Zero Home, project planners strived for a tight building envelope, but they didn’t want to break the bank with expensive spray foam insulation. Team members chose a more affordable air-sealing and insulation system—Owens Corning EnergyComplete—for exterior walls and judiciously used spray foam on critical areas such as rim joists, heel trusses, and cantilevers. (Garbett did not disclose the cost of the EnergyComplete system.) In addition, an Owens Corning representative conducted training with Garbett’s installers to ensure precise, effective placement of insulation.
“Going with spray foam for the exterior walls would have added $5,000 to $8,000 to the price of the house in addition to the cost of traditional insulation,” Oehlerking says.
Garbett, which builds 400 to 600 homes a year, also leverages its buying power and long-standing supplier relationships, negotiating for the lowest possible prices on everything from paint to energy recovery ventilators, which are standard on all of the company’s homes. To rein in costs while keeping style-conscious buyers happy, Garbett selects good-looking, but reasonably priced lines such as Bellmont cabinets, Moen faucets, Whirlpool appliances, Mannington laminate flooring, and HanStone quartz countertops.
“We essentially build a home that’s affordable enough to absorb the cost of the renewables,” Oehlerking says.