MAR 17, 2017

Energy savings drives new products, building practices

Daily Herald

You rush to the grocery store after work but can't remember whether you need a gallon of milk for the kids. So you just look at your phone to check the supply.

Tech-savvy refrigerators do more than help you shop. A touch screen on the door can sense food freshness, allow you to browse recipes and to even request an Uber.

Roofing materials with reflective capabilities reduce heat transfer into the home, which saves energy costs during heat of summer. A cool roof delivers higher solar reflectance and higher thermal emittance than standard designed roofing.

Twenty-first century homes are not like the childhood home you remember. Changing lifestyles, advances in home technology and sustainable building with a focus on cost savings and energy efficiency are reshaping how homes are built today.

Some builders connect buyers with a vendor that works with them to tailor a technology package to meet their desires, including home automation features. And other builders offer advanced technology features as upgrades.

Lexington Homes offers Nest and Sonos smart home technology as standard or upgrades in all its new home communities. Nest is a learning thermostat that can function as a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm and security system with add-on upgrades. Sonos is an audio system that is optional in all its communities. It can either be a home theater setup in one room and/or a whole-house audio system that fills a home with pure, immersive sound, room by room.

Here's how Newport Cove and Serosun Farms implement new technology and sustainable features in their homes and communities:

Newport Cove, a planned unit community set along Bluff Lake in Antioch, offers year-round resort-style living with a private 105-slip marina. The award-winning community by New American Homes uses technology and sustainable features in its new custom homes, which reside in three distinct neighborhoods -- the Waterfront, the Estates and the Cottages -- all with coastal architecture.

The 42-acre community features 15 acres of open space with landscaped common areas, swathes of native plants, a waterfront park, walking paths that wind throughout the community and a lighted waterfront walk along the community's shoreline.

"We have our own underground sewer system, which is sustainable, and with 18 feet of waterfront, none of the community's water overflows into the lake; it's contained on-site," said Susanne Tauke, president of New American Homes.

Homes at Newport Cove adhere to all the new energy codes and feature energy-efficient windows and lighting, which is common in today's homes. Homes built under the new federal energy code require significant more ceiling and wall insulation, as well as efficient "low-e" windows.

"We're looking at new manufactured products for siding and Andersen's series 100 windows, which are made from a composite material including scraps of wood that the company uses that would normally be waste," Tauke said.

"We offer the technology where with your smartphone you can open the garage door, monitor your home and control your thermostat. We also offer motion lighting, timed lighting and those types of features," Tauke said. "When it comes to technology, we offer whatever the customer wants."

Some homebuyers are not on board with the new technologies. "A customer asked us to take out the smart thermostat and put in one with a dial," Tauke said. "Some people just don't want to deal with it. They're resistant to new products. Some people love the smart thermostats and others don't. Younger buyers are more likely to put smart features in their homes."

Serosun Farms is a rural sustainable community built around a 160-acre working farm where residents enjoy natural prairie, restored savanna woodlands, wetlands and wildlife.

Residences -- from smaller cottages to country estates -- will sit in clusters on 114 one-acre lots set on 410 acres of land. With a focus on traditional rural American architecture, all homes must meet sustainable and healthy home design criteria, and the builder will customize the latest technology and green building practices to suit each homeowner's needs.

Swainson's House, a one-of-a-kind high-performance luxury home, serves as a Healthy Homes demonstration home, sales model and design center. "The model home sets the standard for custom homebuilding and sustainable development in the Chicago suburbs," said John DeWald, president of John DeWald & Associates, developer of Serosun Farms.

The modern farmhouse features many sustainable and healthy home elements such as native-based landscaping, permeable pavements, a rain harvesting system and a green roof.

The interior of the home showcases two sofas that feature Belgian linen and a coffee table made of burlap, all natural materials. Renewable and richly colored bamboo floors run throughout the home's first and second floors. And the gourmet kitchen is well-equipped with Wolf and Subzero appliances, as well as a steam convection oven, the modern, healthy alternative to microwave cooking.

"This is a one-of-a-kind home built for minimal environmental impact," DeWald said. "But we also created a living space packed with beauty and teeming with luxury."

A geothermal heating, cooling and hot water system drastically reduce the operating expenses of the home with estimated heating and cooling costs as low as $650 a year. Further reducing the carbon footprint of the home is a rainwater collection system and a maintenance-free green roof with drought-resistant, native plants.

The development offers educational programs and several ways to take an active role in the community. Amenities include a community center with swimming pool and fitness center; jogging, hiking and biking trails; tennis and basketball courts; stocked fishing pond; bar and grill; and a meeting event facility.

Also, a world-class equestrian center is on-site with eight miles of trails developed by Jane Stickland, DeWald's sister who lives on the property and is his business partner. An international trainer also lives on the site.

"Serosun Farms offers an unusual opportunity for families to live and for children to grow up on a farm," DeWald said. "Most professional people don't have the time or money to run a farm; here we do it for you."

"I would like to say that my clients and I are having a great experience working with Vicky."

- Carol O. Coldwell Banker