Mitch Spence and Tiffany Ivins, husband-and-wife owners of Redfish Builders, are rethinking the way homes are built. They developed Utah’s first community of net zero homes in Salt Lake City. The five homes are together worth $2.5 million.
Net Zero Homes
Each residence in the community generates as much renewable energy as it consumes during a year—making it a “net zero” home. The homes boast many innovative, energy-saving features. The exteriors are sealed with zip walls and extra insulation to create a constant temperature year-round, while air is refreshed continually with heat recovery ventilators. The homes also feature a foundation of 14-inch foam (instead of concrete), solar photovoltaic arrays, thermal windows, high-density blow-in insulation, low-flow water fixtures and toilets, high-efficiency LED lighting, and ENERGY STAR appliances.
Why Net Zero?
A University of Utah study projects that the state’s population will nearly double between now and 2065. The Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development (OED) views net zero buildings as one strategy for effectively accommodating this growth while also protecting Utah’s high quality of life and supporting economic development. Net zero construction lowers energy bills, reduces demand on the power grid, and improves air quality and public health.
“Net zero is a building concept, not a precise formula,” emphasized Shawna Cuan, managing director with OED. “Two homes can be net zero but have entirely different wall assemblies. What’s great is that net zero fosters creativity and innovation because it isn’t prescriptive, and we saw that with Mitch and Tiffany.”
The Energy Department’s Role
The Energy Department facilitated this project through its State Energy Program (SEP). SEP provides funding and technical assistance to states, territories, and the District of Columbia, to enhance energy security, advance state-led energy initiatives, and maximize the benefits of decreasing energy waste.
OED assisted Redfish with evaluating their home designs and helped set up meetings with local and national architects specializing in net zero construction. In addition, it connected Redfish to Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Office.