Remarkable Tucson House Achieves "Negative-Zero"
Originally published by: Green Builder Magazine — December 20, 2013
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Today is the grand opening of Green Builder Media’s latest demonstration project, the VISION House® Tucson. For the uninitiated, the VISION House Series is a collection of incredibly advanced, high performance, truly sustainable homes that we build around the country. Each project is unique and provides us with the extraordinary opportunity to work with and learn from innovative builders, designers, contractors, manufacturers, community members, elected officials, and other partners who are all passionate about sustainable living.
Over the years, we have unveiled a wide range of projects—single and multi-family, new and retrofit—in markets across the US. Some of my favorite projects include the ReVISION House Vegas, where we took a sadly neglected mid-century modern home and, much to the neighborhood’s elation, renovated it so that was both stunningly beautiful and beyond net zero (the HERS rating was negative 2), and the VISION House Los Angeles, which was a breathtaking contemporary net zero energy home that blended indoor and outdoor living in the most elegant way, perfectly integrating relaxed California living with the most advanced technologies available on the market.
Like its predecessors, the VISION House Tucson is remarkable. The home has a sense of place, blending beautifully into the surrounding community. The historical neighborhood, Armory Park del Sol, has been deemed the ‘Greenest Neighborhood in America’ by the Department of Energy and recently won AARP’s ‘Most Livable Community’ award based on its sustainability, walkability, and access to downtown Tucson. Once a rail yard, the urban infill community has been thoughtfully planned and meticulously redeveloped by green building pioneer John Wesley Miller.
Miller designed all of the homes in Armory Park del Sol to aesthetically fit into the historical community. But don’t be misled by their traditional Southwestern style adobe exteriors—the homes are net zero energy, boasting photovoltaics, solar thermal, sophisticated masonry thermal mass building envelope systems, and super efficient insulation, glazing, lighting, and mechanical systems. These homes use approximately half of the water of an average American house, employing low flow fixtures, water harvesting and filtration systems, and desert-friendly xeric landscaping.
Beyond its undeniably appropriate façade, the VISION House Tucson showcases vanguard products and systems. The home’s exterior features Boral’s concrete tile roof, bricks, and permeable pavers. Since the home uses approximately 5.5 KW of energy much of the time, a 7.2 KW grid-tied solar array, provided by Hanwha Solar and it’s solar leasing partner One Roof Energy enables the home to ‘net meter’, or sell energy back to the utility.
A combination of Rheem’s net-zero air and water system, JM’s high performance insulation, MI Windows and Doors' super efficient MI EnergyCore windows, and Whirlpool’s Energy Star appliances contribute to a jaw-dropping HERS rating of negative 17 (meaning the home will be a significant energy producer.)
Schneider Electric’s Wiser home management system monitors the home’s energy use, allowing the owner to remotely control the system from a tablet or phone.
An assortment of Panasonic’s WhisperGreen ventilation fans in conjunction with a newly released version of Beam’s central vacuum system promise impeccable indoor air quality.
Kohler’s low flow faucets, toilets, showerheads and fixtures add high style and water efficiency to any home. The VISION House Tucson’s elegance is punctuated by Vetrazzo’s recycled glass countertops and Crossville’s recycled tile (used for flooring and wall accents), giving the house a timeless beauty.
A Viking sprinkler system provided the National Fire Protection Association mitigates fire risk.
And I simply couldn’t end this piece without mentioning the garage, which feels more like the Bat Cave than a simply place to park vehicles, with its incredible Gladiator storage solutions and Schneider Electric EV charging station.
The attention that the home is receiving from the community is as exceptional as the products and systems themselves. At today’s grand opening, we’re expecting to see Congressman Barber, Mayor Rothschild, Senator Farley, several Deans from the University of Arizona, city council members, other elected officials, and a diverse group of professionals and homeowners, which proves that projects like the VISION House Tucson are not only redefining the face of the building industry, but also changing the world around us.
A special thanks to John Wesley Miller and his remarkable team for bringing the VISION House Tucson to life, as well as our generous sponsors who make the VISION House Series possible. It has been a true honor to work with everyone on the project team. I look forward to our next VISION adventure!