Developer Matthew Spence’s dedication to building energy-efficient homes will be recognized Saturday, when a tour of “green” homes organized by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Utah chapter highlights a net-zero subdivision he’s erected at 1172 S. 400 East.
Air tight, with high-performance windows and stove burners, as well as top-notch climate-control systems from water heaters to air-filtration units, the five-lot “Living Zenith” neighborhood is a sterling “example of a full-blown, net-zero development that produces more energy than it uses,” said Daniel Pacheco, the local Green Building Council official overseeing his group’s fifth annual tour.
“They are the greenest homes you can buy,” said Spence, owner of Redfish Builders. “They emit nothing. That was our whole intent.”
Pacheco’s intent is for tour participants to see some of the things Spence and other owners of green homes have done — especially the small stuff — so they can figure out how to use those principles or practices in their own homes to make them energy efficient.
“We want to show the community that homes can be sustainable, that people can go to the local hardware store and fix a problem themselves, that it’s feasible and it’s wise,” Pacheco said, noting the council’s mission is to improve the performance of all buildings where “you live, learn, work and worship.”
The tour will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by a street party from 2 to 3 p.m. at Living Zenith. The Green Building Council will divulge the addresses of participating homes Friday afternoon, Pacheco said.
Devoted to the “open-source” concept of making information available to everyone, Spence rattled off a number of finely detailed descriptions of ways in which he crafted these showcase homes, right down to their concrete floors on top of a thick pad of foam insulation.
Spence won’t be the only expert that tour participants can quiz, Pacheco said. Hosts have been encouraged to invite the designers, architects, electricians, plumbers and other artisans responsible for the energy upgrades to be available to describe what they did.
“To get performance, you can’t just throw houses up,” said the 42-year-old Spence, who started working in the construction industry as an Orem teen, flipped houses for 15 years after school and has been a builder for the past five years.
His dedication to building net-zero homes was spawned by an eye-opening family trip to Southeast Asia that convinced him and his wife, Tiffany Ivins, that they needed to do their part to conserve resources and reduce their imprint on the planet.
“The true mantra of net-zero is that it’s a lifestyle,” he said. “This is the way we should be building. It would be selling out if we did anything other than this. … Let’s provide something nice and make that the standard, producing normal homes normal people can buy.”
The five, two-story homes in Living Zenith already have sold, Spence said. Each 2,300 square feet, the three closest to 400 East sold for $605,000 to $630,000. The two in the back of the half-acre lot are larger at 2,700 square feet. They sold for $690,00 and $715,000.
He figures the high-performance elements incorporated in construction added 30 percent to the bottom line.
That they sold quickly, Spence added, “shows the demand there is for this kind of home.”
“We want other builders to see you can do it,” Pacheco pitched in. “And for real-estate agents to understand that this is what people really want.”
The owners of these homes, Spence said, will have the ability of living off the electrical grid if they so choose. He’s getting solar panels for the units from Germany and making allowances for the installation of home-powering batteries once that technology improves. Garages will be equipped with charging units for electric cars and each unit will come with an electric bicycle, too.
“We’re pushing the point of this being a walking community,” he said. “Everybody who bought [these units] is into that.”
The first couple to move into Living Zenith, Bojan and Oxana Jurosevic, certainly are.
“We enjoy living in this well-thought-out design that does not have a square foot of wasted space,” Oxana said. “We still wake up every morning feeling like we live in a contemporary boutique hotel. We’re highly impressed with the quality of work inside and outside of our home.”
Added her husband, Bojan: “This way of forward-thinking and integrated building concept appeals to me and to many others. I seriously have a hard time diverting curious/impressed people in the area away from my house.”
TAKE THE TOUR
The tour will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by a street party from 2 to 3 p.m. at Living Zenith.
People interested in taking the tour must register at https://www.usgbc.org/event/green-homes-tour. The cost is $5, although it’s free for students.