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The Mission of the Net Zero Home | Sustainable Home Design

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Behind the Mission of the Net Zero ICONIC Home and Sustainable Home Design

Photography by Paul Moore

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Learn all about the Net Zero ICONIC Home and get the details on sustainable home design.

To truly live a beautiful life, making the world a beautiful place means cherishing the planet and our environment every step of the way. ICONIC LIFE is passionate about sustainability and the importance of shaping design efforts in ways that respect the environment.

Sustainable home design is more important than ever as new homes continue to pop up everywhere you look. It’s essential to adopt a multi-phase philosophy with processes that reduce negative impacts on the environment and health of the occupants, without compromising the bottom line. 

In the United States alone, buildings account for 39 percent of total energy use, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, 30 percent of landfill waste, 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 12 percent of total water consumption. Now, do we have your attention?

The good news is that sustainable design is a conversation that’s gaining steam and entering the mainstream, as seen with ENERGY STAR certified appliances, recycled materials, water conserving plumbing fixtures, solar panels and many other environmentally conscious tactics. 

 Sustainable home design is here, and it’s here to stay. 

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As a sponsor of this incredible environmentally responsible project, we took you on a month-by-month journey, guiding you through the construction, sustainable measures and designs that went into the Net Zero ICONIC Home.

The Net Zero ICONIC Home is a sustainable, net-zero energy building design that produces at least as much renewable energy as it consumes on an annual basis. In other words, it must produce one unit of energy for each unit of energy it consumes over the course of a year. It is a building that is designed to reduce the required energy with the balance of the energy needs supplied by on-site renewable energy technologies. 

We worked alongside Mark LaLiberte, co-founder and president of Construction Instruction, who has dedicated more than 30 years to building and providing builders, architects and manufacturers with an in-depth look at the current and future state of housing. His work has earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA), where he developed the highly acclaimed Houses that Work lecture series. 

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With time, he realized that there’s a lot of planning and work that goes into creating a sustainable and high-performance home design. When you find a home that is volatile, energy efficiency and durable, you’ve met your perfect match. LaLiberte believes that a high-performance home is one with great indoor air quality, remarkable energy performance, beautiful aesthetics and no durability issues.

“It’s like thinking about cars. If I tell you to picture a high-performance car, your mind immediately goes to something faster, quicker, all of those great things that make it sleek,” he said. 

He was very selective about the builder he chose and named AFT Construction and its leader Brad Leavitt to build this most-important home. 

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“We were honored to be selected to build the home since our company is moving towards more sustainable building, and we want to create leadership in that area,” Leavitt says. “They wanted someone who had the marketing muscle to really get this message out and promote building science and construction instruction as leaders in sustainable practices.”

To achieve net zero status, it starts early in the planning and design stages with an understanding of sustainable home design decisions that will further achieve the eco-friendly goals. 

“We’re trying to use local and national resources to stay with our umbrella of companies and really support the local economy. That’s one of the sustainability issues. Does it have to come from somewhere else? And we’re also trying to look at the carbon impacts, right?” LaLiberte says. “Energy is a huge carbon impact. In my world of sustainability, I want my sustainable building design to make it through its lifespan of more than a hundred years, while, at the same time, minimizing its impact and maintaining the health of the occupants.” 

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LaLiberte explained that everyone is concerned with the cost, stating they cannot spend the extra money to save energy, which he feels ignores the underlying solution. 

“I spend an energy bill every month for SRP and APS. What if I didn’t have one? Would that have a value to it? And people will go, well, of course,” he said. “It’s not about economics and costs—it’s about making choices for the greater good.”

In Arizona specifically, where the temperatures are exceptionally hot, one of the first steps in sustainable building design, or an energy efficient home, is to properly orient the building on the site, maximizing north and south exposure while minimizing east and west exposure. To reduce electrical lighting, the concept of daylighting revolves around the controlled admission of natural light and direct sunlight into the home. 

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LaLiberte designed the home with Peterssen/Keller, a collaborative studio of exceptional architects and designers founded in 2009 with decades of diverse experience on award-winning residences around the country. Scott Carson, founder of Cosan Studio, joined the team to serve as consulting architect.

The firm believes in being stewards of the home and the land. Using light, space, line and form, they respond to the site to create an environment for living for the next hundred years. From small-scale renovations to luxurious, LEED-certified new homes, they integrate sustainable home design practices into every project, finding solutions that merge environmental thinking with exceptional design.

If you’re thinking that this sounds like a big deal, you’re right. But it’s absolutely worth it. The team worked with K & Q Interiors to create the interiors fitting for an environmentally friendly home like this, designing sustainable interiors to further reduce any negative impact to the environment.

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The good news is that building a net zero home is becoming more and more cost effective. It’s important to go into the build with a solid plan from the very beginning, which requires making strategic, conscious decisions that further the sustainable, net zero design goal. 

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