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NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (AP) — Homes being built in this Hudson Valley cul-de-sac offer prospective buyers wooded lots, pretty views and — oh yes — the promise of thumbing your nose at the power utility.

These “zero-net energy” homes will feature thick walls, solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling systems, meaning families should be able to generate more energy over a year than they consume. These homes under construction 70 miles north of New York City have costly green features. But the builders believe they are in tune with consumers increasingly concerned about the environment and fuel costs. 

 

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Oct. 22, 2010Huffington Post

New Paltz – Interest in greener buildings has skyrocketed in the last decade. From commercial properties taking steps to add green spaces on their rooftops to home builders and do-it-yourselfers making residential buildings more sustainable, the push toward greater energy efficiency in construction continues to gain momentum…..albeit at a pace far below the optimal.

Particularly with regard to home building and renovation, I frequently talk with people who want to turn their houses into net-zero-energy (NZE) or near-NZE living spaces, meaning that over the course of a full year, the residents consume no more energy than the home itself produces. Sounds tough, right? Maybe even downright impossible, especially for residents living in colder climates that demand home heating for six or more months each year?

Take it from me, I’m living proof that an NZE home is possible, even for someone who lives in the unpredictable climate of upstate New York, where temperatures can drop to 10-below zero in January and soar to over 100 in August. And as someone who moved here from the southwest, I wondered what kinds of challenges these seasonal changes would present someone aiming to achieve high energy efficiency in their home.

Because I’ve had a lifelong interest in sustainability, I wanted to build a house that reflected my beliefs. Fortunately for me, I found an innovative, skilled builder named Anthony Aebi who had a similar dream: to create a repeatable, cost-effective approach to achieving zero energy in a development he’s creating called Green Acres in New Paltz, NY. I eagerly signed up to become the first resident. Green Acres now has five occupied homes and we can find no other examples in the world of a NZE development that has proven its claim. Read more »


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Imagine this fantastical occurrence: A letter arrives from your local utility company, with your name addressed. You see it, and smile.

Wait, wait, there’s more to this hypothetical than just the opening scene to some kind of macabre B-movie script. This is no ordinary envelope, and what lies within is hardly your everyday utility bill. It is, in fact, that holiest of holies: a check. They are giving you money. Ah, to dream, perchance to break even.

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Wwhile many contractors might be gun shy to build houses with the real estate crash and skyrocketing fuel costs, Anthony Aebi, owner of 25 lots on 10 acres of land behind Bontecou View Drive in New Paltz, is gung ho and going green. Not only is Aebi going green he’s going for “zero energy” — the highest state and federal ranking for energy-efficient homes.

“I just built a 4,000-foot zero-energy house in Esopus, very high-end, and it received the only perfect score for Energy Star ratings in New York State,” said Aebi, who has teamed up with architect David Toder to design zero-energy homes at a New Paltz development called “Green Acres.”

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Esopus — Anthony Aebi built his $1.6 million green home for the status-conscious American. The three-story, 4,500-square-foot luxury house has hardwood oak floors, a jacuzzi in each of the three full bathrooms and a deck that overlooks 13 acres of woods.

Except for the solar array on the roof, and the sculptures made from logs and rocks on the site, few could distinguish the house from any other McMansion dotting our hills and valleys. Few would know it is considered one of the greenest in the Hudson.

And that, Aebi said, was the point.

“The idea was “let’s put a house together big, show it can be done, and if it can be done easily enough, show people who have money, ‘OK, build your mansion, but you can make it zero-energy,'” he said.

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Consumers struggling with oil or other energy bills might look wistfully upon an Esopus dwelling, the first in the state to become certified with a net zero energy rating.

The rating, from the state’s Energy Star Labeled Homes program, does not mean no energy is used. It is. And bills for such homes are expected during the year, but so are refunds, ultimately resulting in the equivalent of no fees. That is quite an accomplishment, especially in a home that exudes luxury and comes with a price-tag of $1,055,000.

Esopus builder Anthony Aebi (pronounced “Abbey”) refers to the three-story, 4,000 square-foot edifice that he completed more than a year ago as a mansion. Amenities include bathrooms with Jacuzzis, granite kitchen counters and maple cabinets with brushed-nickel door pulls. Timber from the 15-acre property enhances the home, including red-cedar trim in bathrooms, wide pine flooring in bedrooms and maple shelves in closets.

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How would you like to get a check back from Central Hudson instead of paying them thousands in utilities this year? If you lived in Green Acres in New Paltz, that could happen to you. Green Acres is a Net Zero Energy housing development nestled amid a conventional housing development at the base of the Shawangunk Ridge.

Zero Energy Homes, or houses that produce as much (or more) energy as they use sounds like the stuff of science fiction. For years many people have thought it impossible, and builders speculated they would be unaffordable, but recently they have become a reality.

“The myth that zero energy homes are impossible in the Northeast, or cost prohibitive, has been broken,” says homebuilder Anthony Aebi. “I’ve found that it wasn’t a problem.” Aebi is the owner of Greenhill Contracting, and builder of Green Acres in New Paltz, NY.

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The first home at the Green Acres net-zero-energy community achieves a full year of producing as much energy as it consumes.

In recent years, architects and builders have pushed the limits of sustainable design, creating super-efficient houses that produce, over the course of a year, as much energy as they consume in daily operations. As technology prices have fallen and sustainable building techniques improved, these “net-zero-energy” (NZE) houses have gone from the domain of luxury custom builders to being offered as affordable middle-class homes. Now NZE houses have achieved their latest milestone: A home in the nation’s first single-family NZE residential development, Green Acres, in New Paltz, N.Y., achieved a full year of net-zero-energy production in March. Read more »