Opening a Resilient, New Chapter

The future of building is net zero: homes will generate more energy than they consume

By Mahesh Ramanujam

A new decade filled with promise has so far delivered a stark reminder of how precious and fragile human life and our world can be. It’s revealed unimaginable challenges and new vulnerabilities that are testing our resilience, both personally and professionally.

At USGBC, our own work has not stopped and we believe our vision for a more sustainable future is stronger and more important than ever. But, like many companies, these recent challenges have caused us to pause and prioritize stability over uncertainty and steadiness over anxiety. Yet, through it all, we’ve seen incredible acts of kindness and selflessness that have provided a much needed light as we continue ahead.

It’s made us all more mindful, compassionate and committed to helping others where ever possible. In times like these, I am reminded that close to 50 percent of the world’s population still lives below the poverty line. It is no secret that the most vulnerable among us will be hit the hardest during extreme events, so we feel a sense of duty to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for all.

The green building community has always been focused on helping communities become more adaptable and resilient and never has that been more important. It’s what the next chapter of green home building must embody. We must all carry that sense of duty forward as we work to emerge stronger.

Our next chapter must go beyond construction and efficiency and focus on how we are also contributing to environmental, social and economic healing and repair. And we’re already seeing it take shape.

In Sarasota, Florida, Pearl Homes is one such builder that has been unafraid of shaping a new future. The developer’s 158 LEED Platinum homes in the adult community at Mirabella prioritizes the highest level of sustainability to create a better life for residents, while simultaneously lowering new-build cost to within 5 percent of conventional homes. The Hunters Point Model Home is the first LEED Zero-certified single-family home, achieving an energy source use balance of zero over a period of 12 months. They’re defining what comes next and how we continue to move toward a healthier, more sustainable future for all.

So as we continue to adjust to a new decade that’s presented staggering challenges, the next chapter of green homes must focus on how it’s contributing to a better quality of life. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) own future is moving in that direction with a new LEED Positive vision. One that will lay the foundation for a future of LEED green building that is regenerative. Our work will focus on developing resources and the rating system in a way that promotes strategies that allow a single-family home or multifamily building to become vehicles for environmental restoration and repair.

The role buildings play in supporting our communities has never been more apparent and that is why our solutions must shift from doing less harm than traditional construction to focusing on healing and doing more good – especially across our most vulnerable communities – by becoming carbon positive and truly regenerative. Our homes and buildings should generate more energy than they consume, save more water than they use, remove more carbon than they produce and have a positive impact on the physical, mental and social wellbeing of their occupants. But moving the industry toward a regenerative future requires all builders and developers to be all in.

This is our calling. We need to reimagine how to grow and scale our projects so that in meeting this new demand, we create better, more inclusive spaces. And that will be achieved by all of us working as a community together, because true leadership is not possible without partnership.

Pearl Homes is one of many already moving in that direction. From the beginning, founder and president Marshall Gobuty knew that elevating the importance of green homes was about supporting a healthier, more sustainable life for families. The company continues to build on its progress and has committed all future Pearl Homes projects to adhering to USGBC’s LEED Positive approach, which is currently being developed.

These last few months have shown us that staying resilient means prioritizing one another and as we prepare for a new future, we must hold that belief closely. Home is where the heart is and we must never forget that in the days ahead.

Mahesh Ramanujam is the President and CEO of U.S. Green Building Council, Green Building Certification Inc. and Arc Skoru Inc.