Future House | Net Zero Neighborhood



this looks like any suburban neighborhood built in the last 25 years right new streets lined with similar homes all built and assembly line speeds by national home builders and this neighborhood is that partially but this block of houses outside of Austin Texas is just the start of what will one day be a model of how to deploy sustainable living that's accessible and affordable well come here to whisper valley actual glad to be here sure looks like you guys are well underway yes we are phase 1 of 51 more phases to come 7700 house units on more than 2000 acres so this isn't just a subdivision you guys are building a city that's a city eventually for about 30,000 residents yes I mean think about not only the houses think about commercial retail school sites we just opened our first community center with the geothermally heated food so there's a lot of things to come I mean I'm a city dweller I love having everything easily accessible and nearby don't have to drive anywhere I mean the fact you guys are bringing that to the suburban life thank you we call its urban its suburban and urban it's it's a mini city where you get all the amenities very close by yes that's awesome and what really drew me here is the renewable energy the Net Zero aspect very important we call it zero energy capable so every homeowner in whisper Valley is empowered to have a very low or zero utility bill the difference is we created an infrastructure who enables every house to reach that goal it's possible that each house could produce as much energy as it consumes that's correct it's all about energy behavior about yes with the solar with the geothermal all the other technologies a homeowner can have a zero to the deepest awesome what can I see yours you're doing it yes I show you what so Ross say this is one of the first homes here just finished a few weeks ago I mean I'm looking at it I mean it looks like a standard house for a development like this but obviously I see solar I'm not used to seeing that yes so 18th penet SATs right 5 kW and that solar system that kind of solar system is on every house yet so 5 kW handle your lighting appliances I mean it gets hot here in Texas is it gonna make much of a dent in your cooling load good questions so if we would use a conventional air conditioner we would need much more penance but we do it differently and I'd like to show you how okay this way so it's all about infrastructure so as a developer we are responsible for building roads streets water sewer electric services in our case we thought what can we do as a developer to provide an energy efficient source for heating cooling and all that sauce geothermal Loop field or geo grid okay so what's a Geo grid it's very simple the way this works is we have installed a central pumping station an entire piping system for each neighborhood in our community with a single main supply and return line that every house in that neighborhood is tied into and those pipes are installed long before the house is even built absolutely correct this is more cost effective to drill the entire neighborhood all at once and eventually this entire street will be filled with houses each house has a recirculation loop and a pump to call for heating and cooling as it's needed I mean that's the magic of geothermal the outside temperature can go from over a hundred degrees in the summer to below freezing in the winter but what people don't realize it below our feet we've got consistent temperature that we can tap into exactly very correct and that happens another screen cover each house also has its own borehole that goes down about 360 feet and it is connected to the central loop which ensures that every building in this neighborhood gets the same level of heating and cooling in the winter when there's a demand for heat the welds actually pull heat from deep below the ground and sends it into the house and then in reverse in the summertime when there's a demand for cooling the heat is pulled from the house and sent back down under the ground so Ross this is the heat pump they're very simple it's all within the attic we are here on the top of the house yeah you see those two pipes as supply and return this is actually connected with the a cover box outside in the backyard of the house so we supply and we return hot water we circulate and we take temperature out of the house or bring warmer temperature into the house in the winter so this is connect to the Geo field correct in the backyard yes this is the circulating pump run incent flow flowing through exactly so you have a thermostat in each house the thermostat kicks in it actually starts the circulation pump it creates that demand being connected with a loop field and that is circulating borders with the system so that we can extract temperatures or we can supply temperatures Heating and Cooling but it also does the hot water exactly there are two wall connections which really connected when the family moves in it's for hot water actually we are taking waste heat out of each space and we dump it in the hot water that's great and what I'd love to see also is that you've done some really nice job insulating roof rafters spray foam all of your equipment is actually inside the conditioned oval exactly that is a very critical point with the entire heat pump unit the ductwork is within conditioned space actually there's no outside unit at all no noise pollution the unit is protected from the environment so the lifespan of a geothermal unit is about 25 years so much longer than a conventional acura I love how there's nothing outside it's nice yeah Ross welcome to one of our model halls I mean this is really nice granite countertops some really nice appliances I could get used to this so this house has 1,700 square feet is three bedroom two and a half bathrooms okay and then price range yeah so the low 200s to the high 300 maybe for $1000 in this one and this one is exactly surround $1000 and then what's your medium for Austin the medium price is about 350,000 so $50,000 below market rate yes but this level house new construction yes and it includes all the energy efficiencies which we were talking about before that's really impressive yeah it is all right so what I really want to know is how did you get that affordability how'd you get the price so low geothermal alone for a house like this could be twenty or thirty thousand dollars it's all economy of scale installing that infrastructure up front if purchasing with the scalable purchase power all those products and installing in a very efficient way in all that context we could reduce the price so that we keep energy efficient technology affordable for an average home buyer in America we are applying that not only on the geothermal side we are applying it for the solar and for a lot of other features of those homes an example is our gigabyte fiber internet service which is available in every house why is that possible because we provide a fiber connection using the same trenching which we use for the geothermal so it's all about putting two technologies together and scale it up so that a community like whisper Valley provides all those services if you really see it from an infrastructure standpoint this is how you get the cost down so that it is affordable for everybody if you do it on a house per house approach you don't create scalability if you do it community wide you really create smart cities all over the place so I believe our concept here in our neighborhood is a great blueprint for other developers in this country so that you have better homes being built in America community by community it's very exciting axel I thank you for the tour and I wish you all the best in the future phases Ross I thank you for coming pretty cool story and I gotta admit I've always been a fan of geothermal heating it's sort of my favorite alternative energy source it's only got one flaw and it's the upfront cost I mean they could be huge and unknown mm-hmm so a typical house you're right I mean it could be 15,000 20,000 dollars just to drill here in the Northeast for one house and that's not gonna cut it it's gonna scare people off it's gonna make it cost prohibitive it is it is the good thing about his model is that he's doing it at an economies of scale right so he's saying I could do 30 houses or 50 houses at once and share that cost with the homeowner for 20 years so when he shares it as he building it into the price of the house so no so what he's doing is he's charging a small monthly fee to each homeowner he's acting as a utility basically instead of selling you gas I'm gonna be selling you geothermal energy gotcha he locks that in for 20 years so that's how he amortized as his cost and makes it sort of affordable for everybody for the for the life of the system that's actually pretty good idea ideas that are being used elsewhere around the world yeah so it's great district heating is what it's called in Europe proven model right so you got it in you know Copenhagen you have it in Munich even in Reykjavik Iceland that area that city is completely heated with a geothermal district heating system like a municipal geothermal that's it Jewish basically taking that same idea of applying it to Austin oh that's really cool the other thing that caught me I was you would mentioned how the houses are fairly cookie-cutter and to me that's music to my ears because if they're regular houses and affordable people are more likely to buy them if they're you know super engineered and a crazy architect is designed this one-of-a-kind house people aren't going to live in them there's nothing custom about these houses so these houses are he's working with a production home builder oh really so what he's got is cookie-cutter off-the-shelf blueprints and he's basically taking those and making making them as best he possibly can by adding the spray foam adding the geothermal LED lighting and she's trying to get the operating costs as low as possible which is awesome which means if he can do it there can you do anywhere close right well good story thanks for ringing it to us thanks for watching this whole house has got a video for just about every home-improvement project so be sure to check out the others and if you like we can see click on the subscribe button make sure to get our newest videos writing your feet

44 Comments

  • Mike Kasy

    April 13, 2019

    Fascinating development. What household waste containment is being used? Any Organics and landfill diversion systems on site?

    Reply
  • Brian Foster

    April 13, 2019

    Need rainwater collection systems. As we have learned from Flint, Michigan.

    Reply
  • Guided Hand

    April 13, 2019

    I can tell you this works, we live in a townhouse and our monthly electric bill is only 48 to 70 bucks a month.

    Reply
  • nimcaan am Ismail

    April 13, 2019

    German efficiency

    Reply
  • William Reid

    April 13, 2019

    Were in Austin is this?? Live in Austin and want to move there.

    Reply
  • cool beans

    April 13, 2019

    HOA sucks though :/

    Reply
  • cool beans

    April 13, 2019

    brilliant

    Reply
  • Jacquelyn Jones

    April 13, 2019

    🙂 ???

    Reply
  • SuperHippi101

    April 13, 2019

    What is the name of this company?

    Reply
  • I pee in my sink I'm afraid to come out my room

    April 13, 2019

    righteous mentality

    Reply
  • John Car

    April 13, 2019

    The Europeans have been doing central heating and cooling districts for centuries. Great idea.

    Reply
  • lakeres chiromboferrao

    April 13, 2019

    very good these innovations are important mainly for the country as our Mozambique should be installed in our beaches where there is lot of demand of tourist establishments.

    Reply
  • Apostolos Moutzouris

    April 13, 2019

    You can see who still plays SimCity

    Reply
  • Paneh C

    April 13, 2019

    Any of these in tennessee

    Reply
  • penguins forall

    April 13, 2019

    Its called ground thermal exchange. "geothermal energy" is when you have a heat vent in the earths crust.

    Reply
  • Scott Luther

    April 13, 2019

    Great ideas! All builders need to start doing this when they build a subdivision with a lot of houses! We need to start thinking about the future and this is a great start!

    Reply
  • K R

    April 13, 2019

    this will be a good neighborhood when the zombie invasion comes

    Reply
  • Ray Wright

    April 13, 2019

    Should make the houses use dark sky lighting. Cut down on light pollution!

    Reply
  • Matt Bruner

    April 13, 2019

    This needs to be happening all over the US. Germans have been living so efficiently for decades. Great video. Gives me hope.

    Reply
  • T Jam

    April 13, 2019

    What’s the purpose of having a “central” geothermal station, when each house has its own line that goes down 350 feet?

    Reply
  • TrumpKingsly

    April 13, 2019

    I wonder if that shared geo temp extraction system means that individual houses don't have much room to tailor their own conditions. Do all houses have to be using the system for the same purpose (heating, cooling) at the same time?

    Reply
  • ggw3829

    April 13, 2019

    I like the idea, but don't like paying $110+ every month to an HOA/maintenance company. I live in a pretty big house (2500+ square feet) with a traditional AC system in the Austin area. My electric bill tops out at $150/month in the summer and is less than $100 for 6 months out of the year. I am not locked into Austin Energy thankfully though. Add in the cost to use the 130 toll road at $3-5 per day and it is a wash. You can still buy houses a similar distance north of Austin area for $150-200K that don't have HOAs and then spend $100K putting in a geothermal system and making it new. As for a geothermal system being able to cope in Texas summers, when I was living in Belton, TX we had a geothermal heat pump put in a 100 year old house. It was expensive, but was still going strong 15 years later when we sold the house. We were able to keep the house as cool as we liked. Geothermal can definitely work in Texas. I also like the insulation of the roof idea, but they should have gone with a metal roof if they really want the whole house to last 50+ years.

    Reply
  • Jentul Jay

    April 13, 2019

    Show that to Donald Trump so may stop bashing Germany. It's a country that is making America great again.

    Reply
  • Curtis Densmore

    April 13, 2019

    I might be missing something, but I thought the term "geothermal" is already taken and referred to generating electricity using steam from a source of underground heat. This is more like "dirt heat sink".

    Reply
  • AM 1015

    April 13, 2019

    why not build a multi-tier ground mount solar array next to the house and run everything electric? (heat/ hot water, ac, electric, etc), dont need no damn geothermal drilling and hardware

    Reply
  • The Parakeets

    April 13, 2019

    I am sooo jealous! I live on a new housing development in Texas and the designing and craftsmanship is atrocious. No sidewalks, leaks in the house, aswell as appliances failing, and a plethora of other things. Great showcase though anyhow!

    Reply
  • D LG

    April 13, 2019

    I will never live under any sort of HOA, ever. If I spend $100s of thousands on a home, I want the freedom to do whatever the hell I want with my property and this type of development will never allow that level of autonomy. Also, I don't like the idea of having to pay a monthly fee for the geothermal energy in perpetuity. That's how many solar companies screw people into paying way more than their system is actually worth through leasing programs. No, I prefer to pay the cost of the system I have and own it. That said, I like the concept of using scale to reduce cost, which a lot of people will love and that's great, but this cookie cutter setup just isn't for me. My idea of the perfect homestead would utilize many of the efficient technologies used here, but on a larger pc of land away from population centers. Yes, my cost would be higher, but that's fine with me. I'd rather pay more and have total control of my little corner of the world.

    Reply
  • Microphonix Virtual Studio

    April 13, 2019

    You ah talking to genius German engineer.

    Reply
  • Microphonix Virtual Studio

    April 13, 2019

    Do you have a female Car?

    Reply
  • deziking

    April 13, 2019

    This is exactly like the game cities skyline!!

    Reply
  • rolandfla

    April 13, 2019

    I want one!

    Reply
  • Michael Johnson

    April 13, 2019

    Fantastic Work. Going in the right direction!

    Reply
  • repairdrive

    April 13, 2019

    I like the design of those houses.

    Reply
  • Nathan Stephenson

    April 13, 2019

    Net Zero? you mean like that failed free dial up internet company? Just kidding. This is amazing! Ive been looking for a retirement home after military career ends. This looks promising! Is this Google Fiber? I know Austin was one of their roll out cities…cost and speed? Hope its gigabit! and cheap! (like 50-60 a month and NOT CLIMBING!)

    Reply
  • Darthreloy

    April 13, 2019

    communism

    Reply
  • orange42

    April 13, 2019

    Drop the rural urban barrier in Auckland and get these guys in. Problem solved New Zealand. You're welcome.

    Reply
  • scoobtoober29

    April 13, 2019

    Risinger eat your heart out!!!

    Reply
  • Ian Peterson

    April 13, 2019

    Cool it with the arm movements my dude

    Reply
  • Whisper Valley David

    April 13, 2019

    Hey it's us! Big thanks to Ask This Old House for featuring Whisper Valley on their show!! Feel free to ask me questions and I will do my best to clarify any confusion about Whisper Valley as a whole!

    Reply
  • Curiosity

    April 13, 2019

    Exactly to much money for the 99%. Is what it is..

    Reply
  • andrew ackroyd

    April 13, 2019

    This is nothing new if you lived in the city and wanted heat you used city steam.

    Reply
  • Paul Fetzer

    April 13, 2019

    I love a lot of the videos TOH puts out, and I especially love this recent focus on efficiency/sustainability. BUT: as important as the construction methods and materials are, location and zoning have an equal (if not greater) role in making homes/communities more energy efficient and 'greener'. Seeing this…pod of houses out in a typical suburban sprawl just reinforces how important old downtowns and small towns are to making homes livable and affordable.

    Still, a great video, and I look forward to seeing where this design philosophy goes.

    Reply
  • Miffaroo

    April 13, 2019

    Shout out to David Currie

    Reply
  • Brad Robb

    April 13, 2019

    This hippy ass air conditioning won’t hold up to the Texas heat. The first thing I would do is install central air. Furthermore if something goes wrong everybody’s air is out

    Reply

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