TerraWise taking net-zero energy homes mainstream

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  • | 12:00 p.m. January 15, 2015
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Net-zero energy — a concept so Jetsons it typically pops up only a single house at a time – is planned for a portion of homes in a new 200-lot Northside subdivision.

TerraWise Homes, one of three builders in the soon-to-launch Cedarbrook neighborhood, will offer a net-zero energy option for every home it builds. Net-zero energy means a house produces as much energy as it uses.

“We’re trying to bring it down to the masses, where it’s not just in custom homes,” said TerraWise President David Shacter.

Cedarbrook, located on Cedar Point Road just east of Sheffield Regional Park, is being developed through a partnership of three local builders, Dostie Homes, D.S. Ware Homes and TerraWise.

Seventy-three lots will be available in the first phase, with TerraWise building 17 of them and Dostie and D.S. Ware splitting the balance.

The neighborhood is near Interstate 295, River City Marketplace and JaxPort, but across the river from the bulk of Jacksonville’s metropolis. An emerging residential area, it compares in character to Mandarin of 25 years ago.

In an economy where large projects have been dominated by national builders, it’s rare to see a development the size of Cedarbrook produced entirely by local companies.

Ownership gave the local builders the ability to introduce some outside-the-box options — including a modern architectural look and net-zero energy.

A modern, more minimalist look has been trending inside Jacksonville homes for a few years – with Colonial-style crown molding replaced by sleek modern cabinets, faucets, door hardware and lighting. But, Cedarbrook will be the only production-home community in Northeast Florida to offer a modern look on the outside, said Chris Dostie of Dostie Homes. That means cleaner lines and a mix of exterior materials.

Modern homes, said Shacter, are common in other parts of the country, like Denver, where nary a hip roof may be found.

“It’s not going to be a requirement (at Cedarbrook),” he said. “But, people will only buy what they’re offered. And if they’re not offered it, they don’t know to ask for it.”

The most striking innovation at Cedarbrook, though, will be its net-zero energy option.

Shacter, a veteran builder, two years ago launched TerraWise – a company that builds entirely in the net-zero energy niche. So far the company has built four net-zero energy homes, one at a time and mostly in Springfield. Three more custom homes are under construction.

Cedarbrook will be the first new-home community where TerraWise has built and the first production-style homes it has constructed.

TerraWise accomplishes net-zero energy consumption by combining energy-saving appliances and building techniques with energy-producing solar panels. Spray foam insulation, LED lighting and low-energy water heaters and HVAC systems are part of the package.

TerraWise buyers at Cedarbrook can buy a house with just the energy-saving features. Or they can add the solar-panel upgrade to achieve net-zero energy consumption.

The first option increases the cost of a home by about 5 percent. The solar panel option will add an average cost of $13,650.

The extra cost is folded into the mortgage, and Shacter said the higher monthly house payment is offset by lower electric bills. For just an energy-efficient home, the cost and savings are equal. For a home with solar panels added, the monthly savings are greater than the costs.

“You’re essentially moving the costs from your electric bill to your mortgage,” Shacter said.

Models at Cedarbrook will be finished in a month for Dostie and D.S. Ware, with TerraWise finishing its model in the spring. Floorplans at will range from 1,800 square feet to more than 3,000 square feet. Prices will start in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, topping out around $400,000.

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