Forty percent of all energy demands comes from real estate, so if you can solve that, you will be richly rewarded. After all, the cleanest and cheapest energy is energy saved.
A zero energy house that guarantees no energy bills for 10 years is capturing the attention of communities and may redefine home ownership. “Our mission is to make every home a zero energy home, that’s smart, stronger and affordable for the masses,” says David Goswick Founder and CEO of Houze, a man on a global quest to build the most energy efficient homes possible. In addition, he’s aiming at a $250,000 price point for his homes, making them affordable to the widest market possible. While his take on the spelling of “house” is attention grabbing, the companies full name, Houze Advanced Building Science, suggests a far more serious mission.
Goswick has even engaged scientist from NASA in the Houston area to create new technologies that change the performance of homes and transform them from energy eaters to energy generators. “Homes are the last American product to embrace the technology revolution,” says Goswick.
“With the greatest technologies the cost reduces and performance improves. With our new construction techniques, the total cost of home ownership is now less than renting an apartment,” says Goswick. “In addition, our houses are stronger, safer and more durable.”
In 1983 Goswick started a public relations and marketing firm. Interests rates were sky-high and the economy had nose-dived. The turbulent times gave Goswick a chance to experiment, and he learned how to steer his company through the most difficult of times. Three years later he noticed his clients were starting to outperform their competitors and the firm won some marketing awards.
American General Life Insurance, one of the biggest master plan developers in America, approached them on one of their largest projects with the president of the company asking Goswick what he could do to improve a community in West Houston. Goswick’s innovative thinking and initial success soon saw him representing all their developments across the U.S.
Nothing focuses the mind like a great recession, and the real estate market collapse of 2008 was a major setback for Goswick. The subsequent years of market turmoil caused Goswick to pause and reassess what real estate was all about, and more importantly, what problem could he solve that could become the next big thing. He identified low energy homes, buildings and communities as being the future and realized that if he could accelerate this trend by five or ten years it would be a powerful catalyst for change.
He rethought everything he knew and struggled to come up with an alternative way of building a home. Eventually the idea of Houze was born, the result of Goswick working with some brilliant minds in the real estate, energy and space industries. The “ze” of Houze stands for zero-emmission, and that’s exactly what Goswick
eventually revealed to the world – a house with no energy bills.Houze integrates disruptive technologies into real estate developments and buildings, and has launched a first-of-its-kind, affordable, zero-energy home into the U.S. market. Houze construction costs are about 10% higher than conventional homes, but the energy savings make homeownership cheaper.
“I needed to clarify our product and our mission,” says Goswick. “Our idea was to make every house zero energy and self sufficient. This was a big goal and we decided to start small with an Under-serviced area. We found a suburb called Independence Heights, just outside Houston, that was perfect for this purpose.
Realizing that similar communities to Independence Heights existed across the U.S. inspired Goswick to make his first test area a success. “If we could make it work here, our idea could move anywhere,” says Goswick. “Houze is completely revolutionizing the way homes are built, how they consume and generate energy and the overall total cost of ownership,” says Goswick. “Our approach of combining durable, efficient building materials, innovative energy management systems, advanced energy-saving and storing technologies are fundamentally redefining the American Dream,” he says.
The original homes at Independence Heights involved consultation with the community on suitable architectural styles and even what constitutes good community leadership. To keep the character of the area, some of the Houze buildings look as if they were built 70 years ago. The idea is not to restyle a suburb, but rather to work with it.
Bloomberg TV called Goswick earlier this year and told him they had identified Houze as one of only a handful of companies globally that had the potential to reinvent the home. A home, of course, has hundreds of components and building materials and it was natural that companies related to construction, fittings and finishings would come knocking on the Houze door.
Leaders in the building, technology and energy industries are already showing their support, resulting in an impressive coalition of strategic brands. Some partners include AT&T, Carrier, CHASE, James Hardie, Pella, Murff Turff, and the American Gas Association.
Together they are helping Houze accelerate the transformation of the residential and commercial building industry, from being one of the largest consumers of energy, to zero energy ones, leaving a near zero carbon footprint on the environment. AT&T has implemented their Digital Life product into Houze homes, a wireless-based home security and automation service that enables users to access, monitor, and effortlessly control devices in their home using a smartphone, tablet or PC.
Natural gas has been identified as a core energy source of the new Houze homes and Goswick is working closely with The American Gas Association, that already pipes gas to 71 million residential and commercial customers. Most people don’t realize that natural gas already meetsalmost one-fourth of the United States’ energy needs.
Goswick is seeking manufactures who will design household appliances that tie into the new technology he has created in his homes. “We’d love to have a line of appliances that work with the way we’re building these homes,” he says. “We’re bringing together every building and technology relationship we’re aware of to create something new.” Building manufacturers and system developers from around the world are approaching Goswick with ideas on how to integrate their products with Houze. Instead of seeing them as competition, Goswick says, “Bring it on!”
“The numbers are staggering when you realize the implications for both energy and financial savings,” says Goswick.
“One of my key strategies is to promote the category of energy sustainability, ratherthan just my business, as this new category promotes national and energy security and helps avoid global conflicts over oil.”
Goswick believes that by becoming a central player in developing new energy alternatives, he will benefit regardless. “We’re the friend of any company that is innovative, wants to reduce their carbon footprint, and delivers energy independence,” says Goswick.
The trademarked Houze Power Cell is the heart of the new homes and produces both on-site electricity and thermal heat from 100 percent natural gas. Unlike traditional renewable energy technologies, which are intermittent, the natural gas power cell provides reliable power 24/7. Roughly the size of a traditional air conditioning unit, the power cell generates more energy than the home requires, using natural gas. This surplus is then stored in back-up batteries and sold back to the electricity grid, providing increased energy security for the homeowner and offsetting the cost of the natural gas.
The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is used to measure efficiency. Typical American homes have a HERS rating of 130, with the government-backed Energy Star program requiring a rating of 85 to gain accreditation. Houze homes currently have a HERS rating of 44 (the lower, the better), based on the structure alone. With the addition of the power cell and advanced heating and cooling technologies, Houze homes will ultimately achieve a HERS rating of 0.
These construction, energy and technology advancements lead to discounts and incentives from leading mortgage and insurance companies, including reduced mortgage rates and down payment assistance, as well as significant insurance discounts, ranging from 40 to 70 percent. In addition to these third-party incentives, Houze also provides homeowners with a world first – the Zero Energy Warranty, guaranteeing no electricity or gas payments for the first 10 years of home ownership. Building a Houze home cost around 10 percent more than an average home, but the energy savings quickly make up for it.
Presently, where things all began a year ago, at Independence Heights, Houze is busy construction ten new homes, each using a different advanced building system and eight of them using different power sources. “It’s like a laboratory out there at the moment,” says Goswick. “The data here will help consumers make more informed decisions.
Back in 2008, during the housing crisis many people who bought houses had no idea of the hidden energy costs of running a home. By cutting these cost, and even allowing owners to sell power back to the grid, it changes the entire value of their asset.”
Goswicks 20 staff are running, “A living laboratory of advancement,”as he put’s it. Scaling the business through alliances with global partners and local builders will gradually create more demand for Houze homes as people realize the cost effectiveness and savings. Goswick feels that his personal journey in life has been more rewarding than his days as a marketing executive. “It’s the opportunity to apply all I’ve learned over the last 30 years and makea positive impact on lives,” says Goswick. “Improving national security through energy independence would be a great legacy to leave behind.”