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How an Orange County project is helping builders meet a mandate for ‘net zero’ homes

With the deadline less than four years away to start building homes that produce all their own power, California’s housing industry faces tough options and daunting technical obstacles.

Should walls be thicker? Should insulation be denser? Can lighting, heating, cooling and cooking become more efficient? Should roofs be flatter to orient more solar panels toward the sun?

But most daunting of all questions is this: How can they keep construction costs in line so buyers don’t forsake new housing for cheaper resale homes?

“Generally, the customer is not happy paying for any of this,” said Adrian Foley, regional president of Brookfield Residential of Southern California.

“That’s our battle,” he said. “... We’re going to have to re-engineer our solutions going forward. It’s not an easy road from a consumer’s standpoint. It’s not their first love.”

But an unheralded Orange County pilot project may be helping builders find the Holy Grail of green residential development: An affordable way to build the “net zero” home that produces as much power as it consumes.

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