Features and Benefits

Pillar & Pen is a Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) partner meaning we can build certified Zero Energy Ready Homes.

A ZERH is a Department of Energy certified high performance home that is third party verified to meet rigorous standards beyond code buildings. The ZERH is designed to maximize:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Indoor comfort
  • Durability
  • Indoor air quality
  • Energy cost savings
  • Solar energy readiness

We have been studying the science and it is very apparent that the construction industry must build better for our environment. The tests we conducted on our homes showed that we were building at a significantly more efficient level than required by code but we were unable to effectively communicate this to homeowners. The ZERH certifications provide clear verification that we are building better homes. We are very comforted in knowing that our homes are unequivocally built to standards that exceed building codes in both durability and energy efficiencies and that our homes continue to pay back with sustainability, cost savings, comforts, and resilience.


Are Zero Energy Ready Homes more expensive?

The cost of any home depends on so many factors such as choice of finishes, HVAC, insulation type, basement or no basement, etc. A Zero Energy Ready Home certification does not have a line by line specification that we must follow. Instead, we have our home designs modeled by a third party verifier so that we can understand if the design will meet the criteria. Each of our homes is unique and our designs are not the same as other ZERH builders’. Working through this process, we have seen moderate price increases in our construction costs for a ZERH. We have also been able to take advantage of some current government rebates for using high efficiency components. All in, we think the moderate increases are a small price to pay for the huge benefits to our environment and homeowners.

How does the ZERH breathe?

A ZERH is very tight but with the required incorporation of an energy recovery ventilator or heat recovery ventilator (ERV/HRV), the house does breathe. The ERV/HRV pulls in the outdoor fresh air and removes the indoor stale air at a rate that is balanced with the indoor activity and building systems. In this way, the ERV/HRV helps maintain a healthy indoor air quality.

How does a ZERH improve indoor air quality?

The ERV/HRV is a big component in healthy indoor air quality. As well, a well-designed HVAC system coupled with approved water management and vapor barriers in the home’s enclosure keeps the moisture levels low and prevents the growth of mold. A third component to keeping the indoor air quality healthy includes the selection of approved low-VOC finishes and certified materials (think Greenguard certified carpets and carpet pads and low-VOC paints and wood floor finishes). When you walk into our new construction, you won’t have the typical smells or stuffy feeling. Instead, when you walk into our new construction ZERH, you will feel refreshed and comfortable.

Do the low-flow fixtures mean I have low water pressure or have to wait longer for hot water?

The difference in the water pressure in a low-flow plumbing fixture will not be obvious. Low-flow fixtures are made by all the big brand names now and we guess it will be the standard very soon.

A ZERH is designed to bring hot water to the fixtures faster than standard code built homes. To be a certified ZERH, hot water must be retrieved from each fixture before exceeding the maximum amount of water waste.

Can you include a fireplace in a ZERH?

A standard wood-burning fireplace with a chimney is extremely inefficient. The fireplace is simply a hole in the house that allows for constant energy loss. In order to work, a standard fireplace needs to draw air from indoors. However, we don’t want excess indoor air in a ZERH so a fireplace has no air to draw from. A fireplace can be installed but it will need to be one that uses only outside air as needed and has sealed combustion.

What does it mean to be solar ready?

ZERH are designed to hold solar panels on the roof. Conduit for the solar equipment wiring that runs from the attic to the electrical panel and a board for the solar equipment must also be supplied. If the homeowner chooses to use solar to power the home, the infrastructure is ready.

Do you foresee Pillar & Pen going further towards Net Zero?

Yes! Our Zero Energy Ready Homes are just a small step away from Passive House certification. We are in hopes that we can deliver an even more sustainable home each time we build.

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