myriad of tensions continue to press the practical need for a new paradigm regarding how we build and power our homes and businesses: rising energy costs and rising ocean levels dictate that both widespread awareness and action are at a premium. Though the pace toward change may seem frustratingly lethargic at times, great strides are indeed being made. According to a 2012 article in Bloomberg News, energy harvested from renewable sources—solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass—doubled in the United States between 2008 and 2012. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative, which pledges to quadruple the number of solar power installations statewide by the end of this year, has led a charge toward more affordable, sustainable growth. In the Hudson Valley, the tireless battle to join a more holistic relationship with the Earth with a higher quality of life is led by progressive visionaries from many fields. This past year, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin took the reins as Energy Committee chair. “We need a commitment from the highest level of government,” says Paulin, “and the financial resources. NY-Sun is that kind of investment, and I want to put all of my energy into making that a success. Energy is at the epicenter of all of our lives. In order to have any kind of quality of life, you have to have a reliable and responsible way to turn on the lights. Knowing I’m working on something that affects everyone I know and love, and beyond, is extremely rewarding.”
Sustainable and Practical “The most important thing is the education leap,” says New Paltz builder and Greenhill Contracting owner Anthony Aebi. “You’ve got to make sure that people know what they’re getting.” What is it that Aebi is offering? Simply this: zero-net-energy homes. He delivers dwelling that are self-contained, self-sustaining sources of their own power; homes that, rather than incurring astronomical energy costs, regularly garner homeowners a check from Central Hudson for the surplus energy they provide. Since breaking ground on his first development in 2008, Aebi has been a man on a mission, driven first and foremost by real pragmatism; the energy
Above: New Paltz builder and Greenhill Contracting owner Anthony Aebi.
efficiency and drastic reduction in carbon footprint are literally just the byproducts of doing it right. “I was building stick-built homes, and I realized: This is just stupid,” says Aebi. “We build these ‘temporary’ homes so we can keep repairing them, and then build another one in a hundred years.” Taking inspiration from European techniques, he changed from using wood framing to using Insulated Concrete Forms, or ICFs, which provide a long-lasting and airtight foundation. Superefficient triple-pane windows and comprehensive insulation complete Aebi’s thermal envelope design. The building’s infrastructure incorporates solar and geothermal power; a heat-recovery reclamation system captures, filters, and recirculates tempered air and moisture, ensuring not only proper humidity, but superior air quality as well. Aebi’s current project is his most ambitious yet: the Preserve at Mountain Vista in New Paltz. It incorporates improved planning and design to deliver not only a surplus of energy, but also an affordable bottom line. “Between the generous government tax credits and the savings on utilities, a $400,000 zero-net-energy home costs approximately the same to own and operate as a $300,000 traditionally built home,” explains real estate agent Wendie Reid. “And there are no more worries about what Central Hudson and oil companies are up to. These are truly the homes of the future.” In order to bring this undertaking to fruition, Aebi has recruited the assistance of John Wright of Rhinebeck’s Hudson Solar. Wright established his familyowned company, originally known as Hudson Valley Clean Energy, in 2002. Zeronet-energy building is nothing new to Wright; his Rhinebeck headquarters was the first commercial building in the state to require no external energy source. Having navigated the hard-fought progress through a time where prohibitive costs and limited availability made energy alternatives a tough sell, Wright is encouraged by advancements that make endeavors like Aebi’s both responsible and shrewd. “These systems pay for themselves,” he says. “Honestly, it’s cheaper to do it than not to.” Wright points to incentives like the 30 percent federal upstate House | S U M M ER 2 0 1 3 • 3 3
The Summer 2013 issue of Upstate House magazine.