Sustainable Design Initiatives

The building sector has two options moving forward:

Continue to run business-as-usual regardless of any consequential environmental damage that may result OR become a leader in the global shift towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.


What can you do

Whether you are a homeowner, builder, customer, all of the above, or none of the above, you have the potential to be a pioneer in the sustainability movement. Remain ahead of the game by learning more about the innovative initiatives taking place in an effort to transform sustainable dreams to a reality.

Sustainable Design Initiatives: Net Zero in Action


Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home

A DOE Zero Energy Ready Home is an energy-efficient home containing a renewable energy system that can offset all or most of its annual energy consumption. Representing a new level of performance with rigorous requirements, these homes ensure outstanding levels of energy savings, comfort, health & durability.

Since 2013, the Housing Innovation Awards recognize the best, most innovative Zero Energy Ready homes around the country. Each year, polyiso insulation remains a consistent feature among the winners. 

Case Study: United Way of Long Island, Deer Park, NY
DOE Zero Energy Ready Home 2016 Grand Winner – Innovation in Affordable Homes

- Two layers of .75” polyiso insulation
- Photovoltaic solar panels
- Furring strips

- ENERGY STAR appliances
- Vinyl-framed double-pane windows
- Low-VOC paint and finishes

2016 Grand Winner - United Way of Long Island

2016 Grand Winner - United Way of Long Island

“Since 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home program has recognized hundreds of leading builders for their achievements in energy efficiency, resulting in over 14,000 energy efficient homes and millions of dollars in energy savings.”
— U.S Department of Energy

Shelter Dynamics & Green Builder Media: Net Zero Tiny Houses

The tiny house movement exemplifies a growing awareness of the consequences of global consumption and the need to reduce one’s own carbon footprint. As the tiny house market grows, innovative builders and organizations are raising the bar in terms of creating housing that combines sustainability, functionality and artistry.  

Case Study: Arc House – A Resilient Prototype
By Shelter Dynamics, Green Builder Media, Align 3D & Kitcheneering 

- Advanced windows
- Integrated solar with battery storage
- Passive solar design
- Energy use feedback

- Two layers of polyiso insulation
- Acrylic roof coating
- Built-in awnings
- Efficient HVAC & appliances

Arc House, by Shelter Dynamics – A Resilient Prototype

Arc House, by Shelter Dynamics – A Resilient Prototype

“A new dwelling concept that combines the economy and simplicity of tiny house living with cutting edge building science. A home that is smart, self-sufficient, and compact.”
— Green Builder Media

Plastics Make It Possible: A Tiny House That’s Big on Energy Efficiency

Plastics Make It Possible is an online platform intended to highlight plastic innovations around the world. In collaboration with Zach Giffin from FYI Network’s “Tiny House Nation,” Plastics Make It Possible constructed an energy efficient tiny house using plastic building products in order to demonstrate how modern building materials can improve a home’s energy efficiency.

Tiny House.jpg
“From more fuel-efficient cars to minimalist packaging to energy saving building products, innovations in plastics have helped us do more in our lives with less impact on the environment. By enabling advances in global sustainability, modern plastics profoundly improved our ability to create a better life while caring for the future.”
— Plastics Make it Possible

Zero Energy Project

This non-profit educational organization offers tools, resources & information on zero energy for residential and commercial buildings.  Through taking meaningful steps towards building net zero energy homes, Zero Energy Project envisions a time when homes and buildings are able to produce more energy than they consume.

After Net Zero Deep Energy Retrofit - White Claw Farm

After Net Zero Deep Energy Retrofit - White Claw Farm

Case study: West Tisbury, MA
Zero Energy Renovation Project – White Claw Farm

3” polyiso wall insulation
Photovoltaic solar panels
Energy Star appliances
Three/fourths ton ducted heat pump
Heavily insulated and sealed ducts
Ventilation at 90%
LED lighting
Low-flow showerheads

“The mission of the Zero Energy Project is to provide information and education to prospective home buyers, builders, designers, real estate professionals and advocates about zero net energy homes and to advance the prevalence of these homes in the mainstream housing market.”
— Zero Energy Project

Sustainable Design Initiatives: Planning for Success


The American Institute of Architects: AIA 2030 Commitment

The 2030 Challenge.png

The AIA 2030 Commitment supports Architecture 2030’s ‘2030 Challenge’ by providing simple metrics and a streamlined set of confidential data to the firms that have pledged their participation to this initiative that seeks to create a carbon-neutral society by 2030. 

2016 Progress Report:

  • Average energy savings of 42%
  • 6 firms achieved energy savings of 70%
  • 15% increase in number of reporting firms (overall signatories more than 400)
  • 33% increase in reported projects
  • Potential energy savings from 2016 projects represent approximately 16.7 million metric tons of GHG emissions, the equivalent of about five coal-fired power plants. 
“The mission of The AIA 2030 Commitment is to transform the practice of architecture in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project-based and data-drive, so that the AIA and the participating firms can prioritize energy performance and carbon reductions in the design toward carbon neutral buildings, developments and major renovations by 2030.”
— The American Institute of Architects


This annual student design competition creates opportunities for future architects, engineers, construction managers & entrepreneurs to gain the skills and experience to start careers in clean energy and generate creative solutions to real-world problems.

Collegiate institutions sponsor teams comprised of at least three students, a faculty advisor & a team leader.

Teams obtain specific design problems and must redesign an existing floor plan or create a new house design that satisfies required guidelines.

The mandatory performance target is the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home specification.

Grand Winner: Lane Zero

Grand Winner: Lane Zero

“The Race to Zero inspires collegiate students to become the next generation of building science professionals through a design challenge for zero energy ready buildings.”
— U.S. Department of Energy

Sustainable Design Initiatives: Build Smart. Build Green.


Department of Energy’s Building America: Bringing Building Innovations to Market

The Building America Program conducts innovative research, development & deployment projects in residential buildings in order to improve industry standards and building codes. Through a collaboration of DOE national laboratories, building science teams and leading industry players, Building America is able to develop and demonstrate technical solutions while overcoming market barriers. Since 1995, households across the nation saved up to $54 billion and avoided the emissions of 500 million tons of carbon dioxide. 

For optimal success based on historical data and current market needs, Building America focuses on the following three housing technology areas: 

  1. High Performance Moisture Managed Envelope Solutions
  2. Optimal Comfort Systems for Low-Load Homes
  3. Optimal Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality Solutions

The following are examples of innovative solutions achieved by Building America:

  1. Increased insulation in homes by 50% through alternative construction techniques
  2. Improved the efficiency of home heating and cooling systems by up to 30%
  3. Improved the indoor air quality of homes
  4. High R-value walls
  5. Developed solutions for insulating and sealing attics and basement crawl spaces
Zero Chart.png
“Building America focuses on available savings opportunities by going beyond equipment efficiency and addressing other key aspects of homes and their systems (e.g., thermal integrity, heating and cooling systems).”
— U.S. Department of Energy


Rmax is proud to support Habitat for Humanity in hopes of building a better future, one house at a time.

Rmax is proud to support Habitat for Humanity in hopes of building a better future, one house at a time.

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in approximately 70 countries around the world to support people and families in need of a decent and affordable home. 

Habitat is committed to sustainable – or “green” – building, which they define as designing and constructing houses that are efficient and durable, that use fewer resources, are healthy to live in and are affordable. 

Not only does Habitat considers walls fundamental to the ability for a building envelope to effectively insulate, seal air and control moisture, but it also finds foam sheathing to be superior in terms of energy and cost savings, ease of installation and protection against condensation. 

“Habitat defines sustainable building or Green building as providing housing for people with methods and processes that create healthy homes and communities that are less expensive to operate, more durable, and that conserve resources throughout construction and after.”
— Habitat for Humanity