Atlantic hurricane season hasn’t even started (it officially begins June 1), but excessive spring flooding has already displaced thousands of residents in Louisiana.

An ice storm in Texas in February destroyed much of the state’s electricity grid, plunging nearly 10 million people into a cold and grim disaster. More than 150 people have died and, at an estimated $ 200 billion, it was the costliest natural disaster in state history.

And the latest California wildfire season set the record for the most land burnt in modern history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fires destroyed more than 10,000 structures and cost more than $ 10 billion in property damage.

The growing effects of climate change are no longer seasonal. Increasingly extreme weather conditions due to climate change are now a permanent phenomenon. This causes builders to reconsider how they design and power new homes, and how to remove them from the grid, so that they can be more environmentally and operationally sustainable in the event of a disaster. It also makes traditional buyers think more like survivors.

“More severe storms each year are going to continue and further indicate the need for resilient development,” said Ben Keys, associate professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Keys is studying the effects of climate change on real estate and the growing need for housing that can operate off-grid. It goes way beyond solar panels.

“These homes can be built much more efficiently, so not just solar, but they can have their own water filters, other sources of electricity generation and a number of other efficient ways to run their utilities. “said Keys.

A growing number of small manufacturers, like Dvele, based in California, are now mobilizing.

Power outages spur change

“The whole idea for the free-standing home actually came from the wildfires in California where the grids were extinguishing,” said Matt Howland, president of Dvele.

Dvele, founded in 2017, builds its homes in a factory. These are sleek and modern designs with high end fixtures and finishes. The average size is around 2,600 square feet, although it may be larger, and the cost is around $ 1.2 million. That’s about 20% more than the cost of a comparable-sized luxury home without the efficiency and resilient technologies.

Dvele homes have solar elements, batteries and other construction and insulation elements, as well as smart technology, which allows them to use much less energy and run longer outdoors. of the network. The home continuously monitors its own energy inputs and outputs, then adjusts systems to save more. In the event of a local power failure, the house should not see any difference.

“We’re seeing things that we’ve never seen before that the grids just aren’t meant to be managed. Since all of the events in Texas, interest in the concept of self-feeding has really faded away. charts for us, ”Howland said.

Most of Dvele’s projects are on the West Coast, but they see a big expansion of single-family homes and whole new communities in other states. The homes most at risk are in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, along the Mississippi River and on the great expanses of the Gulf and Atlantic coast, according to the annual disaster report of CoreLogic.

Major grid outage or “blackout” events in the United States, affecting 50,000 or more people, have jumped more than 60% since 2015, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Homeowners have become much more aware of their risk and much more inclined to do something about it. Consumers are now more than ever looking for new strategies to protect themselves and their families against climatic events.

Increase in requests

Rise, a home improvement website dedicated specifically to sustainable projects, has seen a surge in off-grid queries from its subscribers.

“It is the independence of the owner in general. A new way of thinking where you don’t rely on others and realize that there is a lot they can do, ”said Matthew Daigle, CEO of Rise. “Solar is only a piece of the cake. They are taking over rural areas.”

They might take a page, but it’s not about individuals living in a cabin in the woods away from society, as off-grid has long been considered.

“It’s not just for extremists. I think you’re going to see more and more people looking for ways to protect themselves as there is an increased risk of storms, more disruption to public services and more need for resilience, ”Keys said.

The growth of off-grid technology is not just expected for single-family homes. Dvele is now exploring shared storage over micro-grids for entire communities of its homes.

“We hadn’t expected it to happen this quickly nationally, but we’re excited about the growth,” Howland said.

The biggest obstacles

The biggest barrier to further expansion of off-grid housing is cost. At present, it is expensive, and especially the renovation of houses. Most of the demand comes from wealthier homeowners and homebuyers.

“I think funding is a big challenge because the payoffs from a lot of these investments don’t pay off immediately,” Keys said.

Gradual changes in the high end can filter down, which often happens with the technology that is in our appliances and in our heating and air conditioning systems today. The more investment in off-grid technology, the cheaper it will become.

“So you need investors, or you need owners who take that long-term view and recognize that those benefits will increase over time,” Keys added.

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