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When Tom Wade’s grandfather started building single-family homes, he may not have imagined how far his grandson would take the practice. Tom’s father followed in the family footsteps and founded Artistic Homes in Albuquerque, N.M., in the mid-1980s. Now, Tom has led the company from simply building quality, affordable homes to innovating ones that are highly energy-efficient.

“My grandfather would absolutely love what we’re doing today because he had an incredible passion for – and an interest in – craftsmanship and improving the product, which in this case is the home,” Tom says. “The fact that we’re using science and technology is something he would probably enjoy even more than I am.”

Artistic Homes has become one of the first production builders in the United States to offer zero-energy construction as an optional upgrade on every home it builds. The upgrade comes with a guarantee that the company’s efficient construction, combined with renewable power generation, will result in net-zero energy heating, cooling and plug load. In other words, an upgraded home produces more energy than it consumes.

To help customers make the leap to net-zero energy, the company sells its upgrade option at cost, ranging from $42,000 to $62,000, depending on the size of the home. However, Artistic Homes calculates that the $49,550 price tag to upgrade a 2,157-square-foot home shrinks to about $811 after applying incentives and tax credits. And because net-zero homeowners’ monthly utility bills are negligible, Artistic Homes determines that these homeowners could pay off a 30-year mortgage in about 17 years.

The family-owned business has built more than 5,300 high-performance homes since 1998. The homes range from $160,000 to $300,000 and from 1,305 to 2,905 square feet.

The commitment of people such as Tom to progress toward sustainable building demonstrates the potential for successful, nationwide deployment of affordable, net-zero energy homes that compete in the market, benefit the environment and enhance the country’s energy security.

As Tom sees it, Artistic Homes does what makes good environmental sense and what makes good business sense.

“I’m not the marquee environmentalist, but I can remember asking my dad at a young age about the resources we were using — I guess I’ve always had an interest in doing better for the world we live in,” he says. “From a business standpoint, we have a better product for the customer because it’s energy-efficient, and we’ve set up a practice that is sustainable in the long-term. My son says he wants to do this also, and we’ve set up a very good future for him.”

And that’s something of which Tom’s grandfather would be proud.