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Company develops smart home that can pay for itself — and it could change the future of housing

"This place is doing things that you have not experienced in a home before."

"This place is doing things that you have not experienced in a home before."

Photo Credit: Vali Homes

 To say Arizona's Vali Homes puts its abodes on a pedestal is an understatement. 

"There are regular homes, there are 'green' homes, and there are Vali homes," the company's website states

And because of the unique, nature-inspired concepts that go into the design, the statement might be spot-on. The company claims the house could pay for itself — and even make the inhabitants wiser —  through a variety of smart features. 

"This place is doing things that you have not experienced in a home before," Vali founder Austin Trautman said in a video clip that introduces viewers to a model home.

The tour starts by passing through a thick front door designed to keep desert dust and other pollutants outside. Inside, a modern design includes countertops that Trautman said most people have likely "never heard of" but are top-notch. 

The big breakthroughs can't be experienced through video alone. They include airflow plans and design concepts that borrow from nature. 

"There is a lot of science applied in laboratories but not a whole lot applied in house construction, especially in our climate," Trautman said in a story published last year by ABC15 Arizona about a community of Vali homes.

From the outside, they look like typical square- and rectangular-shaped desert dwellings. They include passive principles already utilized by designers in other parts of the country. Passive homes maximize natural sunlight, shading, and thermal control for energy efficiency. 

Vali takes it to another level, including concepts that embrace a connection with nature, also mimicking it, to more sustainably build and live in Arizona's unique climate. It's an aggressive take on home construction geared to change the way we think about energy use.

"It's pulling air out of the bathrooms, bringing in the fresh air, filtering it and pre-conditioning it and bringing that into the living spaces and bedrooms," Trautman said to ABC15.

Wood fiber and sheep wool walls help with energy efficiency, per the report. 

The bottom line for many homebuyers will still come down to price and return on investment. Vali offers convincing diagrams that put its homes ahead of common construction and even the so-called "green" builds. 

A Vali house can save the owner up to $800 a month in utility expenses. Vali estimates a $60,000 savings during the first decade. With those savings, the builder boasts that owners can pay off their mortgage twice as fast.  

Vali reports a cost similar to green homes. Phius, a nonprofit that trains passive builders, estimates that homes built to its standards cost up to 5% more than conventional methods. That difference tightens with larger projects, like one in Boston transforming a public housing unit into a more sustainable living space. 

Vali has another perk, backed by Harvard science. An automated fresh air supply providing a filtered atmosphere might make its inhabitants smarter. Breathing in less air pollution "can increase critical decision making by 300% or more," per Vali. 

It's part of what Trautman described to ABC15 as a system that works together to create an eco-friendly space that improves lives.

"It's hard to describe the feeling until you stand in it," he said in the report.

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