“It’s not necessarily modern,” says marketing director Rene Oehlerking. “It’s a simple interpretation of a lot of different styles.” 

Home buyers of all ages have fallen in love with this less-is-more concept. “The design takes it from a buyer response like ‘We are interested in this home’ to ‘We’re going to do whatever it takes to buy this home,’” he says. 

Key design elements of Garbett houses are open first floors and plentiful large windows. Other distinctive touches include a muted paint scheme with small bursts of color, trimless cabinets, brushed nickel hardware and lighting, quartz countertops, and stainless steel appliances. 

Of course, not all buyers in this conservative region go for the streamlined look. The firm estimates only about 15 percent of the Salt Lake City market is interested in the style. “But 100 percent of that 15 percent want what we are offering and can’t get it anywhere else except in a high-priced custom home,” says John Tully, founding principal of KTGY, the project’s architectural firm. “It’s an ideal market segment for us.”

— Jennifer Goodman


Imagine that a highly efficient hybrid-electric car sold for the same price as a non-hybrid car. Buyers would choose the gas-saving model over the traditional one every time because it costs much less to operate. 

Utah-based production builder Garbett Homes is banking on that assumption as it markets ultra-sustainable homes priced in line with traditional ones. At the center of its plan is an important truth that many builders already know. “If you option green features, no one will go for the upgrade—you’ve got to include them,” says Garbett marketing director Rene Oehlerking. “Everybody wants to go green but nobody wants to pay for it.”

However, after years of market research and trial and error, Garbett discovered that buyers will eagerly select a sustainably built home if it does not cost more, and the builder is using that information to differentiate itself from its competition. “If you can get a green product that’s energy efficient and that is a higher-performing product—in any industry—and you can price it the same as a traditional product, consumers are going to go for the green product,” says Oehlerking. 

Garbett has made a name for itself in the Salt Lake City area by offering features such as solar power and geothermal heating at several of its affordably priced communities including the Solaris Collection at Daybreak. Garbett’s newest product takes this concept one step further with net-zero-ready models that start in the low $400,000s—the same price as similarly sized houses in the same neighborhood. 

The Zero Home in the master planned Rosecrest community is one of the first production homes in the country that generates as much energy as it consumes, meaning little or no utility bills for owners, says John Tully, principal of Irvine, Calif.–based KTGY, the project’s designer. (A similarly sized home in the area racks up about $300 a month in energy costs.) Garbett currently has 17 lots in Rosecrest with an option on 15 more, according to Oehlerking. 

With panoramic views of the surrounding foothills, the 4,335-square-foot contemporary-style house includes five bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and a four-car garage with an electric vehicle charging station. The home, which is Energy Star 3.0 certified, is powered by a 10.29 kW PV system. It’s also the first in the state to meet the rigorous standards of the DOE’s Challenge Home initiative. 

For the Zero Home, Garbett partnered with local company Vivint, the second-largest solar installer in the country. Vivint supplied the automation and energy management system that includes automated door locks, a smart thermostat, small appliance and lighting control, and video surveillance. Homeowners can see in real time how much power their home is producing and consuming, which studies show helps to reduce energy usage.