Abueva Builders announced as 2023 Innovative Project 3rd Place Winner

The Innovative Project Award is designed to honor projects that break the mold of standard building construction, design, and operations. The projects in question exemplify innovation and astute practices that reflect the goals of the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan (USGBC-WM)’s programs. The Innovative Project winner this year was chosen in a close vote between our Board of Directors and Staff. The USGBC-WM was excited to announce Abueva Builders as the third-place winner for their Lakeside net zero Passive House.

The Lakeside Net Zero Passive House is a groundbreaking project that redefines modern living with an unwavering commitment to environmental responsibility. The homeowner is a lifelong resident of SW Michigan. Frustrated with the limitations of attempting to upgrade the energy efficiency of a 1950’s era ranch home, this environmentalist decided to “do it right” and build an energy-efficient and eco-friendly dream home. After much research, the decision was made to pursue a “net zero home”, meaning the house will generate all the clean renewable energy on-site to power itself year-round.

The primary architect for this project, Mark A. Miller, previously held the role of Executive Director of the Passive House Alliance US and formed a relationship with the Green Home Institute (GHI). When it came time to find a local green builder, GHI provided a short list of candidates. On this list wasPaul Abueva of Abueva Construction in Kalamazoo, who had just built his own high-performance home using a similar double stud wall technique. he team knew they had found the perfect builder to partner with them on this journey.

The home boasts an all-electric design, setting new standards in green building. The heart of this residence is its custom ducted mini-split heat pump system, coupled with a ground loop heat exchanger. This system  ensures year-round comfort while drastically reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint. The team was also dedicated to responsible sourcing and repurposing of materials. Salvaged wood from the previous residence was used throughout the home, as well as locally harvested lumber, selected from the building site itself. The Lakeside net zero Passive House also harnesses the power of the sun with a state-of-the-art solar array, complemented by a cutting-edge battery backup storage system. This ensures a reliable and sustainable source of energy, even during adverse weather conditions, reducing reliance on the grid and promoting self-sufficiency.

The 2,300 sq. ft. 2 bedroom/2.5 bath home features a conical-shaped metal roofand a unique basement level garage, which doubles as a  a tornado shelter, designed to FEMA specs. The adjacent lake is visible from nearly every area of the home, including a second-floor reading balcony. 

Emphasizing the importance of healthy, high-performance green building practices, this project has earned prestigious certifications as Michigan’s first certified net-zero passive house, achieving PHIUS +2018, PHIUS+ Source Zeroand LEED Platinum Certifications.

Interview with Paul Abueva, owner of Abueva Builders:


What does it mean to your organization to achieve net zero? How does this relate to your organization’s mission?

Abueva Builders was founded with the belief that new homes need to go beyond current codes.  We strive to be one of the most environmentally conscious builders, not just in our product, but in our process as well.  Building exceptionally energy efficient homes is one of our core philosophies and although every home we have built has not been net zero, they have all been zero ready with considerations in their design that would allow for the addition of solar panels to reach that goal.  With the recent changes in incentives for solar installations, we expect that the majority of our future projects will all be net zero at the time of build completion.


What does sustainability and sustainable design/construction mean to you?

Sustainable design/construction is about more than just the finished product.  True sustainability means that the process of construction and the home's effects on the environment over the life of its existence are also taken into consideration.  We approach all of our projects with that in mind.  We spend time during the planning phases to revise the prints to modify dimensions and substitute materials to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and improve functionality.  We also consider the life cycle of the products in a house.  We believe that when we build a house, we expect it to be there for generations to come.  Universal design is one way that we ensure that our homes will be accessible to persons of all abilities.  Durability is another key factor.  Homes designed to be durable with less regular maintenance will last longer.  Lastly, we understand that during the life of a home it is inevitable that changes may be made and materials will reach an end of life.  Framing the structure in a way where interior load bearing walls are eliminated and exterior load bearing headers are placed so that windows can be modified or walls can be removed serve to future proof a home to an extent.  Also choosing materials like metal roofing that can be recycled at their end of life also help ensure that we minimize our impacts on the environment.


How do sustainable design and standard of living overlap? 

Measuring a standard of living often includes things like health, education, income, and equality.  Site selection for development can help to a degree, but with the homes we build we do not have as much control over this.   One thing that our homes do provide is a healthier living environment.  Another aspect would be our homes' reduced impact on the environment and their reduced impact on climate change. 


Do you have future plans for similar projects? 

This particular project was very architecturally unique.  Our typical project is generally simpler while embracing all of the same degree of environmental consciousness, energy efficiency, and universal design.  We have already finished another net zero home this year, are in the middle of doing a renovation that will be net zero ready,  and have plans in the works for a couple more net zero homes in the coming year.


How has this project impacted the surrounding community? 

Due to this project’s location, it is not highly visible.  However, it has generated a lot of buzz amongst the partners involved.  The homeowner is also a very staunch environmental steward.  So among her colleagues and friends she has provided an example of what is possible when you strive to adhere to your values.  We are entering this project for more awards, and as the word of mouth continues to circulate, we expect that the project will serve as a shining example of what is possible.  Energy efficient, sustainable homes do not need to be cookie cutter boxes.


What does it mean to you to be recognized for this project?

We are very grateful that you have chosen to recognize our project for its innovation.  I have been a builder since 2006.  In 2015 we completed our first LEED Gold project as a spec to show what was possible when we could incorporate all the design principles we had been trying to preach to others.  It took me a long time to finally be building the kind of homes that truly embrace our company philosophy.  While we have had other LEED projects in the interim, this one really set the bar in terms of the PHIUS certification.  That combined with the very intricate nature of a round house and all of its design challenges, serves as a statement that we can build any home to these high standards.


The USGBC-WM Leadership Awards promote outstanding green building initiatives by recognizing projects, organizations, and people who have made extraordinary contributions to achieving healthy, energy-efficient green buildings in the state of Michigan.

“Michigan is one of the top 5 states for clean energy commitments, number two in the country in drawing down federal funding for climate and clean energy, and number one in the Midwest for clean energy jobs, clean energy growing twice as fast as the overall economy,” said Cheri Holman, Executive Director of USGBC-WM. “These investments by the federal government, concrete action from the state, and the  collaboration inside our community has energized me like never before.”

Abueva Builders was honored at our 2023 Annual Party & Leadership Awards Ceremony on December 5, 2023. Hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan, the evening event was held in the Ballroom at the LEED-certified CityFlatsHotel located in downtown Grand Rapids. The program included a keynote address by Dr. Brandy Brown, Chief Innovation Officer of Walker-Miller Energy Services, an Awards Ceremony, and the celebration of this year’s achievements. 

To learn more about the event and to read our 2023 Annual Report visit our Annual Party & Leadership Awards Ceremony page.