Green Building/Energy Star HomesMy wife and I have recently retired to Prescott and looking forward to purchasing a home. We have three homes that we are considering. One is rated as an Energy Star home and the other two are not, but they have “green” features. We read your column weekly and want to know the thoughts from your builders.
There is certainly a lot of “green washing” taking place among today’s builders and homeowners throughout the industry. Bob Norman of Sun Pine Homes, Ed Stahl of R.E.S Contracting and Kurt Holmes of Prescott Green Builders all agree that merely claiming a home is green because it has bamboo flooring, natural paint or the latest slick green components despite a leaky duct system can be misleading. A big point that Bob Norman wants to make is “the most important principle of green design and construction is producing a home that is highly energy efficient and then having it independently tested to prove its performance. It starts with energy efficiency verified to Energy Star.”
Energy Star rated homes have the lowest environmental footprint due to energy savings and will have the added benefits of health, comfort, safety and durability.
Kurt Holmes of Prescott Green Builders builds all of his homes to meet or exceed Energy Star standards and as Kurt says, “anyone can say they build an energy efficient home, but having the home certified Energy Star ensures that it is. An Energy Star home goes far beyond energy efficiency, said Kurt, the certification standards use the building science system approach to ensure the home is energy efficient, but also ensures that the home has good indoor air quality, is safe from radon buildup, has proper weatherization barriers, window flashing, foundation drainage, ventilation, comfort and is safe and durable.
Green building should be immediately correlated not with just sustainability, but quality. It is quite difficult to build an energy efficient home that is poor quality. An Energy Star builder must have a firm grasp on building science, and these three builders certainly do have that grasp and are well respected in the area.
Ed Stahl of R.E.S. Contracting started building energy efficient homes in the Prescott area in 1987 and recognized that a well built home was not only energy efficient but much more comfortable. Since 2008, R.E.S. Contracting has built 10 Energy Star Certified homes. Kurt Holmes of Prescott Green Builders has been building in the area for 10 years and has 7 Energy Star homes, including 1 net zero home. Bob Norman of Sun Pine Homes has been building since 1995 and understands the importance of energy efficiency and a low environmental footprint and the value of health, comfort, home safety and durability. Bob has built 6 Energy Star homes over the past couple of years and is well versed in the Energy Star building process.
Another important component of Energy Star homes is that the Energy Star process itself guarantees that the home will meet the approved standards. Bob Norman of Sun Pine Homes stated that “with Energy Star, the builder and homeowner get the added benefit of third party inspections and certification by the certified energy rater.” The house plans are sent to the energy rater for review and analysis. The Rater provides independent, third party verification and looks for key information on the plans to help the builder select the best combination of energy-efficient features to ensure that the home will earn the Energy Star label when constructed.
These Raters personally follow the progress of the build with multiple site visits to verify compliance at key intervals. “Throughout the construction process, the Rater performs a number of on-site inspections and diagnostic tests to verify the proper installation of the selected energy-efficient features and overall energy performance of our homes.” said Ed Stahl of R.E.S. Contracting. “Good construction will pay back for decades and as the cost of energy increases the savings become more and more significant for us and our planet.” Ed said that a recent study of homes sold between 2007 and 2012 documented an average increase of 9 percent in selling price when the home had a green certification label such as the Energy Star Certification. Bob Norman agrees and said “many energy efficient options are good investments and are an asset for resale.”
All three of these superior local Energy Star builders agree that the costs to build are 1.0% to 1.5% more than current built homes and the payback time is approximately 3-5 years. Energy Star and other performance upgrades are adding about $6,000 to the price but saving the customer about 30% minimum in annual energy costs of $2,000 - $3,000.
As Ed Stahl said “sustainable materials and conservation are important parts of a green home but the most important aspect of building green is the energy efficiency of the thermal enclosure. “
If you want trust, enthusiasm and confidence with an Energy Star home, Bob, Ed and Kurt are the go-to builders and they say “Energy Star is the way to go.”