We’ve all heard the buzz words … Green … Sustainable … Energy-Efficient.
But what does it all mean?
In Stapleton’s Central Park West neighborhood, homebuilders are redefining “Green” construction, and many of them were doing it well before the community’s newest neighborhood began to take shape.
To them, sustainable building is all about the full package – from windows to roofs – providing buyers with tighter homes that not only make sense for the environment, but keep a few more cents in their pocketbooks.
“We really go beyond Energy Star 3.0 … the thing that we do above and beyond is we include solar,” said Perry Cadman of Thrive Home Builders. All homes in Central Park West are required to be certified to Energy Star 2.5 standards and will soon be built to meet the stricter 3.0 guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“I think the fact that solar is standard and included is a big thing,” Cadman said, but emphasized that Thrive Home Builders also strives for low HERS (Home Energy Rating System) ratings.
HERS ratings rank energy consumption, classifying a new home built-to-code at 100 and a net-zero home at 0. A net-zero home doesn’t use any net energy.
“We plan to lead and not follow, and I think that is reflected by our net-zero energy house in Stapleton …,” Cadman said.
Thrive Home Builders opened the Solaris Collection as a single-family product in Central Park West this summer and will build multi-family homes called Central Park Rows in the neighborhood later this year.
Infinity Home Collection also has two new, single-family products. The Pure collection opened in Central Park West in July, while Lime opened in Stapleton’s Central Park North neighborhood in August.
“We haven’t really focused on any one particular component, but more so on how things interact with one another,” said John Hovde of Infinity. “We are building high-performance homes that function as a system, while enhancing the living environment, embracing sustainability, and taking advantage of the latest building science. And yes, it’s all managed on an iPad.”
“Plus, our job is to show people that we’re sensitive to the environment … and that there’s not a bunch of sacrifice in terms of style to build green.”
Hovde said Infinity also features a solar option.
“Our homes are essentially solar-ready so we have the option to install panels. The house is set up so it’s really easy to add that,” he said. “That’s true of all homes in the Lime and Pure series.”
“We haven’t had to change our specifications much to meet the new Energy Star requirements, but we are always looking for ways to upgrade the quality of our homes. We recently added tank-less, hot water heaters in addition to energy monitoring systems to all of our new homes,” said Jack Fleury of Parkwood Homes, adding that the majority of the builder’s new homes in Central Park West are available with a solar-system lease or purchase options, including some with zero down payments.
“We’ve been in Stapleton since the very beginning, but came out here from the east coast. While we’ve always had a great deal of pride in our traditional American architecture, construction quality and the energy performance of our homes … the emphasis on Green construction here in Denver is much stronger than back East,” he said. “We’ve learned a lot about Green construction methods during our nine years here in Stapleton that we’ve brought back East.”
Parkwood even applied the principles of sustainability to model-home furniture in its new Georgetown Collection.
“We had several different designers present proposals to us and with each proposal, we asked them to do an inventory of the furnishings we already had in our previous model …ultimately, most of the furniture was reutilized, but in a fresh new way that complemented our new home designs,” Fleury said.
For CalAtlantic Homes, Stapleton’s newest homebuilder, energy-efficiency is all about higher standards.
“The Vines collection in Stapleton offers the first CalAtlantic Homes with a standard solar program,” said Dan Jacobsen with CalAtlantic. “This is not a typical lease program that we and other builders offer across the country. At The Vines, a 1.8 kilowatt SunPower system is fully paid for and included in the advertised price of every home. We also offer upgrades up to a 4.5 kilowatt system, which can offset up to 80% of energy consumption.
“Owning these systems will not only save on monthly bills, but will allow our buyers to take advantage of a federal tax credit, which pays them back for the retail price of their system at the end of the year.”
Jacobsen said the homebuilder is also 100% committed to 3.0 Energy Star ratings in The Vines collection, which is now open in Central Park West.
“I think a big function of being a 100% Energy Star 3.0 builder is the architecture – we designed our homes with Energy Star in mind … not a lot of vaulted ceilings, not a lot of wasted space, and not a lot of compartment rooms that are hard to heat and cool,” said Mike Davidson with CalAtlantic.
Wonderland Homes has also upgraded internal components such as water heaters to meet Central Park West’s Energy Star standards, and tests every home for its energy performance.
“So we’re able to show a buyer that we’ve actually tested the home that they’re going to buy,” said Steve Phua at Wonderland. “The new Central Park West home is just a much tighter home with the spray foam insulation … it just creates a much tighter envelope.”
Wonderland opened its Courtyard Traditions and the Innovations collection as single-family products in Central Park West, while it will unveil The Edge as a multi-family collection later this year.
“We always strive to be one of the best regarding sustainability in general … part of that is energy, part of that is sustainability, and part of that includes components such as indoor air quality,” Phua said.
Walter Watson at David Weekley Homes emphasized the importance of indoor air quality that’s achieved through a balanced, home-ventilation system.
“We figured the best way to save energy is not to use it … trying out new products that are more sustainable and using less of them,” Watson said. “Every one of our homes is tested by third-party inspectors to ensure we’re performing to Energy Star standards, and each home comes with a HERS score based on that testing. We also utilize the industry’s Environments For Living program that offers a three-year guarantee on energy usage necessary to heat and cool your home.”
Watson said David Weekley has worked with an energy consultant for more than a decade.
“It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to get existing homes up to the standards of new, energy-efficient homes,” he said. “We think that by building efficient, new homes, used homes become obsolete. They just can’t compete with the level of performance that our new homes have.”
Darrell Hensely of KB Home echoed the importance of a tight home. “Obviously, the big thing is ensuring the home envelope is both sealed and well-built.”
KB Home is building The Villa Collection in Central Park West to be Energy Star 3.0, but Hensely said all of KB’s homes have been Energy Star certified for the last two years.
“KB Home is quite aggressive in its participation in energy-conservation programs,” he said. “For example, we install a radiant barrier on all of our roof barriers … and that is a specialty, roof-sheeting product that has a reflective layer, which helps keep homes cool.”
“The true message is the energy-efficiency of the home as a whole package,” Hensely said.