Stapleton Past, Present & Future: Energy-Efficiency

September 4, 2012 Stapleton Stories No Comments

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A Decade of Improvement at Stapleton

By Gene Myers; CEO, Thrive Home Builders

The Past

I remember the row of almost identical trailers that each of the initial seven builders installed in the temporary trailer park that was the first home sales center for Stapleton. It was exciting to be a part of a new project that had so much promise.

And yet, all of the builders back then experienced some anxiety. Would the architectural styles Stapleton unveiled be appreciated by homebuyers? Would the schools really become excellent? And what about these green-building standards that the developer, Forest City (now Brookfield Properties), required? Would people really pay more for a more energy-efficient home?

In the rearview mirror, these seem like simple questions with obvious answers, but it wasn’t so clear in the beginning. When we started in the first neighborhood of new homes, we were required to comply with Built Green standards. Launched in 2006, Energy Star’s second version was just being implemented. To help builders meet the requirements, the Build America program of the U.S. Department of Energy was made available to all of the builders. In that program, nationally acclaimed energy-efficiency experts pored over our plans and walked through our houses to help us adapt.

We designed state-of-the-art homes. It was one thing to get them right on paper; it was another to get our field employees and subcontractors to drop the “that’s the way we have always done it” habits and adopt a new way of thinking.

The Present

That new way of thinking has become a way of life for Stapleton builders over the last 10 years as Forest City’s (now Brookfield Properties) requirements and Energy Star evolved. In the beginning, our homes were at least 15% more energy-efficient than those that merely complied with the building code. Now, typical Stapleton homes have doubled those gains to about 30%. Thrive’s single-family homes now save more than 50%.

The bar was raised even higher in Stapleton’s Central Park West neighborhood in 2011 when builders integrated energy monitoring into their homes. Energy monitoring provides the real-time feedback to homeowners so they can track energy usage. I often say that the most powerful force for energy conservation is an energy monitor in the hands of a 10 year-old! Our homebuyers have spent as little as $40 per year on electricity! We are sure that that kind of performance is a result of watching consumption on a daily basis with an energy monitor.

Builders have now moved beyond Stapleton’s minimum requirements on their own. In 2009, Thrive Home Builders began offering solar panels as a standard feature. In 2011, Infinity Home Collection offered LEED Certified homes and in 2012, Thrive Home Builders began offering a Zero Energy Option on all our single-family homes. The most startling change has been our ability to offer such innovations at prices that our buyers can afford. In fact, when you add energy bills to a normal house payment, it now costs the same per month to own our Zero Energy Home as it does our standard feature home. The energy savings offset the extra cost of going to Zero Energy. Ten years ago, I would never have imagined it!

The Future

  • Predicting the future can be a difficult, but we know a few things for sure:
  • Predicting the future can be a difficult, but we know a few things for sure:
  • Energy won’t be getting any cheaper.
  • The greenhouse effects on our environment won’t be easily reversed.
  • The family budget for housing and utilities will continue to be tight.
  • Builders at Stapleton will continue to lead Colorado and the homebuilding industry in innovation and energy-efficiency.
  • With rebates for solar panels dropping, builders will be moving into a “post solar” mindset for energy-efficiency. I could tell you how … but that would ruin the story for next year. We have a surprise for you. See you at our new models in Stapleton’s newest neighborhood next spring!