An Eco-Conscious Effort to Redefine Sustainability

By utilizing the HERS certification program and offering a renewable technology package, Garbett Homes has redefined sustainable affordability and have the accolades to prove it.
By Evan Lancaster
Photography by John Bare & Rene Oehlerking

Over the past decade, home builders have been working to push the boundaries of sustainable building practices in terms of affordability and maximizing the building envelope. Considering the nationwide initiatives in place shaping the future of green building practices, select builders are stepping forward to find affordable alternatives to sustainable housing, while still promoting ecological and stylish lifestyles.

Utah-based builder, Garbett Homes, and Los Angeles-based architect firm, KTGY Group, Inc., have partnered to produce the newest chapter in affordable sustainability within the masterplanned community of The Solaris Collection at Daybreak in South Jordan, Utah. Completed in June 2012, the community offers single-family homes with three-bedrooms, two-bathroom floor plans that range from 2,114 to 3,256 square feet. According to Rene Oehlerking, marketing director at Garbett Homes, each home takes approximately 50 days to build.

Oehlerking said the opportunity to build the Solaris product might not have presented itself without the master-planned community of Daybreak willing to support new solutions for ecological housing options. “They [Daybreak] encouraged us to keep pushing the envelope with innovative designs and included green features. The community itself is fresh and young and a hotbed for new ideas,” he said. Oehlerking attributed the success of the Solaris Collection, to the partnership between Garbett Homes and KTGY Group, as the driving force of the project’s achievements. In June 2012, at the Pacific Coast Building Conference in San Francisco, Calif., the Solaris Collection at Daybreak won the Gold Nugget Grand Award for the “Residential Project of the Year” in the Detached Product category.

The development was also recognized as the Gold Nugget Award of Merit in the category of “Single-Family Detached Home – 1,700 to 2,500 square feet.”

John Tully, founding principal of KTGY Group, explained that Garbett Homes and KTGY wanted to gain a competitive edge with the Solaris product by showcasing the innovative design not only in terms of sustainability, with standard geothermal and residential photovoltaic systems — but architecturally, as well.

Tully added that the architectural inspiration for the Solaris Collection was selected to reflect the concept of sustainability from inside out. He related this method of marketing to Apple, Inc., by comparing the sleek, stylish designs of highperformance computers and tablets to the sleek, stylish designs of the high-performance homes within Solaris.

“We wanted them [the homes] to stand out,” he said. “And we wanted them [the homes] to be perceived as innovative on the outside, as they are on the inside.”

Tully said one of the main challenges considering the design of Solaris was taking the technology historically found inside a custom home. He added that the team needed to find the right equilibrium between the size of the house and how much technology would be available.

However, Tully explained that by not targeting this community to a specific buyer, KTGY Group and Garbett Homes found “art-sensitive, more creative buyers” taking up residence at Solaris. “It has crossed over aged groups,” he said.

“People are looking for something that has a lot of technology inside — they want something that reflects that on the outside also. They are willing to invest in these [Solaris] houses.”

Oehlerking added the builder wanted to offer unmatched amenities considering the use of standard renewable energy features at Solaris, but were driven to set price points below $300,000. According to Oehlerking, Garbett Homes wanted to cater to the needs of today’s perspective buyers by delivering affordable sustainability.

However, considering the current condition of the market, sustainable does not always equal affordable. “Our market research showed that essentially everybody wants to go green, but they don’t want to pay to go green,” Oehlerking said. “We not only wanted to experiment with renewable energy as a standard feature, but also to see how tight we could build a home and how efficient we could make it and keep the price in the $250,000 range.”

By concentrating on the aspect of affordability, Garbett Homes was able to create a wellmanicured package of residential geothermal, solar technology and tankless hot water heaters alongside the standard Energy Star 3.0 and utilizing the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) program. The HERS program has become a nationally-recognized method of thirdparty certification and can be combined with Energy Star and energy-efficient mortgages. The point scale from 150 to one with a score of zero categorized as a Net-Zero energy home, while today’s average home ranges 100 to 68 on the Rating Index. Homes within The Solaris Collection at Daybreak score below 40.

The Solaris Collection at Daybreak was a self-funded project between Garbett Homes and KTGY Group with no construction loans needed. Oehlerking attributed the biggest hurdle to pushing the building envelope in terms of reasonably-priced sustainability. However, by challenging themselves to find an innovative solution for residential renewable energy as features — not upgrades — this project has rewritten the market standard. But it wasn’t by mistake. “The main reason was simply increased market share,” Oehlerking said. He continued, “We wanted to find a niche that no other builder was even thinking about. We wanted to become experts in it and start innovating in ways that the competition would be years behind us.”

Oehlerking also added that although The Solaris Collection has brought many accolades to both the builder and developer, Garbett Homes, still plans to refine the technology pioneered within this groundbreaking project.

He added by saying that Garbett Homes will continue to challenge themselves to produce the lowest average HERS score in each of their projects, nationwide. “We have struck gold with fresh, modern, high-density, single-family home designs from KTGY.” He added, “This presents unique challenges in how we build. We are always experimenting in ways to achieve the tightest building envelope possible.”

Evan Lancaster is assistant editor of Builder and Developer magazine. He may be contacted at

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