Energy Efficiency: Beyond an Amenity

As homebuyers demand more energy efficiency and savings, builders need to
communicate the benefits and strategies used to build their homes
By Terry Shuffler

Homebuyers are savvier than ever when it comes to knowing what they want in a home. In addition to functional floorplans and new finishes and features, energy efficiency continues to top the list of desired amenities. Builders who understand and communicate energy-efficient benefits can provide unique added value to the growing number of buyers who, whether they recognize it or not, want these features in their homes.

There’s a reason that energy-efficient homes are selling well. They not only contribute to a healthier environment overall, but offer a comfortable home and lower monthly utility bills for the buyer. For example, in a competitive housing market like Austin (one of Trendmaker Homes’ hottest selling markets), buyers have simply come to expect these things.

With new home construction, builders can offer a variety of energy-efficient features that start with the foundation and infrastructure of the home and are offered all the way through to the appliances and finishes. Depending on the builder, these features may include insulation, filtration, pre-engineered wood, LED lighting, and more.

For example, Trendmaker’s Living Smart® program offers buyers a myriad of energy-saving and healthy living options and features that come standard with the cost of the home. HealthSmart features foster healthy living and cleaner air, EnergySmart technology leads to less energy usage and lower utility bills, EarthSmart components come from recycled and renewable resources, and WaterSmart features and landscape design help conserve water usage.

The technology, materials, and products used in all new Trendmaker homes include water filtration systems, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, low-formaldehyde carpet pads, insulating foam made with 20% recycled materials, low-E2 glazing on windows, radiant roof barriers, and low-formaldehyde insulation. Buyers also benefit from low-water features and amenities including Delta Water Sense faucets, irrigation systems with timers, water-saving dishwashers, and region-friendly landscaping. These features all contribute to offering better energy solutions as a point of distinction for homebuyers.

The advantages to building a new energy-efficient home are numerous. However, builders need to educate buyers on these benefits, even the savvier ones. What do radiant roof barriers and low-formaldehyde insulation provide and how do they perform? Communicate that they offer increased comfort though temperature control, greater savings through lower utility bills, and healthier communities with lower carbon footprints. Insulated ThermaBLOC, weatherstripping, and insulation may not be the sexiest amenities, but they stop moisture and control the humidity in most of the new homes that are built. As for insulation, we don’t use the typical batt system. Instead, we use a BIBS® system because it is a high performance product that uses specially manufactured fiberglass blowing wool. It offers the highest R-values attainable today and creates a thermal envelope with a seamless blanket of dense-packed fiberglass insulation, making the home more energy efficient.

In fact, Trendmaker takes it a step further and employs a third-party thermography check to ensure that each home’s building envelope is tight and not inviting additional moisture. This also checks for electrical shorts, air leaks, and missing insulation. Again, communicate why this is important to a new homebuyer.

To help buyers visualize how a home’s materials and energy-efficient technology perform, many builders have their energy-efficient features on display in model homes through cutaways in the wall and exhibits throughout the home. It helps to be specific with building materials that aren’t as obvious as a lighting fixture or stainless steel appliance. Have your sales team know these advantages, and expect many questions on energy efficiency from potential buyers.

Most of today’s homebuilders have discovered that building with energy-efficient materials and installing energy-efficient products helps make their homes healthier and less expensive to operate for occupants, and can help differentiate a builder in their markets. Trendmaker’s new homes take it a step further and are independently certified to exceed local energy codes, based on the belief that efficient homes are better-built homes.

By highlighting the energy-efficient features offered in new homes, builders can illustrate value-add options to their buyers. Because most of the efficiency features offered are built into the overall price of Trendmaker’s new homes, it doesn’t feel like an added cost for the buyer. That is one huge selling point and one that buyers will understand.

Terry Shuffler is Vice President and General Manager of Trendmaker Homes’ Austin Division. Trendmaker Homes is a member of the TRI Pointe Group. For more information visit www.trendmakerhomes.com.

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