Green-Lighting Healthy, Sustainable Homes

The right planning, practices and resources lead to greater and greener results for homebuilders

By James Attwood

Home builders and developers should always look for new and better methods to do business in a more considerate, sustainable and healthful way. Through efficient land acquisition and planning and smart building practices, they can elevate their value proposition, marketability and sustainability. Green building improves the health of not only homeowners, their finances and the environment, but it also helps when managing limited resources. In regions like the Southwest, for example, Tri Pointe Homes Arizona is the only LEED-certified production builder in the Phoenix metro. 

Through efficient land acquisition and planning and smart building practices, they can elevate their value proposition, marketability and sustainability.

Seeing the Light in the Valley of the Sun

Companies in what we call the “life-changing business” of homebuilding should continuously strive to serve the customer better through research and innovation. That translates to higher performance and versatility, a homebuilder that can respond to market conditions – from increasing costs and unprecedented demand with low inventory to the work-from-home movement during the pandemic – to, of course, site and environmental conditions. Advanced framing techniques and other practices help Tri Pointe Homes use less lumber, and LEED-certified homes provide greater health and energy-efficiency advantages, benefits that grew in importance as homes were getting even more use during COVID-19. On average, LEED-certified homes use 20 to 30% less energy than non-green homes, with savings reaching 60% in some cases, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Water conservation, especially in the West, should also be a top priority in terms of planning, home design and smart building practices. The standard practice of Tri Pointe Homes, which installs thousands of WaterSense® fixtures in homes every year, is to use natural bio-filtration systems, drought-tolerant plant materials and high-tech irrigation systems. Not all markets are the same, of course, making region-specific design and setup very important to achieve maximum efficiency. For example, in places that experience large seasonal temperature variations, such as Las Vegas and Arizona, the thorough assessment of low-E window and door placement improves energy efficiency and minimizes temperature fluctuation within homes. 

Smart Building Practices

More than 6 out of every 10 realtors had clients at least somewhat interested in sustainability features in a home, according to the National Association of REALTORS 2020 Sustainability Report, and 7 in 10 said promoting energy efficiency in listings was either very or somewhat valuable. Even folks who can’t tell their LEED from their ENERGY STAR certifications know the importance of reliable performance and lower utility bills.

Across the country, Tri Pointe Homes’ achieves high-performing homes with cost and environmental savings through the LivingSmart program, which spans design and development to construction and the ongoing operation of a home. New materials, technologies and features are constantly being incorporated into the program.

In addition to product design, resource efficiency is critical to achieving increased cost savings for homeowners and a reduced impact on the environment. Company-wide, 100% of Tri Pointe Homes have at least one ENERGY STAR appliance installed. If all heat pumps, central air conditioners and electric water heaters sold in the U.S. met the new ENERGY STAR standards, the annual savings would grow to $11 billion, and 255 billion pounds of greenhouse gases would be averted, according to EPA estimates. For perspective, that’s the equivalent of one-third of all direct greenhouse emissions from American homes and apartments in 2019.

Land Acquisition & Planning

Healthy homebuilding starts well before a foundation is poured. Thoughtful community planning is a key driver to creating healthy communities, which all starts with the approach to land acquisition and use. Because land is a finite and precious resource, it’s important to be selective about where to buy and build. Acquiring land close to employment, transportation corridors, educational centers and other desirable resources for families means not only more convenience and efficiency, but less environmental impact. 

By incorporating parks with walking trails, fitness and recreation amenities and natural habitat preservation into communities, builders can enhance overall wellness and health. It’s the combination of the experiential and ecological that elevates a residential community even more. From connectedness to conservation, quality of life comes in multiple shades of green.

So much of homebuilding — and the marketing thereof — is focused on elevating the moment, from deluxe kitchen conveniences for mealtime to prime outdoor features for party hosting. The health component, from homeowners and their finances to the environment, is a constant thought that has lasted through the years. When builders and developers deliver sustainability through strategic land acquisition and planning and smart building practices, they build and broaden housing value to the long-term benefit of all.

James Attwood is the division president of Tri Pointe Homes Arizona.

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