How do your home buyers respond to the fact that you are an Energy Star builder? For consumers, it seems like Energy Star is the only recognized brand, and we’ve done many things that vastly exceed Energy Star. Consumers assume if the structure is Energy Star that they are the same houses. They don’t dig down to see differences in Energy Star (HERS rating, water, waste usage). Our sales team tries to bring up energy star, but in this market; sales are driven by price right now.
Why did you decide to become an Energy Star builder? Initially Pulte did this to try and differentiate itself in the market. We saw the competition were building poorly insulated houses and using cheap appliances, and we tried to position Pulte in the market as best of the best. There is also risk aversion. If you build a better house, you’re less likely to have callbacks and/or cancelled contracts.
Do you build all your homes to Energy Star standards? In Las Vegas, yes.
Why did you go with Energy Star over other programs such as LEED, NAHB Green Standard or a local program? We have one LEED Platinum community in Las Vegas. With NAHB Green locally adopted programs there is not much consumer punch. There are just too many logos, which dilutes the message. With LEED, there is some recognition but not as a generally recognized brand. The reporting requirements with LEED are substantial, and it’s a hassle to go through.
What were the biggest business hurdles to overcome in becoming an Energy Star builder? There were not too many hurdles, but we are looking forward to Version 3 of Energy Star which is more restrictive. We typically have upper 60s for HERS score now. The next version of Energy Star will bring more challenges, such as window glazing and other small other tweaks (HVAC checklist)
How do you plan to expand your green options? Are you going to build to a higher level of green going forward? We look at higher levels of green all the time. We meet HERS 70 or below in majority of houses already and are pursuing a program that meets HERS 50 or below.
How much resistance did you encounter in becoming an Energy Star builder? None. Once Version 3 is in effect, there will be more hurdles and pricing issues. It could help differentiate builders further.