It seems like homebuilders have finally figured out how to sell energy and water conservation by calling it all green. It wasn't too long ago that plumbing-heating-cooling contractors would say that homebuilders only wanted to sell granite countertops and nice carpeting. They'd install the cheapest HVAC system they could find and the cheapest 40-gal. water heater around to fill the 75-gal. whirlpool tub in the master bath. I remember paging through one how-to book for builders that described how to make ductwork out of drywall.
I guess the green movement has shown homebuilders that a home's mechanical systems can be as sexy as a $5,000 stove.
For example, outside of San Diego, developer Black Mountain Ranch LLC is developing a planned 1,800 acre community called Del Sur. The community is planned to have approximately 2,500 market-rate homes, 469 low- and moderate-income homes, along with commercial space.
The Ranch House at Del Sur, which is the community's 3,000-sq.ft. welcome center, was built as a model for green building design and construction. Black Mountain Ranch claims it is the first private-enterprise, newly constructed building in California to receive a Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The planned community is going to be built by a number of homebuilders under the developer's direction. The Del Sur development model makes “green” features cost-effective for homebuyers and homebuilders by, for example, making bulk buys to negotiate lower prices for solar, tankless hot water and weather-based irrigation systems.
At least 20% of Del Sur homes will include solar photovoltaic systems. Some builders in Del Sur are installing solar photovoltaic systems in 40% of the homes they build.
Tankless water heaters will be standard in almost every home, and builders are encouraged to incorporate Energy Star appliances.
The Ranch House at Del Sur reduces energy use by 57%, the developer says, using solar photovoltaic power, airtight ductwork, tankless water heaters, low-emission windows and Energy Star appliances. Reclaimed water is used to irrigate common areas.
The Ranch House reduces water use by more than 1 million gal. per year using dual-flush toilets, low-flow faucets, drought-resistant landscaping and a weather-based irrigation controller.
Homebuilder Shea Homes out of Scottsdale, Ariz., builder of “Trilogy active lifestyle communities,” is launching Shea Certified Green homes. Trilogy homes, the firm says, will be built with solar technology, weather-responsive sprinkler systems, and energy-efficient windows, air conditioning and appliances.
Energy and resource savings will be 20% greater than conventionally built non-green homes and Shea Certified Green homes will exceed the International Energy Code by about 30%.
It's all part of Shea Homes' “Superiology.” Ah, marketing.
The homes also save water.
The homes incorporate low-flow Moen 2.0-GPM showerheads, low-flow Moen faucets, including 1.5-GPM bathroom faucets and 2.2-GPM kitchen faucets. The toilets are 1.6-gpf. It's amazing how much more exciting you can make that sound with a good Website with lots of nifty drop-down menus.
The homes also have “Our revolutionary PEX piping system,” which Shea notes elsewhere are supplied by Uponor and Viega. I think our friends at Uponor and Viega should start calling PEX plumbing “revolutionary” more often than they do.
Shea says its plumbing is non-toxic, free of harmful lead, copper and other minerals (I'm sure the Copper Development Association will take exception to copper being preceded with the adjective “harmful”); there are no joints behind the walls; the plumbing stands up to freezing better; the Moen faucets are corrosion-resistant; Moen Faucets and valves provide state-of-the-art water distribution; and there's a lifetime warranty on all valves for the original homeowner.
If homebuilders can make 1.6-gpf toilets sound like a special feature, it makes you wonder why they couldn't have been selling better plumbing, heating and cooling systems all along. And it wouldn't be much of a stretch to sell residential sprinklers the same way. They just need to put it on their Websites, along with some nifty drop-down menus and exuberant adjectives.