Launch Slideshow

Balancing Act

At Manzanita Trail, Pardee pulled out all the stops with LivingSmart, especially with a water-saving program inside and out.

Balancing Act

At Manzanita Trail, Pardee pulled out all the stops with LivingSmart, especially with a water-saving program inside and out.

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    Project Details
    Project: Manzanita Trail, San Diego
    Size: 2,375–3,056 square feet (four floor plans)
    Price range: From the high $600s
    Completed: Phase 1, Fall 2009; Phase 2 released August 2009; remainder anticipated by 2012
    Certifications: California Green Builder; California Friendly (water conservation)
    Architect: MVE & Partners, Irvine, Calif.
    Developer/Builder: Pardee Homes, Los Angeles
    Interiors: Color Design Art, Culver City, Calif.
    Landscape Architect: SJA, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
    Land Planner: Latitude 33 Planning & Engineering, San Diego
    Site Engineer: Rick Engineering, San Diego

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    Interior Lighting
    Energy Star– and Title 24–qualified 6-inch vertical recessed lighting fixtures from Juno Lighting Group feature IC-rated aluminum housing with Air-Loc gasketing that allows for complete insulating coverage and mitigates air transfer to reduce energy costs. The fixture accepts a triple-tube GX24q-3 compact fluorescent lamp. 800.367.5866. www.junolightinggroup.com.

    Appliances
    As an upgrade option, the builder offers an Energy Star–rated GE Profile refrigerator featuring dual evaporators and LED lighting. The GE Profile 24-inch Energy Star–rated dishwasher features a proprietary wash system that uses less water and energy and is enhanced by a delay function to optimize off-peak energy rates. 800.626.2005. www.geappliances.com.

    Interior Paint
    Luxwall Heavy-Duty interior vinyl-acrylic flat coatings from Frazee Paint come in a zero-VOC formula, says the manufacturer, for extremely low odor and healthy indoor air quality. The paint covers 350 square feet per gallon over drywall and plaster (250 over concrete or masonry) and is dry to the touch within 1 hour; it delivers 1.8-mil thickness when dry. 800.477.9991. www.frazee.com.

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    Tankless Water Heaters
    The Energy Star–qualified R94LSi gas/propane tankless water heater from Rinnai, offered by the builder as an upgrade, provides continuous hot water for up to five plumbing fixtures and appliances at a consistent, pre-set temperature. With a capacity of up to 9.4 gallons per minute, the compact, wall-mounted unit delivers up to 40% energy savings compared to electric storage water heaters, the maker says. A direct-vent design saves space. 678.829.1700. www.rinnai.us.

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    Photovoltaics
    An optional array of 36 SunPower solar tiles integrated into the roof finish can provide up to 2.4 kW of DC electricity to offset the power grid. The company’s solar cell technology collects more energy per square inch to deliver up to 50% more DC power than conventional cells and convert up to 22% of available sunlight into electricity, says the manufacturer. The shingles seamlessly interlock with the roof finish and are rated for impact and fire resistance. 800.786.7693. http://us.sunpowercorp.com.

    Windows
    Energy Star–qualified, 7000 Series windows from Atrium feature argon/krypton-filled, low-E insulating glass with a warm-edge sealant and spacer system that insulates the vinyl window frame and edge of the glass up to 90% better than aluminum spacers, says the maker, and achieve U-values as low as 0.32. Lead- and petroleum-free PVC frames feature fusion-welded joints for durability and resistance to air and water infiltration. 800.421.6292. http://home.atrium.com.

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    Bath Fans
    The Energy Star–qualified Ultra Silent (QTREN series) bath fan from NuTone delivers 80 cfm to effectively and efficiently remove moisture vapor and can be mounted over a tub/shower for direct-source venting with a GFCI circuit. The plug-in, permanently lubricated, split-capacitor motor is engineered for continuous operation at low energy demand while a dynamically balanced centrifugal blower wheel delivers quiet performance. Units with light boxes feature an energy-efficient, 42-watt CFL. The unit features a corrosion-resistant galvanized steel housing and a 4-inch duct connector. 800.543.8687. www.nutone.com.

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    Carpeting
    Carpeting from Mohawk Industries contains 100% post-consumer recycled content per the company’s everSTRAND brand carpet fiber made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) extruded from recycled plastic bottles (about 30 per square yard of carpet), the highest-quality PET available. Bottles are ground into chips, melted and extruded into fiber, spun into carpet yarn, and dyed to a wide range of colors; bottle caps and labels also are recycled to make reusable cores around which the carpet is wrapped for storage and shipping. 800.266.4295. www.mohawkflooring.com.

Like every production builder, Los Angeles–based Pardee Homes keeps a keen eye on its balance sheet. So when the company announced earlier this year that it was applying its LivingSmart brand of green building practices—an in-house program initiated in 1998—across all of its housing markets, types, and price points, it meant one thing: that at least one volume builder had figured out a way to sincerely reduce its carbon footprint without pricing itself out of the market.

That balance is perhaps most evident at Manzanita Trail, Pardee’s newest neighborhood within its Pacific Highlands Ranch master-planned community in San Diego. With a build-out of 147 detached homes among four plans, Manzanita Trail is decidedly a production product. And yet every home in the community (along with every home in the master plan since it launched in 2001) is built to the LivingSmart standards—and the neighborhood has nearly sold out every phase since opening in March. (Of course, it helps that Manzanita Trail is located five miles from the beach, is accessible to mature shopping districts, and sits within one of the area’s top school districts.)

Pardee also broke its own mold by offering a mix of smaller alley-loaded and slightly larger garage-front plans at Manzanita Trail, thus ensuring more diverse (and attractive) streetscapes and broadening its price range and target market from families to active adults.

Underpinning all of those conventional real estate truisms, however, is a comprehensive baseline of green building that exceeds the state’s strict Title 24 energy standards by up to 23%, includes Energy Star–labeled appliances and lighting, meets or exceeds the standards for the California Green Builder program and the California Friendly irrigation water conservation initiative, and refers to the National Green Building Standard to set thresholds for (and third-party verification of) fenestration performance, recycled content, VOC emissions, and others.

“At Manzanita Trail, we’ve been able to combine the best of everything into one package,” says Joyce Mason, Pardee’s vice president of marketing. “Our sales pace tells us we’ve really hit a high point in offering a total package to buyers.”

To help buyers understand how LivingSmart criteria affect energy and water savings, reduce utility bills, and boost housing value, Pardee compartmentalizes the program into four categories: EnergySmart, WaterSmart, HealthSmart, and EarthSmart (see “The Basics of LivingSmart,” page 20). “It gives us a flexible framework and a way to easily explain the eco-friendly products in the house to a buyer,” says Mason.

While every Pardee neighborhood has the ability to offer a customized set of upgrades to the LivingSmart program, the baseline list of products and their sustainable features is impressive. Low-formaldehyde attic insulation to an R-38 minimum addresses health and energy savings. Timber-efficient engineered lumber, pre-made roof trusses, and composite wood doors help satisfy the EarthSmart category criteria as well as market demand for open floor plans and the builder’s schedule. Low-E windows, an Energy Star–rated dishwasher, programmable thermostat, MERV-6 furnace filters, dimmer switches and occupancy sensors, a handful of fluorescent lighting fixtures, and radiant barrier roof sheathing are components of an energy-saving priority, while low-flow faucets and showerheads help save water.

Upgrades to the program include a tankless water heater, a 2.4-kW photovoltaic system, an electronic air cleaner, and dual-flush toilets, among others. Whether buyers upgrade only enhances the performance of the homes, especially energy performance. “At its core, the EnergySmart specifications stay ahead of Title 24,” says Mason, and Pardee has committed to always exceeding the statewide energy code that is already 50% more stringent than the national energy code, as a matter of corporate policy. “Among buyers, energy is probably the most-appreciated aspect of the LivingSmart program.”

Like every successful production builder, though, Pardee also monitors consumer demand, whether for green features or cabinetry and flooring options; to that end, the program also is designed for customer satisfaction. “We want to give buyers as much control over how they can save energy, water, and resources,” Mason says. “Making it easy to be green is part of the objective.”

Pardee also has been able to dispel myths about the affordability of building to a high level of green in production housing by steadily and meticulously working the program’s specifications and building practices into its everyday production cycles. “In the beginning, it wasn’t easy finding products that were adaptable to a production operation,” says Mason. “After nearly a decade of LivingSmart, this is now how we build.”

The builder, with trade partners trained on the state’s energy code, also continually scrutinizes the details to make sure purchasing and installation are as cost-efficient as possible without sacrificing performance.

Meanwhile, Pardee seeks out compliant suppliers that offer volume discounts and meet the builder’s high-volume schedules. “Manufacturers have really stepped up their efforts in recent years to offer more variety among green building products,” she says, which in turn gives the builder more negotiating power.

Those efforts combined eventually enabled Pardee to extend LivingSmart into every neighborhood it’s building from now on, affecting about 3,800 single-family detached homes across Southern California and southern Nevada in 2009. Homes under construction before the corporate mandate will still exceed Title 24 for energy savings potential.

As an internal program, LivingSmart also allows the builder to be flexible in how it is applied to each neighborhood based on market research, climate conditions, and to reflect ever-more stringent and specific independent green building standards and certification programs. For example, for its homes in Las Vegas, the baseline specs call for a higher-SEER AC unit and higher insulation levels than what’s needed on the coast.

By specifying products that have been certified by the Energy Star and WaterSense programs, buyers are assured that manufacturers’ performance claims have been verified. Similarly, by having homes at Manzanita Trail (and other neighborhoods) certified by the state’s industry-run green-built program, the builder must submit to independent verification at multiple stages of the building process and performance testing of the finished home, such as HERS ratings and blower-door and duct-blaster tests. To qualify for the ComfortWise label, the total HVAC air leakage must register below 6%. The builder also monitors and follows the points awarded in the ANSI and LEED for Homes rating systems, though stops short of gaining certification from either program. “The statewide program is better suited to this climate,” says Mason of the coastal region in which most of Pardee’s homes are built. “We look at those programs as a reference and validation that we’re on the right path.”

At Manzanita Trail, Pardee pulled out all the stops with LivingSmart, especially with a water-saving program inside and out; to meet the California Friendly program, for instance, the neighborhood offers front-yard drip irrigation systems, at least 50% drought-tolerant plants, and permeable pavers at the base of every driveway.

That effort has lifted Pardee Homes not only above its rival production builders, but also on par or better than the green-building efforts of its custom and small-volume brethren. “Some people expect it and for others it gives us a competitive edge,” says Mason of the builder’s commitment to green. “This is as sustainable a home as they can buy anywhere.”

Rich Binsacca is a freelance writer in Boise, Idaho.


  • Credit: Christopher Mayer

PROFILE: Joyce Mason, Vice President of Marketing, Pardee Homes

If there is a face of Pardee Homes’ LivingSmart program, it’s Joyce Mason. Though she modestly defers credit for the success of the in-house green building program to her team, trade partners, and suppliers, it was Mason who recognized the opportunity and championed the development of the program more than a decade ago. Her “ah-ha” moment, in fact, came as the builder was working with environmental groups to land-plan Pacific Highlands Ranch. “They were so good at preserving open space and habitat, and that led to a discussion about the homes’ environmental impact,” she says. “I thought, as long as you are going to the trouble of creating a land plan with less impact, you might as well build a better house to go on it.”

Mason also saw the potential to further differentiate Pardee. Already a leader in applying new technologies, the builder latched on to Energy Star and, in 1998, experienced positive buyer feedback with its first qualified home.

Though über-conscious of what the market wants, Mason also allowed her personal interest in the environment and outdoors to influence her approach to incorporating building science and other green building features into Pardee’s practices. “It resonated with the way I like to live, and I thought maybe it would do the same for others,” she says.

Today, LivingSmart is respected among buyers, builders, trade partners, suppliers, code officials, and even appraisers and lenders—the latter of whom, Mason says, are starting to consider the HERS ratings that Pardee’s homes achieve and other tools to boost values and offer better mortgage terms.