Builders in the program appreciate this no-nonsense, low-cost approach. “It’s pretty flexible; there’s not a strict list you have to work with,” said Ken Matthews, a SIPs builder in Woodland Park, Colo., who has been involved with Built Green since its inception. “It’s more like there’s a menu to choose depending on what type of home you build.”
Calomino contends that the local nature of the organization means it can be customized for Colorado builders.
“I always said that green building is local; it’s not a case where you have a national green building market,” she says. “There are different levels of understanding, commitment, products, and resources in different markets.”
Sign of the Times
Credit: Built Green Colorado
Built Green Colorado director Kim Calomino.
In the current housing market, Built Green is giving Colorado home builders an edge. “We have a lot of market awareness,” the program director says. “Consumers recognize the brand.”
Matthews concurs, saying that his customers are extremely concerned about saving energy, and the Built Green label gives them peace of mind.
“I tell people it’s like having an EPA rating on a car’s gas mileage. It’s not the car salesman telling you that this car gets good gas mileage, it’s a third party,” says the owner of Building Alternatives. “Consumers can trust what they’re being told about the product.”
In what is an unfortunate sign of the times, Calomino notes with regret that only 1,000 homes were registered with Built Green in 2008, down from 6,000 in 2006.
“In this terrible market, our builders have been suffering for so long and we don’t know when it’s going to end,” she says. “Many are using this downtime to educate themselves about building green homes.”
Although the program is open to all Colorado builders regardless of size, Calomino says Built Green does not currently have any high-volume members. The two largest builders in the market, Richmond American Homes and D.R. Horton, have never been members of the program, and other large-volume participants, such as Shea Homes, have developed their own in-house green brands.
Meeting New Challenges
Credit: Building Alternatives
SIPs builder Ken Matthews, whose Built Green Colorado project is shown here, says the program adds an element of trust for consumers.
With fewer homes being built and national green building programs competing for pros’ attention, it could be a challenge to keep Colorado builders loyal to the Built Green program. But with a staff of three, a streamlined, low-cost certification process, and a self-supporting budget, the non-profit organization is unmatched in its ability to be flexible and responsive.
For example, in response to some Colorado builders’ interest in building super-high-efficiency homes, Built Green will launch a BG High Performance House rating later this year. “We want to set that next level for our builders,” says Calomino.
In addition, the organization is piloting a new program for multifamily developers and builders. The Built Green Multi-Family program will provide technical and marketing support, Calomino says.
Colorado multifamily builders and developers looked to Built Green to help them develop the program, according to Matt Mahoney, vice president of construction for East-West Partners in Denver. He says the program’s local focus is one of the reasons. “It is tailored around the Colorado climate and our available resources,” he explains.
Another reason is Built Green’s strong reputation for providing a user-friendly single-family program. “They’ve been very successful in Colorado with their single-family residential green building program, so I’m confident the multifamily program will be a natural fit,” Mahoney says.
Built Green provides a range of technical support and training opportunities to assist all builder-developer members in making their checklist choices, as well as follow-up support. New for 2009, the organization will offer training for raters as well, Calomino says.
Calomino is confident Colorado green builders—and Built Green Colorado—will come through 2009 stronger than ever and with many new converts. “I often hear that green building is the only bright spot in the market right now,” she said. “I think other builders are noticing that the green builder down the street is still selling houses, so they start to think, ‘Maybe I will follow his lead and move into that green arena, too.’”