Under the program, “G Homes” which must be older than 1980, are brought up to high-performance standards with low-E windows, high-performance insulation, high-efficiency HVAC systems, WaterSense-certified plumbing fixtures, and Energy Star–rated appliances. They are then third-party certified through the National Green Building Standard (NGBS).

Rocking Horse’s first three G Homes—two in Denver and one in Phoenix--will be completed in mid-May and priced in the mid-$100s, below the median home price in both cities. The Denver properties are slated to be the first NGBS-Emerald homes in the state.

The biggest change—and biggest additional expense--for McNab and Anderson compared to previous projects has been learning how to correctly seal the building envelope, something they didn’t even consider previously. In following the G Home model, McNab says he has gained a new appreciation for the importance of building science. “It gives you kind of a game plan and takes out a lot of guesswork and confusion,” he says.

The G Home program provides each project with pre- and post-construction energy rating as well as an MPG-like home performance sticker that outlines energy and water usage, walk score, and expected annual utility savings.  Contractors also have access to a bulk discount buying program at Lowe’s stores nationwide. The $15,000 first-time fee ($5,400 for all subsequent projects) also covers the costs of NGBS certification, help with paperwork, and marketing services. An auditor packet helps buyers explain to lenders how much the home’s green features are worth.

“Every time we remodel a distressed home, the comp goes way up and helps the entire neighborhood,” Beere points out.

Crucial to a quick sale is the way the homes look, Beere says. The properties--mostly small, run-down bungalows—are given a complete facelift by an ASID-certified designer and a landscape architect, included in the franchise fee.

“Even with the NAHB certification, if you just do white walls and white cabinets and don’t take the home’s design into consideration, it won’t sell for much of a profit,” Beere says.

McNab estimates that adding green features to his homes costs him about 10% to 15% more than conventional rehabs, but he’s optimistic that the high-performance features, mass transit-friendly location, and high-end design will help the homes stand out.

Beere says more G Home franchises are in the works; with the continuing glut of foreclosed homes in places such as Florida and Nevada, his timing couldn’t be better. His goal is to certify 1,000 G Homes this year.

“Many building pros don’t do green retrofits or NGBS certification because they get confused and feel bombarded by greenwashing claims,” Beere says. “This takes the pain out of green remodeling and provides great-looking design as well.”

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor Online for EcoHome.