As of April 17, all new-home starts by Atlanta-based Beazer Homes--one of the nation's top 10 production builders--will feature standards for improved air quality and water and energy conservation at no additional cost to the home buyer. With the nationwide launch of eSMART Homes, Beazer becomes the first large public builder to introduce a set of mandatory sustainable standards. The products and practices of Beazer's eSMART Homes are designed around three of the core principles of NAHB's Model Green Home Building Guidelines--energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and water efficiency. Products include Honeywell FocusPro programmable thermostats, GE Energy Star-rated dishwashers, GE compact fluorescent bulbs, MERV 8 filters, low-VOC carpets, low-VOC paints, Moen low-flow faucets, and Moen low-flow showerheads.
"This is a tough [challenge] as a large builder who wants to do the right thing," Beazer Homes senior vice president Tony L. Callahan told Green Products and Technology. "What we want to do is raise the bar and raise the baseline standards. As a top 10 builder, we think we can have an influence on the minimum so at least everybody is doing this much.
"Our ultimate goal is to provide our customers with comfortable, affordable homes that offer reduced operating costs by providing improved energy and water efficiencies in addition to improved indoor air quality," Callahan added.
According to Mandy Brooks, a Beazer marketing director, the change was partially driven by consumer demand. In a recent Beazer Homes survey of more than 1,000 homeowners, 75% of respondents said they want greener houses, but are "looking to builders" to help them make the transition. According to Callahan, converting the typical three-bedroom, 2.5-bath Beazer home to the eSMART standard will save homeowners approximately $507 in annual energy and bulb replacement costs (at 9.7 cents/kWh).
Upgrades for eSMART homes also are available and will vary from market to market. They can include higher SEER HVAC systems, media filters, radiant barriers, tankless water heaters, and Energy Star-rated refrigerators and washers. Meanwhile, the company also will make low-E windows available, but, according to Callahan, the builder already installs low-E in two-thirds of its markets. Finally, the builder is converting from R22 refrigerant to the more ozone-friendly R410A refrigerant in its HVAC systems.
In order to defray the cost of the new offerings, Callahan said the builder is significantly reducing the number of house plans it offers, material SKUs, and suppliers to "better leverage our national scope and scale."
"The challenge for Beazer, and all home builders, has been to find ways to incorporate more green features without a significant impact to the end cost for buyers," Callahan said. "With eSMART, we're able to raise the national baseline in the areas of energy efficiency, water conservation, and indoor air quality while pursuing more advanced green initiatives in the markets that allow it."