The Grupe Co. is joining the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) energy-saving home building program, the Builders Challenge, making it the first California builder and the 150th overall to join the initiative since its launch in February

"For Grupe, building high-performance homes has been a core business model for a number of years," said Mark Fisher, Grupe Co. president, in a recent press statement. "We … look forward to working with DOE to build consumer awareness of the benefits for buying highly energy-efficient homes."  

Credit: Grupe Co.

The DOE hopes Builders Challenge companies will collectively construct 220,000 high-performance houses by 2012. Builders Challenge homes must score at least 70 on the EnergySmart Home Scale (E-Scale), which means they are 30% more efficient than the average new home built after 2006. The E-Scale is based on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index and resembles the miles-per-gallon scale for automobiles.

Equipped with photovoltaic systems, low-E windows, attic radiant barriers, exterior foam housewrap, foam-wrapped ducts, tankless water heaters, and high-efficiency HVAC systems, Grupe’s first Builders Challenge home at Carsten Crossings in Rocklin, Calif., has an E-Scale rating of 47. In addition, the dwelling is LEED-Certified  and received an EnergyValue Housing Award from the NAHB.

According to DOE spokesperson Wendy Burt, the program has gained a lot of momentum despite the fact that so many builders are cutting back on new starts. Burt says the movement received a shot in the arm in recent weeks when big builders Pulte Homes and Lennar Homes committed to the program. 

The ultimate goal of the Builders Challenge is to ensure that by 2030, a net-zero energy home will be a mainstream option.