A Houston-based custom building firm is boosting its sales figures and impressing clients by offering an expandable home automation system standard on its new development’s high-performance homes.

In addition to constructing all 58 homes in its new ParkGate Reserve community to the LEED-Certified level, Frankel Building Group is including some high-tech bells and whistles. The company partnered with Houston systems integrator Premier Technology Group to install wireless home control systems, allowing owners to monitor lighting, HVAC, and security via an iPad that is stored in an in-wall docking station near the kitchen.

The one-year-old community is 50% sold and vice president Scott Frankel attributes its popularity in part to consumer interest in lower energy bills. The smart home package will help users reduce energy consumption by allowing them to monitor HVAC operation in real time and anticipate utility costs.

“It’s a very cool concept that goes along well with the green aspect of the homes,” says Frankel.

To provide the home control features, Frankel and installer Eric Herleth decided on Crestron Extended Range RF technology, which provides wireless communication up to 200 feet indoors and 1,000 feet outdoors. The standard package includes HVAC and security system automation and three Crestron switches to control lighting.

To make the homes upgrade-ready, each home is prewired with analog, uncompressed HD digital, and CAT5 wiring. About 50% of buyers are choosing to upgrade their systems with home networking and audio and video integration, Frankel says.

“We’re trying to offer something that people had never seen before—smart technology as a standard feature,” he says. “We came up with something very user friendly and highly intelligent.”

But Frankel admits there is a learning curve for owners just starting out with home technology, and his company works to educate them on the finer points of the system.

“A smart home takes a lot of tweaking,” he says. “The idea is not just setting your HVAC to a certain temperature, but it’s about looking at it and making adjustments as needed to save energy.”

Smart technology is the icing on the cake for Frankel Building Group’s luxury homes, which are priced starting in the $700s and range in size from 3,500 to 5,500 square feet. The dwellings also boast a long list of sustainable products and technologies including high-SEER dual-speed HVAC systems, fully sealed building envelopes with SPF insulation, hybrid tankless water heaters, dual-flush toilets, and low-E Pella windows.

While customers are excited to hear about the benefits of wireless home control and high-performance construction, Frankel believes that for his clients, it’s the look of his homes that makes the sale.

“What they respond to the most is great design,” he says. “The other features are things people appreciate once they fall in love with the home.”

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor for EcoHome.