- Alliance Center holds a conference on Zero Energy Communities.
- Gene Myers of NewTown Builders was one of the panelists.
- For Myers, Net Zero homes are not academic, but “boots on the ground.”
Gene Myers has a target buyer for the energy-efficient, sustainable homes his company builds.
She is 35-years-old, shops at Whole Foods and has Boulder-like tendencies.
One woman looking to buy one of the homes built by NewTown Builders told him he was off base.
“I drive a hybrid Highlander,” she informed hem.
Myers, owner and CEO of Denver-based NewTown Builders, shared this anecdote late Monday afternoon, at a half-day conference in the Alliance Center in LoDo called: A Healthier World – Create Zero Energy Communities that Integrate Energy Efficiency.
It was an appropriate setting for the conference, as the Alliance Center at 1536 Wynkoop St., thanks to energy-saving upgrades, is expected to be Platinum-LEED certified in 2016, a step above its Gold LEED status.
Myers, for his part, related this “experience of a journey to get to net-zero energy,” which is typically defined as a building that creates as much energy as it generates on an annual basis.
“I must say, we are boots on the ground,” Myers said. “We figure how to do it now…and get people to buy it.”
The award-winning company knows it can sell every zero-energy home it builds in Stapleton.
He is getting ready to open homes in Hyland Village in Westminster and he expects brisk sales there, too.
“My belief is the market is the market,” Myers said. “The Stapleton is not dramatically different from another buyer.”
To a point, that is.
The Westminster project, he said, is close enough to the Boulder Turnpike that he thinks it will draw buyers on their way to Boulder.
But he said he wouldn’t want to build farther north, in areas such as Thornton, “where I am up against the commodity, public builders,” who are constructing homes to code. He can’t come close to matching those builders on a price per square foot, he admitted.
“I am afraid of that challenge and I am going to avoid that challenge,” Myers said.
A buyer of his energy-efficient homes, many with solar panels, will save a typical buyer $108,000 over a 30-year period, he said.
Some of his homes have a HERS score below 10, while even without solar panels they come in at HERS scores around 40.
Like golf, the lower the HERS score, the better. A HERS score of 100 is a typical home built to code. Most homes have a HERS score around 130.
NewTown Builder homes cost $100 more a month to buy than a typical home, but provide $300 a month in energy savings, Myers said.
Myers, said that while he is a big proponent of the free market, he thinks the government should require a HERS score be listed on every home sold, whether it is a new one or a resale. It would be no more expensive than getting an appraisal, he said.
That way, consumers would know what they are buying. And sellers of previously-owned homes could get the benefits of energy-saving upgrades, by commanding higher prices of typical homes.
Myers, however, would like to have a “better yardstick” for measuring the energy savings of a home than HERS. He said something is needed that truly would be the equivalent of miles per gallon for a car.
“I’d like to have a sticker on homes like you see on refrigerators, which tell you your expected cost,” based on energy consumption.
He shared a table with Julie Sieving, a senior engineer with the Fort Collins-based Brendle Group, an engineering and planning consultant firm doing business in about 20 states.
Her firm, among other things, provides community energy planning.
“It is the intersection of urban planning in general and overlaying it with the filter of energy savings,” Sieving explained.
Engineers, she said, provide the technical expertise needed, such as determining an energy-use baseline.
“Planners love us, because we bring numbers to the things they talk about,” she said.
Other engineers, however, not so much.
“Engineers tend to hate us,” because they want technical specifications on things that stakeholders such as communities, residents, builders and government leaders may not find particularly helpful.
“Engineering to me is not a linear process, but more of an integrative process,” she said.
One exercise she will do with participants, one might call the Rip Van Winkle method.
She will ask them to close their eyes and imagine they had woken from a 20-year nap.
“If your plan for your community was successful, what does it look like?” she asks them.
The answers, she said, are all over the map.
And while their goals are different, she said the role of energy efficiency is always the foundation of the pyramid, much like vegetables are the biggest and most important part of a food pyramid.
“Energy efficiencies are the vegetables and renewals are the dessert of the energy pyramid,” she said.
And while many environmentalists are not fans of Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility, for its stance on net metering for solar, Sieving is a big proponent of Xcel’s Partners in Energy program. The goal of the program is to take community sustainability to the next level. It is a fine program that really works, she said.
Meanwhile, Myers said it isn’t just 35-year-old, Prius driving women who buy NewTown homes.
“We have empty nesters who are retired and it is important for them to have certainty in their utility bills,” Myers said.
“And we have Millennials who are so young, I don’t know how they afford homes in the mid-$400,000s…but you know, you need to have a target buyer, so ours is a 35-year-old woman, who drives a Prius, shops at Whole Foods and has Boulder-like tendencies.”
Interested in buying a home in Stapleton? Please visit COhomefinder.com.
Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. DenverRealEstateWatch.com is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.