HOMEFINDER: Going green works, to a (price) point

Builders try to strike happy medium with their new homes’ energy efficiencies

Homes such as this one on Gala Court in the Katie’s Pond development in Langford are certified Built Green

Building a new home with a design intended to reduce its environmental footprint and provide a healthy living space is a noble concept, one for which the demand is growing on the West Shore and across the country.

Buyers with deep pockets may choose to go all out seeking a new home with all the ‘green’ bells and whistles. But on average, more buyers are interested in houses that offer the modern benefits of new construction while providing at least an improved level of energy efficiency over older homes.

Including high-efficiency fixtures such as heat pumps and triple-pane windows, and such energy saving features as computer-controlled climate monitoring is easier to do in the construction phase rather than after the fact, says DFH Realty agent Mike Hartshorne. But adding on all the latest and greatest efficiency features can send the price of a home higher than what people are willing to pay based on its square footage and location, he adds.

“You can use the analogy of the car buyer. Most people are buying a gasoline cars, but there are some that choose to buy a hybrid knowing it will have lower operating costs,” he says. But there are less people out there who want to shell out the money for all the bells and whistles. Their comfort level requires a certain number of green elements, but budget is always a factor, he says.

Built Green is an 11-year-old Canadian certification program for new single-family homes. Newer to the residential rating game is the Canada Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design), perhaps better-known around Greater Victoria for rating commercial buildings and large residential developments. And the R-2000 and Energuide programs overseen by Natural Resources Canada offer a wealth of information for builders and homebuyers alike on energy efficiency measures.

Industry driven organizations such Built Green say the trend in new home building is toward reducing projects’ impact on the environment. While such programs are promoted as benefiting the home buyer, the builder, the community and Mother Nature, as a sales tool they are astutely aimed at the growing number of buyers for whom energy efficiency and environmental sustainability are important.

Rohan Rupf, marketing director for Keycorp Marketing, promoters of the Westhills, Katie’s Pond and Canora Mews housing developments in Langford, acknowledges the trend in green building initiatives. For example, homes in the Westhills neighbourhood use an ingenious geo-exchange heating and cooling system based underneath the turf at Goudy Field.

While Keycorp, through the work of its builder Verity Construction, has strived to create energy efficient homes at every pricing level – its single-family homes are Built Green-certified – Rupf notes that, “At the end of the day, building in a sustainable manner also ties in with what is affordable.”

There can be some cash advantages for homeowners over and above the energy cost savings from having high-efficiency fixtures and mechanical infrastructure, Hartshorne points out.

Purchasers paying Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation mortgage insurance due to putting less than 20 per cent down for their home can apply for a premium rebate for buying a certified energy efficient home, or doing energy-saving retrofits to an existing home. Visit CMHC at bit.ly/1pWBwTc for more information.

Find details about Built Green at builtgreencanada.ca, LEED residential at cagbc.org and R-2000 and Energuide at nrcan.gc.ca.

Q: WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO FIND ENERGY EFFICIENCIES?

Install programmable thermostats. A large portion of your energy bill goes towards heating and cooling. Programming it to your schedule, considering what times of day you are away at work or school and if you are home on evenings and weekends can make a huge difference to your bill and the environment.

An obvious one is changing out any incandescent bulbs to LED and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). They cost a bit more up front but because they use approximately 75 per cent less energy, every swap can reduce hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Low flow is the way to go. Buying low-flow faucets, shower heads and toilets can save energy and money. Your toilets alone use approximately a quarter of total water usage in an average home so keep that in mind the next time you change your toilet.

If you have more time and money, energy-efficient windows, ENERGY STAR appliances, tankless water heaters and ensuring proper insulation can make a big difference in your energy bill.

GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » AS OF OCT. 27/14 COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD

» 487 / 512 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES/ TOTAL,  OCT. 2013

» 766 / 979 –NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL,  OCT. 2013

» 3,968 / 4,322 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / TOTAL,  OCT. 2013

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