A Statement of Energy Policy from LifeStyle Homes
Melbourne, FL – July 1, 2012 – As regular readers of this blog no doubt know, the recent history of LifeStyle Homes has revolved around the Builders Challenge program from the Department of Energy in Washington. The Builders Challenge program led us to develop our SunSmart(SM) Energy Initiative that led to our guaranteed HERS 60 SunSmart(SM) homes and to our second generation SunSmartPV(SM) Net Zero Energy Homes. We regard the Builders Challenge as a wonderfully positive initiative from the federal government intended to encourage the nation’s home builders to build technologically-advanced, energy efficient new homes, which save their owners at least 30 percent on their monthly power bills and offer important family health and environmental protection benefits as well.
We were introduced to the Builders Challenge program by our building scientist friends at the Florida Solar Energy Center. They encouraged us to take a leadership position in the program by qualifying for Partnership status. We are extremely proud to be the 41st builder in the nation to qualify for Builders Challenge Partnership – needless to say, the first and only home builder to be so honored in Brevard County.
Of course, saving energy is the kernel of the Builders Challenge idea. But to us, the real gem in the program is its requirement that Builders Challenge homes must be cost neutral to their purchasers. Cost neutrality is huge in actually getting these superior homes built and sold.
Here’s the deal. Of course, building genuinely superior homes adds to construction costs and therefore to purchase prices. Cost neutrality requires a demonstrated cost savings each month equal to any additional monthly mortgage payment the higher price will require. So, if your monthly mortgage payment is to be $100 more because your home is built to a higher standard, a Builders Challenge home must guarantee a minimum of $100 savings in monthly electricity costs. The idea is the homeowner gets a genuinely superior home that pays for itself in energy cost savings from day one. What is a breakeven for the purchaser going in becomes a growing net ownership cost advantage as utility rates rise over time. Does anyone believe utility rates won’t rise? Of course not.
But now, the Department of Energy is halting the Builders Challenge program in favor of a second generation effort called the D.O.E. Challenge Home program. In doing so, they have added a number of requirements – more closely aligned with green building concepts – that add significant costs that will not be covered by increased savings; i.e. new D.O.E. Challenge Homes will NOT be Cost Neutral.
We think this is unfortunate – extremely unfortunate. We believe; no we KNOW; an energy efficient home that is built, sold and lived-in is greener than a green-certified home that isn’t built because it costs more than most people find reasonable. Green building is a noble concept, and ultimately all new homes will be much greener than typical new homes are today. But the lack of cost neutrality has hobbled the green building movement from its beginning. To buy a green-certified new home, its purchasers must be willing to pay extra to get the green benefits for themselves and for society, and most will never recover that additional investment.
Over the time we have been proud Builders Challenge partners, we have come to know personally the leading government officials who are responsible for the program. As a very prominent partner, we have been consulted about the program’s future direction. But it seems political correctness has won the day over cost neutrality. So, while LifeStyle Homes will stay closely in touch with the D.O.E. Challenge Home program, we have elected to keep our focus squarely on doing good for our environment by first doing good for our customers.
As we have stated so often, our ultimate goal is building affordable Net Zero Energy homes that not only provide free electricity for their owners, but have enough extra power production capacity to re-charge two electric automobiles overnight. Just think of it! No paying electric bills and no buying $4.00 per gallon gas. We KNOW this is the right direction to go. If we can offer prospective homeowners savings like these, our green SunSmartPV(SM) homes will be purchased in large numbers, and each one that is will provide huge green benefits to society.
Help the people save money and they will help you save the environment. Free enterprise doing what the government has such a hard time with: making common sense.
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