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Home builders can no longer afford sub-par energy efficiency

If you're reading this month's Power Smart New Homes newsletter, you probably already know that BC Hydro offers financial incentives to homebuilders in B.C. who improve their homes' energy efficiency.

But if your company isn't yet making use of those incentives, it's worth taking a closer look – and listening to what other builders have to say.

The Power Smart New Home program offers rebates for including ENERGY STAR appliances and compact fluorescent lights (up to $200 per home) as well as a $1,500 rebate for homes that are tested and rated EnerGuide 80 or above. There's also the co-op program – up to $125 per home for promoting a home's Power Smart credentials in your advertising.

"Buyers and users recognize BC Hydro Power Smart," says David Roppel of Aragon Properties Ltd. Roppel says energy efficiency, and the value of the Power Smart brand, is a good fit with the quality materials, innovation and durability Aragon emphasizes.

"Power Smart is a very well understood brand. When buyers see the Power Smart logo on our projects they feel that we're doing something better, something that will reduce their energy footprint and save them money in the long term.

"It's a very well recognized program that BC Hydro has obviously spent a lot of time getting in front of buyers and users, so when we build according to Power Smart guidelines, we benefit from that."

Buyers 'starting to understand, starting to care'

Despite many builders' concerns that buyers don't care about energy efficiency and won't pay for it, Roppel says that's changing quickly.

"The lag and disinterest was maybe five years ago, but as more and more builders improve the energy performance of their buildings – including us – and get that information in front of their buyers, they start to understand and start to compare," he says. "I think now in the market if you don't have solid energy performance items to include in your building, you're lagging behind."

Buyers also stand to benefit directly when they buy EnerGuide 80-rated homes, since those qualify for a 10% refund on CMHC mortgage loan insurance and a waiver of the extended amortization surcharge (on average, about $1,600).

Roppel says contact with Power Smart program representatives has offered chances to learn and improve the company's techniques. And he says of the incentives, "It's nice to be recognized, and it's always nice to get a rebate."

Part of the solution

Richmond-based townhome builder Western Construction also makes use of Power Smart rebates and the co-op advertising program. But controller Kelvin Leung says the company's largely English-second-language buyers have not taken specific interest in EnerGuide ratings or asked about efficiency.

Instead, it's important to him personally that the company – owned by his father – is involved with Power Smart.

"You read about global warming and how we need to conserve power, and how we're going to have to pay extra for new infrastructure because we're constantly consuming more as more people come in," he says. "So I take it upon myself; I think we should build more efficient homes. We should be part of the solution, not the problem."

Says Roppel, "Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, everybody has. So that's not enough to distinguish our homes from the people down the street. Things like geoexchange, Power Smart, high-quality design, better more durable long-lasting materials: those things start to stand out."

To learn more about the Power Smart New Home program, visit the program webpage or email Program Representative Doug Overholt.