KB Home: Sustainability Showcased Through Net-Zero Energy Homes
Recently, Senior Sustainability Analyst Rebecca Henson visited Austin, TX for a series of stakeholder meetings with KB Home. She toured one of the company’s net-zero energy homes.
While the homebuilding industry is still reeling from the impacts of the financial crisis, leading companies have maintained their commitment to integrate sustainability into their overall business strategy. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), two-thirds of homebuilders are implementing green elements into new homes.
KB Home, #1 on Calvert's 2008 and 2010 green homebuilders ranking report, has been leading its publicly-traded peers in sustainable building practices. The company builds all new homes to EnergyStarÂ® standards and was the first commercial homebuilder to participate in EPA's WaterSense® program.
In 2009, the company introduced its ZeroHouse model, a home that uses up to 85% less energy than typical homes built to EnergyStar® guidelines. The ZeroHouse is available in most KB communities across the country. The ZeroHouse showcases an array of technologies that help to make the home more efficient and environmentally friendly. The house can educate potential customers about the sustainability challenges of homebuilding and homeownership, while offering options for reducing their environmental footprint. The model ZeroHouse in a community outside of Austin offered solar PV panels, high efficiency HVAC, robust insulation, air-purifying clay walls, and an electric-car charging unit in the garage.
Homes consume approximately 22% percent of energy use nationally. While regulatory efforts and incentive programs aim to increase efficiency of homes in the U.S., new home construction still presents key sustainability challenges. With regard to many energy, climate change, and water impacts, net-zero energy homes offer a significant benefit over traditional homes.
Some question consumer demand for sustainable options offered by high production builders. At Calvert, we believe that, over the long-term, homebuilders with strategic plans to build greener and more efficient homes will benefit from regulatory and consumer trends. However, educating consumers about the economic and environmental benefits of such technologies remains challenging. KB's Energy Performance Guide (EPG) displays, which are a fixture in the company's new homes, are a step in the right direction. The EPG communicates the estimated cost savings from living in that particular home compared with a traditional, less efficient home. Homebuilders must also develop ongoing educational programs to insure that the homebuyer uses the efficient elements of the home to their intended potential.
A recent ClimateWire article 'Net zero' energy buildings are taking hold in the U.S. (March 7, 2012: external link) points out that so-called net-zero homes face significant price hurdles in their path towards greater market acceptance. At the same time, McGraw Hill Construction estimates that green (not specifically net-zero) homebuilding will increase five-fold and represent a $87-$114 billion market by 2016. We expect that as more homebuilders adopt green and efficient technologies and practices, costs will decrease and the return on investment (ROI) period for the consumer will decline.
Calvert Investments, Inc., 4550 Montgomery Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814.