There was a time not so long ago when potential homebuyers had to demand energy efficiency in new homes, according to the Memphis Daily News.
Nowadays, green features are more of an expectation than an extra.
"I would venture to say that just about everybody asks about energy efficiency," said Martha Fondren, director of sales and marketing for Grant & Co. "They may not say it in those words, but they ask us about what kind of furnaces we are using, what kind of faucets, what kind of insulation. What are the standard things that people can expect when they walk in the home in order to save them money on the utility bills because that's a huge expense."
All of Grant & Co.'s builders — Keith and David Grant Homes LLC, Richard Grant LLC and Kim Grant Homes LLC — have the Certified Green Professional designation from the National Association of Home Builders.
Since the cost of doing an all-green home would take several years to recoup the initial investment, Grant & Co. offers a variety of packages for buyers to choose from, allowing them to align saving money with their lifestyle. Those green features run the gamut from low-emissivity windows, foam wall insulation, tightly sealed air ducts and house wrap to keep air inside, to the builder's most popular item, the tankless water heater.
"We're already doing so many things that are so much more energy efficient than a standard homebuilding process was even five years ago," Fondren said. "But now, we're adding other things that can go beyond the typical, beyond the standard."
Tennessee leads the nation in average annual household electricity use and has for virtually all of the years Memphis, Light, Gas and Water Division has been tracking. In 2009, the state's average was 38 percent higher than national, and the MLGW household average was 32 percent higher.
"We're just starting to see 2010 data and it does not show improvement," said Becky Williamson, MLGW strategic marketing coordinator. "Energy waste — due to inefficient equipment, bad habits and poorly weatherized homes — results in higher utility bills, increased power generation and more demand on the nation's electric grid."
In 2010, a study by Younger Associates determined that every $10 million saved on utilities would yield 152 new jobs in the local community. To put that in perspective, just a 2.5 percent reduction in average household electricity use in Shelby County, Tenn., would yield $11 million in avoided utility costs and savings.
Helping in the fight to lessen energy consumption is MLGW's EcoBUILD program. Launched in 2003, it was designed to deliver 30 percent average energy savings on electric and natural gas compared to homes built to typical practices and codes.
"Our goal in developing EcoBUILD was to achieve considerable savings for minimum added cost, so the program would have a return on investment of five years or less," Williamson said of the homes that use 14 SEER air conditioners, R-15 wall cavity insulation, recycled materials and more.
Read more about building a green home.