Honolulu's Armstrong Builders using green to boost home sales

| by Teena Hammond
Honolulu's Armstrong Builders using green to boost home sales

Going green are the keywords of the decade, with seemingly everyone asking how to build an energy-efficient home to help them save money on rising utility costs.

Going green is also how many builders are not only surviving, but thriving, in the current economy. Building green is in demand, with potential home buyers willing to take the leap and purchase a house if they will get substantial energy savings as a result.

Marketing these green components is the key to selling in a tough market. The various certifications and ratings can confuse many consumers, so educating them about LEED, HERS, Energy Star and more is how to sell homes.

Armstrong Builders in Honolulu, built two green houses in 2010, and is on target to build 85 green homes this year. That increase is the result of winning a contract with the state of Hawaii to build affordable housing projects, according to Jim Keller, LEED AP and president of Armstrong.

"We saw a couple of years ago that green was where the industry was headed, so our proposal included everything green you can imagine. We went in to be LEED certified gold," Keller said. The 85 homes his company is building will range in price from $220,000 to $315,000, with 1,000 to 1,700 square feet of enclosed living space. Each home also features large lanais of 600 to 900 square feet to allow homeowners to enjoy the tropical breezes and increased living space.

Each home will be built to LEED Gold standards and will include a 2.5 kW solar photovoltaic system, solar water heater and a 50-gallon rain catchment system, dual-flush toilets, low-flow faucets and showerheads, a whole house fan in lieu of air conditioning, window awnings for passive cooling, dual pane low-E windows and low VOC paint.

Including these green features adds approximately 7 percent to the cost of the home, which is partially offset by the $12,000 tax credit that the homeowners receive for the solar components, Keller said.

"These homes are producing just about enough electricity to create an almost net zero electric bill. Energy costs are high here in Hawaii, ranging from 25 to 30 cents a kilowatt, making them some of the highest in the nation. And we get plenty of sunshine, so solar makes sense," Keller said.

Marketing these green homes involves educating homeowners about the energy-efficiency components. "When we started two years ago, people weren't asking for green, but now they are, and everyone sure likes it once they get it and understand it," Keller said.

For more information, see our Building a Green Home research center.

Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED, Cost of Ownership, Heating & Cooling, Sustainable Communities

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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