Colorado Homes & Lifestyles
April 2010

Breaking Ground
In the 1990's, new home construction saw the rise of the great room and sprawling square footage—a trend that continued well into the last decade.

But thanks to the economic downturn and rise of energy-saving technology and design,

the new trend in homebuilding is the green home—a more energy-efficient, sustainably furnished, multi-use space that’s kinder to both the environment and to homeowners’ wallets.  Local homebuilders tell CH&L that green building practices are going mainstream, and although funding remains tight, now is a great time to construct the home of your dreams.

Green Building Takes Root
“I don’t think you can ignore green [anymore],” says Cress Carter, owner and project manager at Old Greenwich Builders in Denver.

“That’s one of the biggest changes we see.” Eco-friendly building practices are changing the way homes are built, and even homeowners not prone to living a green lifestyle can see the financial benefits of conserving energy and resources.

Scale Back: John Kurowski, president of Kurowski Development Co. in Littleton, has been building environmentally conscious custom homes in the Denver area for more than 30 years. He says homeowners are starting to think more strategically about how they live in their homes and are

deciding to do away with extra square footage. “The size of the homes generally is shrinking. The plans are going to be more efficient to build and the planned space is going to be more flexible,” he says. Some areas, such as Boulder County, have altered their permitting rules to set height restrictions and limits on homes’ footprints. Check with your county for local building codes and permitting requirements.

Think Thermal:  More new home construction plans are taking into consideration the home’s thermal envelope: how the home retains heat

and resists drafts, and ultimately, how energy-efficient the home is.  “That’s a need, it’s not a fad,” Kurowski says. “There is no question that in Colorado, the jurisdictions are looking for a much higher level of energy efficiency in the coming years.”

To create a tighter thermal envelope, consider investing in green building materials such as closed-cell, spray-foam insulation and highperforming windows. “People are going to get tired of the beige carpet or whatever they pick out, but the windows add to comfort

and energy efficiency, and that’s something you don’t want to play with,” Kurowski says. And to give your heating system a natural boost, “select a lot that works with the sun,” he says. “[Proper sun siting] gives the homeowner an advantage at absolutely no additional cost.”  Local and state incentives for green building and energy efficiency are available. Visit www.colorado.gov for information.

Bank on More Budget Considerations: The recession has subsided, but funding for homebuyers and builders could remain tight for

some time.  “Clients are very cautious, and it’s still hard to get a construction loan,” Carter says. Some recent projects have fallen through because “you can’t get a big project to appraise for what it’ll actually cost to build it.” Do the math to figure out how your forecasted budget compares with trends in local real estate values before you commit to a building plan, he says.

Look for Bargains:  Of course, the slow construction market could work to your advantage.  “This is the best time to do a project. ... Just like now’s the time to buy,” says Michael DeVere, owner

of Rosewater Construction in Denver.  Colorado’s construction prices have flattened out, and prices for materials such as plumbing fixtures, tile, carpet, hardwood and appliances also seem to have plateaued, Carter says. “Plus, retailers are willing to make deals, so you can get good pricing if you shop around.”  Land prices and mortgage rates are lower than usual, too, and builders’ workloads are smaller. This year presents a great opportunity to act before increased demand drives costs higher.

“It’s a good time to build, but don’t forget about the fundamentals,” Carter says.  Don’t sacrifice high-quality craftsmanship and don’t choose your architect or builder based on price alone.  Remember that you’re building a home, and you want to be happy in it for years to come.