Jan 12, 2010

Green Home Market Segment Increases Substantially

The housing market has struggled for the last two years with all segments of the new home market down tremendously, with one notable exception: green built homes. That green segment of the market is on the rise, as Energy Star rated homes now account for nearly 17% of the new single family home market. Quite a jump from a 12% market share in 2007.

The number of homes achieving the government's Energy Star Rating since the program began in 1995 has now surpassed one million homes. Despite the overall housing slump, 75,000 new Energy Star rated homes were added to the rolls in 2009 through the end of October.

An Energy Star Rated home must be at least 20% more energy-efficient than an ordinary new home. This is a substantial upgrade in energy performance, and should be the minimum standard new home buyers should insist upon. "They are better homes," with more efficient windows, lighting, appliances, insulation, and heating and cooling systems, says Maria Vargas of the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program.

Private programs that certify homes as environmentally friendly, such as Green Built North Texas, the award-winning local subsidiary of the NAHB Green Building Program, also report substantial growth. Homes certified as green built by Green Built North Texas mandate energy performance standards exceeding those of Energy Star. All of the homes built by Lexington Luxury Builders in the last two years have exceeded the requirements of both Energy Star and the more stringent Green Built North Texas.

"There's an awakening going on," says Nate Kredich of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit group whose rating criteria, like that of Green Built North Texas, are stricter than Energy Star. The number of homes certified by USGBC has increased from 1,151 in 2008 to 3,050 in 2009.

Existing homes are going green, too. A recent survey by USA Today found that 68% of respondents steps in 2009 to make their homes more energy-efficient. Of those who did, 71% said it was mostly to save money and 26% mostly to save the environment. The survey indicates that the green features that sell best are those that pay for themselves quickest, as consumers focus on price.

"The interest in green building is driven by consumers. More people are doing it to save money on their heating bills," says Kevin Morrow of the National Association of Home Builders, whose green certifications jumped from 99 homes in 2008 to more than 564 in 2009. NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines are closely followed at Lexington Luxury Builders, who insist that 100% of its homes meet the stringent NAHB Green Built Standards, has built 15 Certified Green Built Homes in the last two years.

Scott Schaefer, Founder and Managing Partner of Lexington, and a Certified Green Building Professional, is one of the founding members of Green Built North Texas and a graduate of the Association’s first Green Builder Certification program.

Lexington is developing and building an entirely Green neighborhood in Plano Texas, believed to be the first 100% green residential development in the region. The neighborhood, Lexington Park at Rice Field, was conceived as a low-impact, sustainable community and designed to achieve LEED Gold certification. For more information on the neighborhood, visit the Lexington Park Website or visit Lexington’s Green Initiatives Website for more on Lexington’s commitment to going green.

Jan 5, 2010

Mighty Texas Reigns Supreme in New Population Estimates

Every year around Christmas, the Census Bureau releases new population estimates for each state. Given the recession, it's not a surprise that percentage growth, at 0.86 percent, was the lowest this decade. Immigration is down sharply, and some indicators suggest that illegal immigrants, in particular, are returning to their countries of origin.

Florida's growth was well below the national average, as it was in the previous year, in contrast to its torrid growth over most of the last century.  California grew at only a little more than the national average, entirely because of immigrant inflow and high immigrant birth rates. More Americans are leaving California and Florida than moving in.

Perennial fast growers Nevada, Arizona, California and Florida have all fallen off.  The new fastest growers are demographically tiny Wyoming, followed by Utah at No. 2 with the nation's highest birth rates and largest families.
No. 3 in percentage population growth in 2008-09 was the mighty Texas, which is astonishing given the percentage growth is based on a large enough base to make it the second most populous state in the US.  The Texas population grew by almost half a million and accounted for 18 percent of the nation's total population growth.

There may be lessons for public policy here. Texas over the decades has had low taxes, no state income tax, low public spending and regulations that encourage job growth. It didn't have much of a housing bubble or a housing price bust.

Tight limits on tort lawsuits which were put in place by then conservative Governor George Bush, have been continued by conservative Governor Rick Perry, resulting in an influx of both corporate headquarters and medical doctors.  Perhaps those purporting to lead the country in the right direction, vis a vis health care reform should take heed.

Reapportionment following the 2010 Census will produce four new seats in the US House of Representatives for Texas. California and its tax and spend policies, and liberal regulations, will not gain seats for the first time since 1850.  Come to Texas, it’s great here.

From an original article By Michael Barone of RealClear Politics