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Water Efficiency

WaterSense® Labeled New Homes Make Sense

EPA’s new specification for water-efficient homes works well for all sorts of builders and remodelers

Although EPA’s criteria for WaterSense labeled new homes were only recently released, custom and production builders from Georgia to Arizona, from Montana to Hawaii, are signing up. With typical overall water savings of more than 20 percent compared to other homes, WaterSense homes are just that—sensible.

A custom builder (and remodeler) perspective

“Water is the next big issue,” says Bill Christopher, Secretary/Treasurer of ILM Design and Build, Inc in Wilmington, North Carolina. “While the energy issue is sucking the air out of the room—and there is nothing really wrong with that—we should be paying just as much attention to water.”

Bill and his business partner, Matt Hosner, took a look at the specification for WaterSense labeled new homes and decided to do a field test of the specs on a LEED¯ for Homes Platinum gut rehab project, 3404 Talon Court, which they recently completed. They learned three things:

  1. 1. They were already including most elements of the WaterSense new homes specification.
  2. 2. The WaterSense criteria they were not already implementing were good ideas without a huge price tag. “A lot of this has to do with our commitment to USGBC’s LEED for Homes,” says Bill. “There is a pretty good fit between the two.”
  3. 3. According to EPA, gut rehabs can qualify as WaterSense-labeled homes.

Bill also likes how WaterSense content and marketing approaches are a lot like the Department of Energy and EPA’s ENERGY STAR¯ for New Homes. “WaterSense has the same flavor as ENERGY STAR. I hope that it develops the same kind of muscle; it sure deserves it.”

ILM Design and Build’s first WaterSense labeled new home will be the Ferguson residence, a 2700 square foot home on a half acre lot at Lauralis Bluff, scheduled to break ground sometime in June.

[NOTE: we will be spending more time on ILM’s approach to WaterSense—from toilet selection to their rainwater harvesting—in future blogs; stay tuned.]

A production homebuilder perspective

The first national production builder in the country to sign on to EPA’s WaterSense program in a commitment to build WaterSense labeled new homes is KB Home based out of Los Angeles, California. Craig LeMessurier, Director of Corporate Communications for KB Home, explains why KB Home made this move.

“There are really two reasons we moved quickly to join WaterSense. First, our customer surveys show buyers want to reduce their carbon footprint AND their operating expenses. Second, our biggest competition is resale of existing homes; WaterSense is a huge differentiator for our company in the marketplace. It builds nicely on our 2009 commitment to build all of our homes to ENERGY STAR.”

KB Home has spent the last several months prepping for WaterSense. “We have already set up several mock inspections and our WaterSense service providers gave valuable feedback that will help us align our homes to the WaterSense for New Homes program; but they all went smoothly.”

LeMessurier feels that KB Home’s Built to Orderâ„¢ approach and My Home. My Earth.â„¢ Program make the move to WaterSense easier for his company and his customers. LeMessurier went on to say that finding a single provider for one-point coordination of quality assurance across several programs in all of their markets may be an issue.

When I asked LeMessurier how KB Home will get started on WaterSense, he replied, “KB Home plans to pilot this program in several markets with some WaterSense communities opening mid to late summer.”

We will be checking back with KB Home during the course of the summer. In the meantime, it seems as though WaterSense labeled new homes are a wave that any builder ought to catch.

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