Energy savings for new homes BGE again is selling builders on the idea that efficiency pays

Popular program renamed

Lower down payment sought for home built to utility's standards

December 20, 1998|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

They may have tinkered with the name, but the goal of building energy-saving homes remains the same.

EnergyWi$e, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s popular energy conservation program for new homes, is being reintroduced to the region as BuildWi$e.

The new program -- endorsed by the Home Builders Association of Maryland -- continues many of the features of EnergyWi$e, which ended last summer.

But it is more environmentally conscious requiring, for example, a recycling center in each BuildWi$e home. And it will drop rebates for builders.

"The benefits of the program when compared to EnergyWi$e is largely the same from a technical standpoint. So many of the builders who participated in EnergyWi$e will find it pretty easy to fit right into the requirements of the BuildWi$e program," said Christopher Walls, a BGE program administrator.

"We purposely tried to keep the name similar as well so that there would be some continuity in the program and that customers who have been exposed to the EnergyWi$e name would also remember the same concept," Walls said.

The old EnergyWi$e program was born out of a 1988 Public Service Commission order to implement energy conservation programs in an effort to avoid building expensive generating plants.

The program offered rebates -- ranging from $2,000 for single-family detached homes and $1,500 for each townhouse -- to builders who abided by BGE's guidelines.

By program's end, BGE had rebated approximately $16 million to builders for almost 11,000 EnergyWi$e homes.

This time, there are no rebates.

"We've been telling them all along that the rebates were a temporary component to the program," Walls said. "And the theory behind the rebates was to move the market to a higher efficiency [home], first through a combination of education and rebates and then just simply education."

John Kortecamp, executive vice president of the homebuilders association, says the new program is "clearly consumer driven."

"This is strictly a marketing program that gives the builder an advantage from the standpoint of the quality of the product that they are offering. The consumers are assured that they are getting a state-of-the-art energy-efficient home. Such a home is going to be more efficient to own and afford. Their bills will be lower."

Builders will still be required to use high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, thick insulation and double-pane windows that better trap heat in the winter and reflect it in the summer.

Walls estimated that consumers would save approximately 18 percent on their energy bills by purchasing a BuildWi$e home.

Builders in the program agree to build to BGE specifications. During construction, a third-party inspector will visit each BuildWi$e homesite three times. After the house is finished, a certificate is given to the builder, who in turn gives it to the buyer at settlement.

"We think the marketplace will recognize this house as being of greater value than an average home built to standard measures," Walls said.

BGE also is negotiating with a lender to offer mortgages with a lower down payment for buyers of a BuildWi$e home.

In calculating the down payment, the lender would subtract the BuildWi$e costs from the total purchase price of the home.

If a builder's cost is $5,000 in a $150,000 home and the buyer is putting down 10 percent, then instead of a down payment of $15,000, the lender would accept a down payment of $14,500.

Walls said BGE hopes to have this incentive available sometime early in 1999, but in the meantime, he said, many lenders will consider stretching their qualifying debt-to-income ratios if they are told that the residence is a cost-saving, energy-efficient home.

One new aspect of the program is a requirement that builders incorporate a recycling center into their designs.

"That is something that a builder can turn into a benefit and make it as elaborate or as simple as they want to," Walls said.

BuildWi$e builders

Homebuyers interested in builders participating in the program may call BGE at 800-786-2000 or go to its Web site at www.bge.com and click on its products and services area.

To date, the following builders, with their developments, are participating:

Butler Homes: Diamond Hills

Craftstar Homes Inc.: River Colony at Piney Orchard

Finial Inc.: Baltimore City

Forbes Construction: River Downs

Hamilton Reed: Waverly Woods, Fox Valley, Matthews Woods, Benson Branch, French Property and Woodfords Grant

Jamestown Builders: Eastern View

MJP Development Corp.: Neville's Choice

Robert Moser & Sons Inc.: Brehm Chester

Robin Ford Building & Remodeling: Beaver Creek Estates

Second Generation A&D Corp.: Disney Estates

White Custom Homes: Sherlock Holmes Estates

Pub Date: 12/20/98

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