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Arizona homebuilding company finds success with energy efficiency

12/30/2017

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Can the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the most popular standard in the world for rating the eco-friendliness of buildings, help sell new homes in Arizona?

Homebuilding company Maracay Homes, which specializes in Tuscon and Phoenix-area residences, thinks so. Maracay markets itself as a “leader in building energy efficient homes that you can customize according to your family’s needs.” Earlier this month, the company announced that it has a total of 300 properties already LEED certified or in the certification pipeline.

In a phone conversation with Inman News, Maracay Marketing Manager Elise Goodell said her company saw a direct benefit to the company from its efforts to reach realtors and potential clients with information about LEED features.

“We have outperformed our competitors because of the Energy Star and LEED component,” she explained. “Realtors and prospects are seeing a lift in value, and they are willing to pay for the LEED certification…We held VIP realtor events for all three communities in 2017, which drew at least 100 realtors at each location…We used signage and presentations in the model homes, we used email blasts to the realtor community, and social media including Facebook and YouTube.”

Maracay Product Development Manager Stephen Burris told Inman about how Maracay got started with its LEED building and marketing efforts, which actually began with a separate energy efficiency program perhaps even better known to many homebuyers—Energy Star.

Energy Star was established in 1992 through the US Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with the Department of Energy. It’s the blue label on home appliances denoting them as efficient, but the program also includes homes and other buildings. All of Maracay’s homes are now Energy Star-certified.

“We started with Energy Star about 10 years ago, and as the Energy Star program advanced it has spurred us to stay competitive,” Burris said. “Once we looked into the LEED requirements we realized it wasn’t much of a jump for us. It was a natural transition.”

LEED, established in the year 2000 by the non-profit energy efficiency organization the U.S. Green Building Council, goes further than Energy Star. While Energy Star focuses specifically on the efficiency of a building, LEED also includes other aspects of sustainable construction, such as water conservation, land use, and building materials. Burris emphasizes that LEED certification provides a more holistic analysis of home energy savings than Energy Star ratings, as well as an educational requirement.

Maracay “beta tested” LEED certification on a small scale two years ago before integrating it on a large scale.

One essential element in Maracay’s educational campaign is an in-depth, locally produced video that includes interviews with potential (and actual) buyers and a walkthrough of an under-construction Maracay home, hosted by D.R.Wastchak (DRW), a local Arizona energy efficiency rating company with a 17-year track record in the field and a list of credits that includes EPA “Partner of the Year.”

Burris and Goodell credit DRW’s background with building trust in Maracay products.

“You have to have a rater scrutinize what the builder is claiming,” Burris said. “They make sure our claims are backed up with data. Checks and balances are the heart of the LEED system.”

To be clear, energy efficiency is not the first thing that Maracay pitches to prospective home buyers. For example, its list of “5 Reasons to Live at in The Vista at Granite Crossing” leads off with living space and floor plan. The following three items involve location and storage space.

Energy efficiency clocks in at the bottom of the list, but Maracay is very specific about what that means:

Homes at The Vista at Granite Crossing will be registered with the goal of achieving LEED® Certified standards from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), so they will use 30 to 50 percent less energy than traditional homes. Additionally, all homes are Energy Star® certified and include Maracay Homes’ LivingSmart® program for maximum performance and cost efficiency.

Educating realtors and the public is just part of the equation. Maracay appeals to prospective buyers in terms of “the legacy we’ll all leave on this amazing planet,” and that message ripples internally throughout the company.

“It pays to involve as many people as you can in LEED,” Burris said. “Realtors, builders, warranteers, procurers…the more involvement by individuals you have, the more successful you will be.”

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