In a time when many builders are feeling the effects of a tough economy, Scott Bergford of Scott Homes in Olympia, Wash., is positively thriving. His secret? Twenty-five years of hard work and a passion for building greener homes, which now translates into major industry honors.

Earlier this year, the NAHB Research Center, a subsidiary of the NAHB, named Scott Homes “Builder of the Year” in its annual EnergyValue Housing Awards (EVHA), which recognize the best green builders in the country based on their entries of specific homes in five categories: affordable, custom, production, factory-built, and multifamily.

Bergford says he was “speechless.”

As a first-time applicant to the EnergyValue Housing Awards, the Washington state builder says he “felt extremely privileged” just to be up for an award. When he arrived at the event and saw other builders’ winning work, he says he thought, “There’s no way I’m going to win anything there.”

But he did.

A panel of six judges consisting of representative members of the green building community such as builders, energy raters, past EVHA winners, and others evaluated the entries on each submission’s energy value, design, and construction. They awarded “gold” honors to builders whose entries are not only superbly energy efficient based on numerical data, but whose companies also demonstrate a commitment to marketing greener homes and ongoing involvement in green building programs.

The Builder of the Year is then chosen from this group of “gold” winners and honors the firm which has shown the greatest commitment to supporting green building both within and beyond its own company.

As such, receiving this award represents quite a coup for Scott Homes. Achieving such an award typically represents the culmination of a “multi-year process,” says Debra Sagan, program coordinator, as entrants learn from other builders and use the judges’ comments to help them improve. “It’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment to not only to win a gold award, but also Builder of the Year” as a first-time entrant, Sagan says. 

But Joe Gregory, purchasing and production manager for Bob Ward Cos. in Maryland and an EVHA judge, said he was impressed by Bergford’s involvement in the builder’s local home builder association and his numerous speeches on green building throughout his community.

And while Bergford may be an EVHA rookie, he has long been committed to building greener.

From its early days, Scott Homes has been involved in green building, soon becoming involved in the Super Good Sense program. Sponsored by local utility companies, the Super Good Sense effort aimed to build more energy efficient homes. It also was one of the first programs focused on green building, and some of the initial methods that builders employed were rather experimental. “We were doing some ridiculous things back then, like wrapping homes in plastic,” laughs Bergford. “We’ve come a long way since then.” 

Currently, Scott Homes uses structural insulated panels (SIPs) to achieve a “very tight house” with better insulation and fewer cold spots. Combined with an inexpensive radiant heating system that the company first developed more than a decade ago, such features help Scott Homes’ houses achieve an average energy cost of $200 per year.

Using such building systems has brought other and unexpected benefits for the builder and his buyers. “The whole system makes an efficient and durable house,” says Bergford, who says callbacks have dropped 90 percent since he started using SIPs combined with radiant heating. Customers like it too. “I have people with allergies calling me thanking me that they haven’t had an allergy attack in over a year since moving into the home.”

But Bergford isn’t getting complacent. For the past four years, Scott Homes has worked with Washington State University and its Building America program to improve the builder’s overall practices and learn how to minimize energy leakage. Energy specialists from the program run tests throughout the homes and their HVAC equipment, collecting data about which materials and systems create the greatest level of energy efficiency.

This collaboration “took me to a new level,” says Bergford, whose homes now all rate the highest level (a “5”) from Washington state’s Built Green program.

But perhaps the greatest recognition that Scott Homes is enjoying now is the steady flow of business in tough financial times. “I know there are builders out there dying on the vine, but I’m busy,” says Bergford, who has contracted for two years’ worth of work just since Christmas. “I think [people] are equating green with quality.”

Kelsey Williams is an editorial intern at BUILDER magazine.

Mark Your Calendar
The NAHB Research Center is currently accepting applications for the 2010 EnergyValue Housing Awards. Builders can visit to download the application. The deadline for submission is June 30, 2009.