With the launch of its Builders Challenge initiative last February, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a rallying cry to home builders: Construct 220,000 high-performance homes by 2012 and collectively achieve carbon reductions equivalent to taking 50,000 passenger cars off the road for one year. In the process, shave $143 million off homeowners' energy bills.

Grupe Co.

More than 100 builders have since signed on to participate, and housing envelopes nationwide are beginning to tighten up. To qualify for Builders Challenge certification, homes must achieve an EnergySmart Home Scale rating of 70 or lower. (The E-scale is based on the nationally recognized HERS index.) DOE sees the Builders Challenge as a stepping stone toward eventual zero-energy homes (which achieve an E-scale rating of zero). As the first California builder to have a home certified under the Builders Challenge program (and the third nationwide), the Grupe Co. is one participant that is going below and beyond the current call of duty. Its prototype homes at Carsten Crossings in Rocklin have been evaluated as beating California's Title 24 standards by 35 percent, with an E-Scale rating of 47.

"For Grupe, building high-performance homes has been a core business model for a number of years," Grupe president Mark Fisher said in an announcement this week at PCBC in San Francisco. "We welcome this voluntary initiative for builders and look forward to working with DOE to build consumer awareness of the benefits of buying highly energy-efficient homes."

The homes at Carsten Crossings, which also are certified under the LEED for Homes program and received an Energy Value Housing Award from the NAHB, feature photovoltaics, low-E windows, radiant barrier attics, exterior foam building wrap, low leakage envelopes and ducting, quality insulation, tankless water heaters, high-efficiency HVAC systems, and ventilation cooling. 

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.