Last Friday, Meritage Homes held a media event for its Northern Terrace at Centennial Hills project in Las Vegas, where about a half-dozen local reporters saw a demonstration of how Meritage’s builders apply spray-foam insulation to interior walls, and learned how that application makes the house more energy efficient and improves its air quality. With the possible exception of KB Home, Scottsdale, Ariz.–based Meritage Homes is banking its future prosperity and growth on branding itself as a green builder more than any other of its major production-builder competitors. Meritage’s Lyon's Gate community in Gilbert, Ariz., its first to include spray-foam insulation as well as solar thermal heating and water as standard features, recently won NAHB’s Energy Value Housing Award.
The company is also about to open communities in San Antonio and Fort Worth, Texas, which it claims will be the first in that state to offer standard features that make these homes two to three times more efficient than standard Energy Star–rated houses, and can save homeowners up to 60% on their energy bills.
These communities, as well as others in Arizona and Nevada, include what Meritage calls “learning houses,” cutaway models that expose energy-saving features and technologies to buyers, which reaffirm the company’s commitment to energy efficient construction. What separates Meritage from many other green builders is affordability. It is using spray-foam insulation—whose materials and labor combined can be up to four times more expensive than fiberglass insulation—on houses that, in the case of its Rolling Creek community in San Antonio, start at $129,990. In Arizona, homes at Lyon’s Gate, with their standard energy efficient features, are priced at $176,900. Northern Terrace at Centennial Hills, which has its grand opening on March 13 and whose homes include solar panels as options, is selling houses that start at $151,900.
All told, Meritage is applying spray-foam insulation as a standard feature in 12 communities in Arizona (including five active-adult communities), five in Nevada, three in Colorado, two in Texas, and one each in Florida and Southern California. Virtually all of its communities in Arizona offer solar thermal and water as standards, too. (One of those, Monterey at Mirabel Village in Scottsdale, appears to be the builder’s priciest energy efficient community, with new homes there starting at $489,900.)
Robert Bodnar, Meritage’s vice president of construction, didn’t want to say too much about how his company manages to keep its prices down while still building energy efficient homes. “It’s kind of our special sauce and a lot of builders want to duplicate it,” he says. “All I can say is that [the lower priced homes] are the result of a lot of hard work by our purchasing team.” Sherri Fastrich, Meritage’s regional marketing director for Arizona and Nevada, says that the builder has put together a video presentation of its spray-foam insulation application process, which it is showing to buyers visiting its sales offices.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.