Las Vegas cityscape overview
Las Vegas cityscape overview

Despite boasting one of the nation’s highest shares of homes built to the federal Energy Star standard (about 60 percent), only a handful of builders operating in the valley have formally joined the Southern Nevada Green Building Partnership since the local building association chapter launched the certification program in 2005. “A lot of our builders are in what I’d call hibernation,” says Monica Caruso, director of public affairs for the Southern Nevada HBA, citing the market’s current building crisis. “As we recover, though, I think green building will be a stronger trend.”

Some builders aren’t waiting and see green building as the ticket to ­sustaining or gaining market share during the lull.

Pulte/Del Webb Homes, for instance, is close to selling out two projects that far exceed Energy Star standards and just opened the models to a new project, Villa Trieste, in which every home will not only meet the Partnership standards but also achieve LEED for Homes ratings. “In Las Vegas, there’s nothing special or different about building an Energy Star home,” says Walter Cuculic, the builder’s director of strategic marketing. “Going to this level differentiates us.”

Meanwhile, Signature Homes is building and showcasing a 2,200-square-foot prototype green home within its existing Mission Del Rey community to gauge the initial cost, operating performance, and sales potential of building to a higher level of eco-friendliness. “It’s the nature of how the country and industry are going, and it’s a way to get a leg up on the competition,” says Brian Plaster, vice president of operations for Signature Homes.

Sales Stimulus?

While Pulte/Del Webb has seen ­success with building green at three of its most recent communities and expects a similar response at Villa Trieste, the four other builders in the Green Building Partnership, as well as their brethren building to Energy Star or other green building standards, have not. “It’s tough to properly or accurately assess the impact of green building in this market at this time,” says Plaster.

One Partnership builder, Pinnacle Homes, successfully sold a zero-energy house within one of its communities in 2004. Though occupied, the 1,610-square-foot unit is still being monitored for performance, specifically its integrated solar roof panels, against a baseline-green home next door by faculty and students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The builder, however, has yet to offer another zero-­energy home or move forward with Partnership-level homes since. “We’re waiting for the market to recover,” says company vice president and co-owner Danny Martter.

Meanwhile, Concordia Homes, another Partnership member and the first builder in the market to spec photovoltaic solar panels as standard for an entire community (Sommerset), closed its sales offices in ­October due to a severe lack of traffic despite prices in the $200s for the all-solar homes. The builder intends to reopen and restart Sommerset as the market recovers.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Las Vegas, NV.