Courtesy Grayhawk Homes

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency will hold their annual ceremony at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., to honor its 2013 Energy Star Partners of the Year.

Among the 118 companies accepting this year’s award—a list that includes Sears, PepsiCo, USAA Real Estate, and Loudoun County (Va.) Public Schools—is Grayhawk Homes of Columbus, Ga., which builds between 200 and 250 homes annually. For the past three years, Grayhawk has been building to Energy Star’s guidelines, and currently 100% of its production meets those standards, including its entry-level houses that start at $117,000.

David Erickson, Grayhawk’s CEO, tells Builder that identifying his homes as Energy Star–certified is a “differentiator” for his company in Georgia. He goes on to say that compliance has been “an incremental process” that hasn’t added too much to the cost of a house, typically around $300 with each version update.

When Energy Star came out with its Version 3 guidelines, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, Erickson recalled his purchasing manager cautioning that compliance could cost up to $900 per house. “That sounded high to me, so I offered to give him a $1,000 bonus if he could get that down to $250,” says Erickson. The purchasing manager got his bonus.

One of the “central ingredients” leading to Grayhawk being honored, says Erickson, is the proactive marketing of its houses’ efficiency. In the spring of 2012, the builder asked customers to help it pull together their houses’ energy costs for a full year. This information, plus cost information Erickson gathered from rental properties he owns, gave him data from 126 housing units to compare with utility bills for comparably sized existing homes (2,532 square feet) provided by Georgia Power. The results showed the Energy Star houses spent $199 per month on utilities, versus $406 per month by non-Energy Star homes.

“We’ve drummed the hell out of that information,” says Erickson.

John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.