Builder magazine honored Steven J. Hilton, Chairman and CEO of Meritage Homes with its CEO of the Year Award this week at its Housing Leadership Summit in New York.

Builder presents an award each year to the home building business community executive who has had the most profound impact on the home building industry. The magazine considers the leader’s strategy, achievements, and ability to attain goals.

In presenting the award, Denise Dersin, Builder’s editor-in-chief, noted that as leader of Meritage’s strategic transformation, Hilton gave the enterprise’s management, operations, and home product offerings an entirely new singular point of focus: Attaining the No. 1 position as a builder of green homes that every home buyer can afford.

Hilton, one of the industry’s most visible leadership figures in Capitol Hill’s ongoing energy, housing, and finance policy discussions, believes that home builders must take proactive strategic and operational measures to help shape the discussion of energy codes and compliance, as well as home valuations tied to energy performance.

During the new-home market’s darkest months in 2011, Hilton championed Meritage Green’s program rollout, starting in the Phoenix market and eventually extending to all of Meritage’s competitive arenas in some 15 markets in seven states. A signature of the program is that while any and all of its offerings exceed Federal requirements for ENERGY STAR compliant, its buyers can affordably go even farther up the energy efficiency spectrum, even to net zero.

"Under Steve’s leadership, Meritage took a winner-takes-all approach to its plan to pioneer and scale affordable, sustainable home building," said Dersin. "The Meritage Green strategy combines the use of the latest energy-efficiency materials technologies, a well-leveraged strategic sourcing program, a lean and efficient home construction process, an energetic and focused marketing initiative, and improved local permitting and approval cycle times due to the ‘green’ nature of these new communities."

While other home building enterprises, both public and private, have prided themselves on progress in bringing green into their business models, no other major home builder has so extensively and holistically remapped strategy with affordable sustainability at the core. So successfully has Hilton’s strategy taken hold as a driver of value that Meritage has introduced new operations in the Carolinas and Tampa markets in the past 12 months.

As an industry leader in green home building, development, and operations, Meritage frequently holds a competitive advantage, not only among home buyers who hear that they can save thousands of dollars in energy costs during the term of their ownership, but among land sellers and local officials who are keen to attract standard-setting sustainable new-home construction to their locales.

"Steve has managed to change both Meritage’s culture and its business opportunity, not merely with a price position, but with a true value strategy," Dersin said.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Phoenix, AZ.