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Natural Awakenings San Diego

Green Building Specialist, Scott Riffenburgh

Scott Riffenburgh

Back in 2013 when the new California building codes went into effect, there was a rush by new home builders to permit projects because the new energy and green building codes, in effect in 2014, were going to increase capital costs for new construction. Home builders complained that their margins were shrinking and they couldn’t compete within the existing home market.

Scott Riffenburgh, LEED-AP, CEA, of Emerald Impact, delivered a seminar to the Building Industry Association in San Diego, where he discussed the types of sustainable and energy efficient measures being installed on single and multifamily projects and the impact of the new energy code updates.

Now, the new 2016 Residential Title 24 codes, which will be in effect as of January 2017, are significantly more stringent than the 2013 codes—in fact, by 28 percent.

These codes will force builders to use the same type of measures that were integrated into “green” buildings before 2016, including the following:

- High-performance attics

- High-efficacy lighting

- High-performance walls

- Water heating efficiency

The new energy codes and CALGreen building codes will ensure that new houses being permitted after January 1, 2017, are “green”—whether certified or not. “Builders were having trouble looking past the price tags for new construction, yet they are now beginning to turn this around by leveraging the superiority of their buildings in their business development strategies,” says Riffenburgh.

“Here’s an interesting example. Meritage Homes has been successfully building and selling green homes—at premium prices—for several years now,” shares Riffenburgh, who spoke with C.R. Herro, vice president of sustainability at Meritage, about their company’s approach to marketing their green homes.

 “I spend 30 percent of my time training the sales force,” says Herro. “These sales people have to understand how to differentiate Meritage’s superior product to homebuyers.”

  “Net-zero, carbon-zero homes are available today and cost-effective,” he says. “It’s no longer a technical challenge. That’s all done. All that’s left now is the average consumer choosing better.”

According to Riffenburgh, the following are now accepted facts:

Owners can recoup and exceed the cost of building green through operational savings and higher lease value.

Tenants and buyers want healthier buildings and lower energy costs.

New owners are realizing a return on investment when they buy green homes.

The new homes being built, even if just to code, are far superior to the existing building stock.

New home builders are now in a position to differentiate their greener homes from the existing building stock.

“So here is the question for the existing home owner, as well as the real estate and remodeling industry,” says Riffenburgh. “If you are going to sell an existing home, how can you compete with the new homes being built now, which have a higher value to the buyer?”

Answer: Get your homes certified as green under the Green Point Rated or LEED standards. “If you are remodeling or retrofitting your home, make sure that you are certifying your home at the same time with a Green Point rating,” shares Riffenburgh. “Try to use a contractor that is familiar with green building and the certification systems, and have them contract a green home consultant that is qualified to certify your home as green.”

Riffenburgh’s Emerald Impact group provides energy efficiency and green building services to the real estate market. Riffenburgh began working in the commercial and multi-family energy efficiency market in the 1980s, and has supported projects as a control systems engineer, construction manager, business development manager and sustainability consultant. In addition to managing sustainability programs, he helps businesses develop business models for entry into the energy efficiency and sustainability industry sectors.

To learn more, call Scott Riffenburgh at 858-254-3888 or visit