California energy-rebate program draws few takers

David R. Baker

California energy-rebate program draws few takersCalifornia’s 3-year-old effort to improve the energy efficiency of 100,000 homes has fallen far short of its initial goals, upgrading about 12,200 so far, state data show.

Originally funded through President Obama’s stimulus package, Energy Upgrade California offers rebates worth up to $4,500 for homeowners who swap out their old furnaces and duct work, install insulation, seal leaky window frames or take other steps to make their houses more efficient.

The program burned through at least $146 million of stimulus money in its first two years alone, in addition to $91 million drawn from local governments and Californians’ utility bills. But relatively few homeowners have signed up.

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Stealthy Green Homes


David and Martha Gurzick bought their new home for its historic neighborhood and closeness to the cafes and antique stores of downtown Frederick, Md.

Stealthy Green HomesNow they are also warming to the utility bills. The Gurzicks live in a so-called net-zero energy house—a home so energy-efficient that over the course of a year, its electricity consumption is expected to be zero.

The four-bedroom brick house includes energy-eating creature comforts, such as a steam room and an extra-large washer and dryer. But when the sun shines on the solar panels and the Gurzicks are at work, the house produces more energy than it consumes. At those times, the electricity meter is running backward, and the couple is selling energy back to the grid.

The Gurzicks, who paid $516,000 for the 2,800-square-foot home, moved in last December. “It was never our intention to get a green home, but these features are the icing on the cake,” said Mr. Gurzick, who is 35 a Extreme energy efficiency is moving mainstream, becoming standard practice for large home builders, such as California-based KB Home KBH +2.93% and Nexus Energy NXS.AU -3.70% Homes, the company that built the Gurzicks’ house last year.

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5 Tech Innovations We’ll See In Green Homes Of The Future

5 Tech Innovations We'll See In Green Homes Of The FutureThe world of building has placed an onus on green solutions for building like never before and the advent of the green home is upon us at last. Future homes will offer a range of innovations that will mean they are significantly more energy efficient and vastly greener than the homes we currently reside in. So, let’s take a look at some of the top innovations in this area.


The increasing efficiency of green technologies means that the homes of the future will be self-reliant and manage to store the energy required to power them and all inside via a mixture of solar power and fuel cells. Batteries will store unused power for other times and anything extra will then be sent back to the grid.


We’ve seen a significant drop in the amount of energy most appliances consumer and in the future this will be set to continue. Homes and the electrical appliances that reside within them will be ever greener and use increasingly less electricity. This will mean that even today’s energy efficient items will look like energy guzzlers when they are compared to the new ones in homes in the next decade or so.

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Buyers Favor ‘Green’ Houses, But They’re Often Not Easy to Identify or Appraise

By Kenneth R. Harney

Buyers favor ‘green’ houses, but they’re often not easy to identify or appraiseWhen it comes to energy efficiency and “green” features in homes, there’s a chasmal disconnect separating consumers, real estate appraisers and the nation’s realty sales system.

On the one hand, prospective buyers routinely tell researchers that they place high priority on energy-saving and environmentally friendly components in houses. The presence of high-efficiency systems in a home makes shoppers more interested in buying because they’ll save money in the long run.

On the other hand, the vast majority of multiple listing services, or MLSs — the organizations that compile listings of local homes for sale — do not have “green fields” in their data-search forms to facilitate shopping for homes with high-performance features. In addition, most real estate appraisers do not yet have training in the valuation of green homes and often do not — or cannot — factor in the economic value of expensive but money-saving components such as solar photovoltaic panels.

Two new research studies document consumers’ strong appetites for energy efficiency and green features.

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Metro Manila’s New Urban Core: Ten Principles for Sustainable Development

by Robert Krueger

downloadPlace making, better urban mobility, increased resilience to natural disasters, affordable housing policies and engaging with an empowered population are among some of the recommendations in a new Urban Land Institute (ULI) report on the development of Metro Manila.

Entitled Ten Principles for Sustainable Development of Metro Manila’s New Urban Core, the report offers recommendations for the city’s development so that it is attractive not just to businesses and visitors, but also provides a high-quality living environment for residents.

“Metro Manila faces many challenges often associated with a fast growing, urbanizing city,” commented ULI Asia Pacific Senior Vice President and Executive Director John Fitzgerald. “The Ten Principles for Sustainable Development Report harnesses the expertise of ULI’s global membership and local stakeholders, and draws upon best practices in urban development from around the world to provide practical advice to help Metro Manila to transform itself into a world-class city.”

“Metro Manila is one of the world’s largest urban areas and one which is likely to continue to grow for some time,” continued Charlie Rufino, The Net Group President & ULI Philippines Chairman. “This report illustrates ways in which the urban area can carry on growing but importantly it sets out recommendations on how this can be done in a sustainable way.”

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Green Home Labels Garner Extra Green in California Real Estate Market Shows in Study

Green home labelsWhile green home certification isn’t exactly all the rage in the northern suburbs of New York City, a new study titled “Value of Green Labels in the California Housing Market” has found that homes in California branded with LEED for Homes, EnergyStar, or GreenPoint Rated designation are significantly more valuable on the re-sale market than properties lacking third-party green certification. In fact, study co-authors Nils Kok and Matthew E. Kahn concluded that the aforementioned labels are capable of adding a “green premium” of $34,800 — or roughly 9 percent — to the typical, on-the-market California home valued at $400,000. So yes, green label weary California homeowners: investing in energy-efficient HVAC systems, extra insulation, improved indoor air quality, and dual-flush toilets will garner you a decent amount of extra green if you do eventually decided to sell.

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California to Require ‘Solar Ready Roofs’ on New Homes and Buildings

By Dana Hull

Rooftop solar systemsState regulators with the California Energy Commission are expected to approve stringent energy efficiency standards for new residential and commercial buildings Thursday.

The new standards, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2014, include a host of common-sense standards designed to save energy, from insulating hot-water pipes to making sure that air conditioner installations are inspected for sufficient air flow.

But the proposed standards also require new homes and commercial buildings to have “solar ready roofs” — a mandatory requirement that will be a boon for the state’s growing rooftop solar industry.

Rooftop solar systems use photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity. But their performance is affected by many factors, from the age of the roof to how it is situated — ideally, it should face south. “Shading” is also an issue: Roofs should have clear, unobstructed access to the sun for most of the day. Attic vents, fans, skylights and chimneys can also influence how many solar panels a roof can hold.

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What should a ‘green’ house look like?

by Philip Langdon, New Urban Network

A house by Donald Powers Architects, chosen by USA Today as “This Week’s Green House,” shows that “sustainable” houses can be built in traditional styles.

USA Today reports:

“On 24 acres overlooking the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, an enclave of Nantucket-style cottages shows just how charming and traditional a green home can be built.

“The quaint seaside homes have steeply pitched roofs, deep covered porches, gracious columns, second-floor balconies and, in some cases, a white picket fence. They are far from the minimalist modern aesthetic often associated with eco-friendly living . . .

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Planning Subdivisions With A Twist: Making Communities More About People Rather Than Cars

by Jim Buchta, Star Tribune

For many developers the goal is the same: Plat as many houses as possible on the land and maximize the profit.

Rick Harrison, a Twin Cities-based software developer and planner, sees an alternative. In software that he’s developed to solve the complicated process of figuring out how to configure hundreds of houses on a tract of land, he’s moved beyond the grids and cul de sacs of many developments. His focus is on efficiency and livable communities.

Harrison’s goal is to decrease roads in new developments, reduce infrastructure costs by as much as 40 percent and give homeowners the kind of individuality often missing in big subdivisions, from the floor plan of their home to how far it’s set back from the street . . . .

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