“In June of 2009, the City of Austin will implement the energy audit ordinance, which essentially states that 1-4 family homes 10 years or older are required to have an energy audit performed by a certified auditor . It is the seller™s responsibility to present the audit report before closing. This audit will consist of 4 primary steps:
- Check weather stripping on doors
- Check for solar/shade screens on windows facing west, south, and east
- Check R-value of attic insulation
- Perform a duct pressure test on HVAC ducts to locate leaks.
Many Home Performance contractors already offer this level of testing. They also offer more detailed audits that can include thermographic inspection using an infrared camera, a blower door test, and a duct blaster test. So it™s safe to assume these professionals will be a top choice by consumers to perform the Austin audits.
Using a Home Performance contractor would be an advantage if the homeowner is planning on making the suggested upgrades, as they™re prepared to do the actual work. A disadvantage might include having to sit through a sales pitch, and be persuaded to undertake more work than necessary.
Home Inspectors are another group of professionals to consider. Codes of conduct disallow inspectors from doing work on homes they inspect, thus avoiding conflicts of interest. Aspects of the energy audit are already part of the normal course of a home inspection. Approximate depth of attic insulation, condition of door weatherstripping, and condition (though not type) of window screens, are noted in an inspection. I would expect that many home inspectors will become certified to perform the Austin audits.
For some, the choice of auditor might become an issue of timing. If a seller is having a pre-inspection done, it might be practical to have the inspector perform the audit at that time. The seller will then have more time to decide on a course of action. For others, it may just be a matter of œcheapest and quickest. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the market”
You can read more about the Austin Climate Protection Plan in a prior article.
After the recent Mueller Austin Greenfest, and a Sunday stroll around the Zilker Botanical Gardens I left with a swathe of information covering the many City departments and their green offerings.
The array of different programs can be bewildering at first, and often seem overlapping so I broke it down into some easily digestible chunks:
City of Austin Green Garden This is an umbrella for the City of Austin’s landscaping programs, and aside from the opportunity to look at award winning green gardens in Austin, this umbrella seems to just link to other programs.
City of Austin Grow Green is a landscaping program which promotes the least toxic gardening options with advice from the specific “how to avoid fire-blight” to more general ideas of landscaping design, to guides on native and adaptive species to plant, and professional green landscaping certifications.
City of Austin Water Conservation Program is a great resource to learn more about minimizing indoor and outdoor water use. It has information on rebates for replacing older toilets, buying rainbarrels, and on lawn watering restrictions. The original Green Garden program assessed six City programs for water quality enhancements in 2001 to protect the Texas “blue gold”.
Recycling, Grasscycling and Dirtcyclingâ„¢ – The City’s Solid Waste Services has a program to recycle just about anything apart from nuclear waste. They even take the yard trimmings you leave at the curb, add them to sewage sludge and make Dillo Dirtâ„¢ – compost you can then use back on your yard. If the programs haven’t turned you off the whole grass idea, you can cut out the middleman and their huge trucks and leave your clippings on the lawn to decompose – grasscycling.
The Green Garden program also links to Austin Parks and Recreation, and The Austin Energy Green Building Program. While the GBP contains landscaping programs, I think this just adds confusion to the already crowded green space.
If you need someone to help you navigate through the sea of green when buying or selling a home in Austin, give me a call!
Austin scores well on top 10 lists of greenest US cities, sometimes described as the ray of sunshine in the field of oil pumps. Green Neighbor is one of the City of Austin’s many green programs that were showcased at the Mueller Greenfest on Saturday.
The challenge is to protect and improve Austin’s environmental resources, and the program is in the form of a game. The idea is to adopt earthwise practices and make them a habit. Each time you do so, you earn credits- 75 credits earns a prize and the reputation as a green neighbor.
To take it a step further, if 30% of your neighborhood passes the challenge, you become a green neighborhood.
Being fairly competitive and curious, I took the test this morning, and found out that I am a green neighbor with 92 credits, 10 of which came from my downsizing to a smaller car. I also learned a fair deal – there were some interesting points about pet care, toxic chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides that I wouldn’t have ordinarily known. You can find out more about the Green Neighbor Program at the City of Austin website.
Mueller Austin has green homes rated from 3 stars to 5 stars available now in phase II of the residential development. Home styles include condos, yard homes and townhomes, and market rate home prices range from $170s to $1m. There is also an affordable program.
Solutions Oriented Living – SOL – is a new zero-net energy community being built in Central East Austin. [Update 10/2010]: The development is around 50% complete at present and construction continues.
How it looks today:
How it looked back then:
Here’s the low down on the development:
What is SOL Austin? SOL Austin is a new real estate development in East Austin focused on energy-efficient living in modern design. 40 residences are planned around a community park.
What does Net Zero mean? This is a net-zero energy community. The buildings are designed to produce as much energy as they use in a year. They are designed to be extremely energy efficient with low energy requirements – no mean feat in Texas! Photovoltaic panels are used to generate the energy required for the buildings – solar panels.
Where is Sol Austin? SOL Austin is around 4 miles by road from downtown Austin – near Eastside Memorial School (formerly Johnston High School). It is just north of Bolm Road between Airport Boulevard and 183.
View Larger Map
Are there Affordable Homes at Sol Austin? Yes! There are eight affordable homes available for income qualified applicants.
When can I buy one?  You can buy one right now – check the SOL Austin listings for current availability – prices today are from $195k-$280k
Garreth Wilcock is a Realtor ® who can help you purchase your new green home at SOL Austin. He specializes in helping people find Central East Austin real estate.
More Central Austin home buyers are looking for energy efficient and green homes. If you’re selling your existing home, how do you compete with the green builders over at Mueller? In parts II and III of this series, I looked at some of the green building programs used by new builders. In this last article in the series, I look at some simple steps you can take to make your existing home appeal to green buyers.
There are two ways to make your existing home greener: The first is to focus on updating key items, and the second is to remodel your home in order to meet one of the rating programs.
Rather than getting your entire home certified, you may just want to improve parts of your home.
Austin Energy has rebate programs to give up to $1575 in rebates for improvements to HVAC, weatherstripping, attic insulation, solar screens and caulking. They also offer rebates for installing solar water heaters, and solar power systems.
Austin Utilities have a $40 energy audit for their customers – an energy auditor will come to your home and evaluate the high priority fixes that will save energy in the home. Addressing these items and putting this information in the seller’s disclosure will be a great marketing move when it comes to sell your home.
Other simple items to address:
- Lighting: replace incandescant bulbs with compact fluorescents which can use 75% less energy.
- Appliances: it costs more to run an appliance over its lifetime than it does to buy it, so look for Energy Star rated appliances if you’re planning on replacing them.
- Water heaters: on demand or tankless water heaters will appeal to the green buyer due to reduced energy bills.
- Windows: consider replacing inefficient older windows with low-E double pane windows to reduce energy bills.
- Flooring: if you need to replace flooring to sell your home, consider durable and natural choices – exposed concrete, bamboo, tile or cork.
- Landscaping: replace thirsty plants with native ones which require less water and artificial fertilizers. The City of Austin has a plant rating guide to evaluate your landscaping.
If you want to dig deeper into using sustainable green building, check out the Renewable Energy Roundup in Fredericksburg, Texas on September 26-28th 2008.With rebates and some basic upgrades, you can increase the green marketability when it comes to sell without having your home rated by the green building rating schemes.
Garreth Wilcock is a real estate consultant. He specializes in Central and East Austin Real Estate. Call 512 694 8873 or contact him at his website if you want a free valuation of your Austin home. You can search the Austin MLS at his website.
Increasingly, Austin home listings contain “green” marketing as shown in the graph below. This article, part II of IV, looks at the certification programs and demystifies what it means when a builder claims a home is “four star green”.
The graph on the right summarizes MLS data for Central and East Austin in the last few years. The word “green” is no longer just used to describe the color of the walls, but now is an overloaded word. With different organizations giving green brownie points, it’s important to know which scheme is which.
The U.S. Green Building Council™s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a national standard for creating sustainable buildings.
LEED NC (New Construction) has a rating system and tests five major design and build categories:Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials and Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality. There are pre-requisites for some categories, for example collection and storage of recyclable materials is required in the building process as part of the Materials and Resources category. Points for different items in each category are added to give a rating: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.
The Austin Energy Green Building Program (GBP) is a locally-based program that assists the design and construction sectors in creating sustainable buildings. The program has some mandatory requirements such as no vapor barriers, at least two ceiling fans, low VOC paints on interior walls, and the home must meet the following codes: Meet the following building codes: International Residential Code 2000, International Energy Conservation Code 2000. Voluntary measures that are met are awarded points which add up to give One Star up to Five Star ratings.
If that doesn’t satiate your thirst for ratings, there’s also the ENERGY STAR ® program, which applies not only to appliances, but to new homes too. The ENERGY STAR ® label on a new home means that it is independently verified to be at least 15% more efficient than homes built to the 2003 International Energy Conservation Code. Over and above the energy efficiency standard, there’s also an ENERGY STAR ® Indoor Air Package which includes measures to protect air quality in a home.
So as an example, single family homes in Mueller, Austin are all subject to a minimum LEED NC Certified status, and single family homes have to achieve a minimum three Star rating from the Austin Energy GBP. As another example a Muskin Home in the Garden Court at Mueller says that it is “4 Star Energy Rated” in the MLS Listing, which translates as Four Stars from the Austin Energy Green Building Program.
Garreth Wilcock is a real estate consultant who specializes in Central and East Austin Real Estate. Call 512 694 8873 or contact him at his website if you want a free valuation of your Austin home. You can also search the Austin MLS at his website.
Austin has one of the top rated green building programs in the United States, and more and more homes and developments are marketed as green.
The certifications and hype can be confusing to the consumer as more and more listings contain some reference to “green”.
This four part series of articles talks about the background of green building, what to look for when buying a green home, how to make your existing home more green, and some examples of green homes in Central and East Austin.
What are the aims of green building?
Ultimately, the aims are for sustainable living. In a nutshell, that means that homes should be built with materials that take into account limited natural resources, with a process which has a lesser impact on the environment, and the resulting home is energy efficient, and sustainable.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system scores homes in six areas:
- Sustainable sites
- Water efficiency
- Energy and atmosphere
- Materials and resources
- Indoor environmental quality
- Innovation and design process
To achieve a high rating in some of these areas, common examples of green building techniques are emerging:
- Using recycled or organic materials for insulating the home like recycled denim or hemp fiber. Good insulation at the build stage helps to save on evergy bills later, and in Austin homes, the largest energy bills are for air-conditioning.
- Using renewable flooring materials – rather than using hardwoods which take longer to regrow, builders can use bamboo – a crop which is easily replenished, marmoleum – made from flax and jute, or stained concrete.
- Landscaping – maintaining a bright green lawn in Austin uses more water than a xeriscaped yard. Using native plants or those adapted to the climate can shade your home, and not consume limited water supplies.
- Planning a walkable neighborhood or building an in-fill project in an existing urban neighborhood can reduce automobile dependency.
- Energy efficient appliances – not only low flow washers and Energy Star dryers, but more efficient tankless water heaters and low flush toilets.
There are several programs which rate and measure homes for their “green-ness” and I’ll discuss those in part two of this series.
Garreth Wilcock is an Austin real estate agent who specializes in Central and East Austin Real Estate. Call 512 694 8873 if you want a free valuation of your home. You can search the Austin MLS at his website.