Energy-Efficient Infill for Long-Term Savings

As energy efficiency continues to become a top priority for potential homebuyers, urban infill homebuilders are able to provide the tools for cost-effective living
By Vic Remmers

With the abundance of sustainable solutions that exist today, it is an exciting time to be in the homebuilding business. Industry professionals like urban infill homebuilders are able to determine everything from the windows and insulation to the lighting and appliances, ensuring energy efficiency for future homeowners.

While some are aware of the associated cost savings of high-performance homes, others operate under the misconception that efficiency unequivocally comes at a significant expense compared to traditional building methods. The misunderstanding is that energy efficient features are unattainable for limited budgets and difficult to sustain financially.

While this is an understandable conclusion, the result is an uncompromising, all-or-nothing way of thinking. There will always be building choices that lead to additional expense. However, if incorporated in a thoughtful manner, energy efficient solutions can actually prompt significant long-term savings in home utilities and maintenance. It is a simple comparison of short vs. long game: What may cost additional dollars today can generate increased savings in the future that are extremely appealing to homebuyers.

Going Green: Why now? As our society continues to have conversations around topics like climate change, on-going health and resource management, it is clear that more and more people are now familiar with the concept of sustainable, high-performance infill homebuilding and its associated benefits.

Educated homeowners are becoming involved in the larger discussion, considering the ecological impact of their housing, as well as opportunities related to cost savings. With annual energy bills for the typical single-family home rising to $2,150, it is no surprise that homeowners are looking for ways to cut costs and are excited by the dollars high-performance homes can save. In fact, a recent study conducted by the NAHB and Guild Quality reported that 65 percent of homeowners considered energy efficiency to be one of the most important factors in their recently bought or built home.

And this percentage will only continue to grow. As people increase their knowledge, the desirability for high-performance homes will continue to skyrocket. With this shift in homeowner preference, the time is now for urban infill homebuilders to develop with efficiency in mind. By doing so, they can actively respond to homeowner demands for energy efficient homes, while maintaining a positive environmental impact along the way. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Smart Investments, Big Benefits: The general environmental benefits of urban infill homebuilding are endless. Eco-friendly infill has the opportunity to recycle urban land within a city’s infrastructure, incorporate sustainable deconstruction methods and minimize carbon footprint with locally sourced materials.

When considering urban population influx across the nation, as well as increased demand for energy efficient homes, how can urban infill homebuilders take these benefits one-step further? What choices can they make to provide significant cost savings over time?

1. Get Smart on Energy Efficiency from the Start: From the very start, infill builders can incorporate a wide variety of high-performance solutions that will serve future homeowners like a solid investment—
continuously paying back over time. In fact, the earlier solutions such as energy efficient windows and insulation are thoughtfully integrated, the more cost effective they eventually will be. Thus, energy efficiency should be part of the plan from the very beginning, leading to maximized savings throughout homeownership.

But before a project begins, it is up to infill builders to educate themselves on the best practices surrounding high-performance home construction. Take the time to learn industry standards for each and every building element—and then surpass them. While incorporating the absolute best in energy efficiency may create initial expense, the long-term savings associated with decreased utility and maintenance costs will gradually counterbalance over time.

2. Build with Efficiency in Mind: As an infill builder develops a home, it is important that they do so with an energy-efficient mindset at every step of the way. Consider the construction of a home’s building envelope, for example. Within the envelope, elements such as completely enclosed heating and cooling ducts, strategically placed spray foam insulation, breathable exterior drain wrap, superior flashing systems and low U-value windows work in tandem to ensure efficient thermal control, as well as limited air and water infiltration. As a result, future residents can rest easy knowing the inner workings of their high-performance house are functioning to save dollars throughout ownership.

3. Give Homeowners the Tools for Long-Term Savings: As a home is finalized, it is essential that infill builders set their future homeowners up for success by selecting only the best in energy efficient features. For example, efficient tankless water heaters allow homeowners to save $100 or more per year. High-performance furnaces can result in an approximate 20 percent savings over standard models. By installing lights such as CLFs, 75 percent energy dollars can be saved with a bulb that will last 10 times longer than traditional incandescent. All of these features, along with efficient kitchen, laundry and plumbing appliances, have a significant impact on a home’s long-term savings. Although choosing high-performance features like these may yield initial expense, they will typically have longer lifespans and lower operating costs—offsetting home prices and offering long-term saving to potential homebuyers.

Vic Remmers, President and owner of Everett Custom Homes, is a resource for urban homebuilding. He works exclusively with The Rebuilding Center’s DeConstruction Services and is a longtime member of the Home Builder’s Association of Portland. For more information visit