Arizona-based Meritage opens first California project in Sana Rosa

[caption id="attachment_34635" align="alignright" width="313" caption="Exterior of a Meritage Homes model home at Ragle Ranch in Santa Rosa. (Jenna Loceff photo)"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- Homebuilder Meritage Homes worked for two years on research and development to create an energy-efficient home that could have a zero carbon footprint but not cost more or reduce comfort.

Arizona-based Meritage has offered homes like this in 23 developments across the country. Approximately 250 homes have been sold.

At Ragle Ranch in Santa Rosa, the  model homes of Meritage’s first California development are available to view, including a home that is “deconstructed” to show how the builders made the house from the ground up be more energy efficient, not just adding energy efficient features to an existing home plan.

[caption id="attachment_34636" align="alignleft" width="314" caption="Meritage Homes left the interior of some rooms unfinished to show the green building materials and methods employed. (Jenna Loceff photo)"][/caption]

“We want to offer, at competitive rates, a sustainable lifestyle with no compromise,” said C.R. Herro, vice president of environmental affairs for Meritage. He has degrees in environmental engineering and environmental policy and has helped develop Meritage’s new way of building in a net zero carbon footprint.

“We are able to have the price point be within 5 percent of the market rate,” he said.

Meritage Homes was awarded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star 2011 Partner of the Year Award for “leading the industry in reducing energy use in its innovative, high-performance homes.”

Homes in the Ragle Ranch development near the Sonoma County Fairgrounds range from 1,413 square feet to 2,875 square feet and run from $287,670 to $430,990. It is a 138-lot development and it opened its model homes May 20. The deconstructed home allows people to view the insides of the dwelling and serves as a learning center for prospective buyers.

There is no extra cost for the solar or insulation. They are worked into the price.

“On the construction end, while more money is spent on insulation and windows, the price is offset by less going to air conditioning and heating,” he said.

All the homes include in the price ECHO solar electric and thermal system, spray foam insulation, super-high performance windows, energy efficiency lighting, weather sensing irrigation and high performance plumbing fixtures.

Energy Star Certified Appliances are in all the homes. The average water savings for both inside the home and outside the home is 50 percent.

In typical housing developments, according to Mr. Herro, when buyers are given the option to upgrade to energy efficient features only about 10 percent opt to.

“People like the idea of being green,” he said. “But when it comes to either higher cost or giving up comforts, they are less likely to go for it.”

He said that when a homeowner simply puts on solar panels or gets new windows there are other areas where inefficiencies come into play.

“Here we have a whole system that works together,” he said.

And part of making that cost effective is to spend more in certain areas and pick up the savings in others.

“We price ourselves at or below resale,” he said. “We think this is a great opportunity because people get more. A used home just isn’t built like this.”