The future is green

Feb. 25--The times are only getting better for ConSol, an energy consultant company founded in Stockton nearly 25 years ago.

The company made its name working with large-scale builders to help develop home designs -- by subdivision, not single homes -- that cost-effectively meet energy-efficiency building codes.

That covers everything from windows, walls and insulation to heating and air-conditioning equipment, ductwork and hot-water systems.

Increasingly, its business and its future is aimed at "green" homes, abodes that get the most out of electricity, natural gas and water through smart design and technology.

The sector is moving forward as homebuilders increasingly build more energy-efficient homes to meet buyer demand and to differentiate themselves from competitors, said Michael Hodgson, ConSol president and co-owner.

Much of the company's business involves energy-efficiency compliance, mechanical design and consulting.

But 11 years ago, the company launched a ComfortWise program that involves working with builders to guarantee that homes are designed and built at least 30 percent more energy efficient than required by national energy codes and 15 percent more energy efficient than required by California's stringent residential construction standards.

Think of it as the energy-efficiency equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, signifying excellence, Hodgson said.

The program specifies heating-and-air conditioning design; tight duct systems; reflective window glass that cuts heating or cooling loss and limits fabric-fading from infrared and ultraviolet sunlight; and includes inspections to ensure that homes are being properly built to ComfortWise standards.

The additional cost per home to attain that ComfortWise standard for a builder is about $1,000 to $1,200 per home, Hodgson said.

The company's pitch is that the ComfortWise mark sets homebuilders apart from the competition, Hodgson said. Since 1996, more than 100,000 homes have been built and sold via the ComfortWise program, he said, adding that currently, half of the company's revenue involves the ComfortWise business.

Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, a real-estate research firm that follows the new-home market, recently did a study that showed that ComfortWise homes sold faster than the competition.

"Homebuyers are definitely looking for more energy efficiency and going green," said Rick Baldonado, regional director of Hanley Wood Market Intelligence. "They're going to an SUV economy to a hybrid economy in all things, including homes. It's about saving money and thinking green."

David Ragland, president of the Sacramento division of Los Angeles-based Pardee Homes, said the company works with ConSol not as a consultant for hire but more as partners in a push to build ever-more energy- efficient homes.

"It's the future of homebuilding as we see it," he said. "There are other companies we could use who do that, but they're the best."

Contact reporter Bruce Spence at (209) 943-8581 or .

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