On the forefront of high-performance green building is where clients in Boulder, Colo., will find Sopris Development. Owner John Stevens, construction manager Chris Easton and the entire Sopris staff are dedicated to the design and construction of luxury homes focused on energy efficiency, durability, health, safety and comfort in an area they feel isn’t yet ahead of the curve.
One of the inhibitors of the national green movement has been the perception that there just isn’t much demand for green building. The perception has been that building green adds additional cost that clients aren’t willing to pay, especially for noncreature comforts. (i.e., If clients are going to increase the budget, they’re more likely to make room for a whirlpool than a high-performance HVAC system.) Sopris sees it differently.
"I agree this area is behind in terms of high-performance homes," Easton says, "but we’re willing to try to educate people about the quality of what they’re buying. Typically once they understand it, it’s a no-brainer."
"We view this as a sales feature," Stevens adds. "We find that some people are attracted to us because we do this."
Sopris Development’s niche is not as price sensitive as some markets, which is beneficial, but education has been the key part of the company’s successful sales formula. Sopris addresses cost concerns, pointing out truths related to the cost of green building, and discussing the value-added benefits it brings, such as indoor air quality, building durability and energy savings.
"We’ve arrived at a place where we have no complaints about indoor comfort," Stevens says. "The mold issue is mitigated and indoor air quality is improved. We seal our houses very, very tightly to control water and air infiltration, then mechanically ventilate them, controlling where air in the home comes in and determining escape points. The whole idea is to build a better product and serve our customers’ needs," he says.
Another sales tool is a comfort and energy use guarantee Sopris offers through a partnership with Environments for Living, a program by Masco Contractor Services. Environments for Living conducts a series of design and construction quality tests on homes to ensure they will live up to the terms of the guarantees. Environments for Living guarantees the maximum number of energy units it will take to heat and cool a home for one year and that no two rooms will exceed three degrees in temperature differential. If the guarantee is not met, Environments for Living reimburses the client or fixes the problem.
Sopris is an E-Star Colorado (a statewide nonprofit organization that promotes energy efficiency) Energy Partner and co-sponsors a series of high-performance home seminars throughout the year. The firm also has created a website, literature and brochures explaining the systems and benefits of the high-performance products and techniques used in its homes. It helps clients understand the importance of what the firm is building and how it will impact their own comfort and health.
"We feel good about what we’re doing," Stevens says. "We know we’re doing it the right way."