How to Provide Unbeatable Value with the Propane Energy Pod
In Carriage Hill, propane was critical to building cost-effective, Energy Starrated homes.
Cornell Homes is a rare example of a builder who grew during the housing downturn. The company was launched in 2006 by Greg Lingo, a housing veteran with 20 years of building experience and a smart strategy: Provide homes with great value in strong locations.
The strategy has served Lingo well. His company has gone from 22 sales in 2008 to 182 sales in 2010, and is on track to sell about 240 homes in 2012, making it the No. 1 private homebuilder in its region in net sales. Cornell builds in and around the eight counties surrounding Philadelphia and focuses on being the low-priced new housing provider in every submarket they enter which tend to be in densely populated areas with good school systems, near work, and accessible by commuters.
Cornell's Carriage Hill development, just a short bike ride from downtown Doylestown, Pa., is a prototypical example. The company is building 263 courtyard townhomes ranging from 1,522 to 1,748 square feet and starting at $220,000. "Our focus there is we're the lowest-priced new home in the Central Bucks school district," Lingo says. "We're a value, and we're in an incredibly desirable area that has great access to all commuter routes."
Using the five applications that make up the Propane Energy Pod, Carriage Hill homes achieve an average HERS score of 65, making them 35 percent more efficient than homes built to current code.
But it's not just the home price that makes the community a great value, Lingo says. Cornell builds all of its homes to the Energy Star standard to ensure that the customer's monthly energy payments stay as low as possible. And in Carriage Hill, which has no access to natural gas, propane was critical to building cost-effective, Energy Starrated homes.
Construction had just begun at Carriage Hill in December 2011, when the community last appeared in the Propane Energy Update, but Cornell Homes' sales team, well versed in the benefits of propane, had already sold 30 townhomes. Part of the builder's focus was on the homes' Energy Star certification, which helped lower customers' monthly utility bills.
As Cornell Homes completed construction on the first phase of the development and homeowners moved in, Lingo found that propane was vital in meeting his energy-efficiency goals. Without propane, Lingo says he would have had to choose less efficient or much more expensive appliances.
"We've found that propane is far more efficient than electric in heating the home and certainly more efficient and earth-friendly than using electricity from coal-fired power plants," he says. An individually metered central propane distribution system feeds the entire community. In Cornell's homes, that propane fuels a 95.5 percent efficient furnace, as well as water heaters, fireplaces, ranges, outdoor gas grill lines, and optional clothes dryers. The five indoor applications make up the Propane Energy Pod, a whole-house package of propane applications that optimize a home's efficiency, performance, comfort, and carbon reduction.
Propane fireplaces help attract homeowners to Carriage Hill. "When we did our walkthrough and the fireplace was on, it was perfect," says Bryan Pocceschi, who recently purchased a home in Carriage Hill. "We were, like, 'We're here. This is it.'"
At Carriage Hill, the real-world benefits of using the Propane Energy Pod package were clear. The Carriage Hill homes rate an average of 65 in the Home Energy Rating System (HERS), making them 35 percent more efficient than homes built to current code and saving their owners approximately $629 per year in energy costs over the typical new home, according to RESNET. And while reduced energy costs are vital to Cornell's customers, Lingo says the homes' sustained value and high future performance appeal to them as well.
"This is a long-term decision, which is oftentimes the biggest monetary decision of a customer's life," he says. "We want them to be proud of the home that they built and bought and know at the same time they lowered their carbon footprint by buying that house."
Carriage Hill provides a blueprint for builders and developers to design their own communities using the Propane Energy Pod, as well as for future Cornell Homes projects. The company is in construction on 12 other developments in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, including other projects with community propane systems. "At our newest single-family community in Delaware, the Enclave at Cooch's Bridge, we just introduced propane as the fuel source," Lingo says. "We just opened our model, and it's been well received."
Carriage Hill is one of three projects featured in our new Propane Energy Pod case studies. This brochure highlights real-world success stories from builders integrating Pod principles into their projects and they have the energy performance to prove it.
For a more in-depth discussion of the benefits of building homes that follow the Propane Energy Pod concept and to learn more about community propane systems, take the free online training courses listed below, available at the Propane Training Academy.