With the supply of existing homes on the market in Northern Virginia at around a 10-year low, many national and custom new-home builders serving Northern Virginia are pushing hard to build out communities stalled by the 2006-2009 housing bust. Some are devoting fresh attention to features enabling owners to save money on their energy bills, conserve water, control moisture and live more comfortably.

Having helped two of my beloved clients through new-home construction this spring, I’m seeing more evidence of these features. But it’s a bit disappointing that there aren’t more builders producing updated Energy Star-certified homes.

At least three builders whose products I’ve previewed for clients – Beazer, Drees and NVHomes/Ryan Homes  – extol the virtues of their Version 3 Energy Star-certified  homes. That’s the latest iteration of the Energy Star program since the program launched in 1996.

While this is welcome news if you aspire to live in a ‘greener’ home here in Northern Virginia and the Washington, DC area, new home construction on the West Coast and certain other locales around the country suggest there will be more choices, and even greener choices, in the years to come in the mid-Atlantic region.

Ever hear of a “net-zero energy” home?

You don’t have look far actually to see a home that could make or pay for all of the energy it needs and all but elminate its carbon dioxide emissions. Policy wonks and the building trades call these “net-zero energy” homes.

If you listen to Fairfax County’s own Sam Rashkin, Founder of the Energy Star program for homes and currently Chief Architect of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Program, net-zero energy homes could start going mainstream throughout much of the country -- including Northern Virginia -- within five years.

Sam should know because he's in touch with dozens of home builders all over the country, many of whom 'get it.' Those builders will likely be leading the industry to the next stage of efficient homes beyond Energy Star Version 3. The Department of Energy calls these "Challenge Homes."

Sam maintains by 2018, or soon thereafter, homebuilders will have to make increasingly greener homes to continue growing their business. He told my husband Jim who’s into to this efficiency stuff that we’re nearing the tipping point where energy efficiency will become almost as important as a home’s location, school district/neighborhood and its floor plan.

Don’t want to wait five or more years? Or can’t find an Energy Star-certified builder or home community where you want to live? Here is a short tutorial video featuring Sam on how you can work with a homebuilder.



Some individuals and couples looking forward to building a new home run the risk of overlooking one or more key considerations, such as how the home will perform energy-wise. You can go here to read Sam's Tip #6. There you'll read how to ensure a home is comfortable in extreme weather conditions, as well as, evenly across all rooms, free of drafts during windy weather, quiet with minimal noise from both external and internal sources, healthy to live in, and affordable due to low energy bills.