Jeffrey Bogard founded R.E.A. Homes to follow his personal passion of building custom, luxury homes with upscale and high performance features. After running a multi-million dollar division of St. Louis’ No. 1 home builder for many years, Jeff felt all the pieces were in place for him to build and run his own company. His dream is to simply work closely and personally with a few select families per year in designing and building a place they will be proud to call home. He specializes in high-end, custom-built homes in some of the city’s most picturesque neighborhoods. As a second-generation home builder in St Louis, Jeff understands the needs and wants of today’s home buyers. Typical R.E.A. Homes range from $1,000,000 to $10,000,000 plus.
In this month’s feature we ask Jeff Bogard, R.E.A. Homes President, LEED Green Associate, MCGP (Master Certified Green Professional), and Marc Bluestone, President of SmartHouse (R.E.A. Homes’ partner on ENERGY STAR program) to share their thoughts on HERS® Rated homes.
Q: What is special about a HERS® Rated home?
A: Jeff: It’s really what our tagline is all about, and that is High-Performance Luxury Homes℠ and by that we mean homes that not only look magnificent but perform magnificently. We are talking about things like healthier homes, more energy-efficient homes, more comfortable homes, more durable homes, and I think when you make a statement or a commitment as a company to build in that manner, we think of it as building beyond the code. You need tools that prove via third-party independent verification that you really are doing what you say in a better measurable way. The homes we build are ENERGY STAR certified for that reason and at its core, of course, the HERS® rating is a big important piece of the ENERGY STAR program. It’s the way that clients can grasp some of the house science that we throw at them that we’re trying to do on their home to make it a better-built home and I think that’s a real rubber meets the road kind of system. The HERS® rating is that something people can relate to and say, “Oh I get it”.
Marc: The HERS® rating is objectively verifiable. It’s a relative score so clients can know how their home compares to the target and to other homes. More important, because of the elements that go into the score, a high achieving house brings other huge benefits for people such as comfort, indoor air quality and durability. I think the score is not the prize–the prize is a more energy efficient, more comfortable, healthier and more durable house.
Q: Why should consumers ask for the HERS® Index Score on homes they are shopping for?
A: Jeff: My biggest challenge and mission, and the thing I’m most passionate about is educating potential clients on the definition of a luxury custom home. So in most people’s minds what immediately pops up is the stuff you can see, the stuff in front of the drywall, you know, the millwork, cabinetry, masonry work on the exterior, etc. But for 13 years now, we’ve been having this outreach effort to say listen, that is at best half the story. What’s behind the drywall is what true luxury is all about. What’s behind the drywall, the shell is so critically important, especially items such as a properly designed HVAC system, proper insulation of the home, and attention to all of the detail. If you get that stuff right, you build a more comfortable, healthier, energy efficient home. If you’re successful with your HERS® score as part of the overall design of the home, then the client is truly getting luxury.
Q: Why does R.E.A. Homes have their homes HERS® Rated?
A: Jeff: I think it’s a fairly simple answer if what we’re preaching is important to you. If you sort of get it, that you’re going to build this custom home and that there’s more to luxury than what you can see, and things like comfort, energy efficiency and durability matter to you, then a HERS® score is an objective way to measure the success of the home. The HERS® score is part of the puzzle that gives you an independently verified and tested way to see the result. I mean to have objective proof that yes, this home is better built and here’s the score to prove it.
Q: Why consumers should expect energy efficient homes?
A: Jeff: They may expect them, and it’s true that the building codes and more and more municipalities have begun to push energy efficiency, but there is SO much more builders can do to improve on this, AND they certainly don’t mandate comfort. A builder has to be fully committed to build to a higher level.
Marc: Across the country, there’s an unbelievable disparity in which codes municipalities are applying. In our county, there are more than 90 separate municipalities, many of whom adopt their own code set and that’s the case across the country as well. I think the genius of RESNET and the HERS® Index is that of this myriad of codes being applied across the country, you’re almost the only thing that’s a constant. The HERS® Index is only thing that ties them all together and delivers a measurable and meaningful score of how a home was built from an energy efficiency perspective.
Q: How many homes does R.E.A. Homes build with HERS® per year?
A: Jeff: The goal is to have all of them rated but the numbers vary from year to year because we build truly custom homes, one-of-a-kind. Square footages of the homes we build can be modest or massive, so it just depends, but we prefer to focus on just a few custom homes each year.
Q: How does R.E.A. Homes market HERS® Rated homes?
A: Jeff: Whether it’s social media, website, blogs, we alternate between the eye candy stuff, because we know that that’s super important to people that want to build a custom luxury home, and we switch and start talking about the stuff behind the drywall, the technical stuff that results in our High Performance Luxury HomesSM. That’s a conscious effort on our part to do a balancing act between the eye candy and the house science candy, if you will.
Q: How do your customers feel about HERS® Rated homes?
A: Jeff: We have example after example of clients for which we’ve built, you know, multi-million dollar custom homes and their monthly utility costs are oftentimes significantly less than the smaller homes they moved out of. They hear us when we talk about it, but it’s not always the highest thing on their list, but my goodness when they get in there and when their operating costs are understood, they grasp it and are amazed.
Marc: I’ve met many people who are very concerned about the environment or building green and they think that that less is better. But the reality is that for somebody who wants a fabulous home, you’re not going to be able to convince them that less is better. But they will understand comfort and operating costs and they will feel competitive about earning a lower score. So, if you can build their home to consume $500 in energy each month instead of $1,500, isn’t that still a huge win for them as well as a win for the planet?