Fresno, California’s De Young properties has figured out how to leverage over 70 years of experience.
WHEN A CALIFORNIA homebuyer steps into a model home, energy efficiency is no longer merely a bonus. It can be the deciding factor.
Though De Young Properties was established in 1974, the homebuilder has created a name for itself as one of the most innovative in the California market.
“Efficiency is definitely something everyone wants,” Operations Vice President Brandon De Young says. “When people are shopping for a home, they expect them to be touting energy efficiency.”
Over the past eight years, De Young and his siblings, Ryan and Ashley De Young — the family’s third generation of homebuilders — have focused on innovations to improve not just energy conservation but other factors: water usage, recycling, green construction and others.
“We have definitely carved out a niche for ourselves,” he says. “If you polled the average consumer in the area looking for a new home today, you would definitely find our company name in the top three at least of leading-edge, energy efficient, green builders.”
The key, he says, is to keep pushing and exploring.
“We have continually updated our home design specifically related to energy efficiency to be certain that we
are using highlevel building science technology,” De Young says.
One example is their electronically commutated motor (ECM), a component of De Young homes that De Young says is not employed by other area builders. The company has been using the fan motor, which drops the electricity consumption of an HVAC system by as much as 2/3rds, for more than eight years.
"It is high performance products like the ECM that we really tout when we are talking to consumers in our model homes," De Young says. "We are not just green-washing. We are not that builder who will design the home to barely meet some of the requirements for a green building program and not strive to innovate. We take it to heart by continually trying to find the most effective technology for our homes to meet, and significantly exceed, the really stringent requirements of the California energy code. We have a passion for building energy-
efficient, environmentally responsible homes." The team started pursuing those greener innovations in earnest about eight years ago with an EnergySmart home program - a combination of internal protocols and practices, such as using integrated software that ensures a greener building process as well as updates to technologies for the homeowner. "EnergySmart is our homes' energy efficiency program," De Young says.
Homes from De Young are third-party rated and certified to be green through the GreenPoint Rated program, run by Build It Green in California. To qualify, buildersf homes must be a minimum of 15 percent more energy efficient than the California Energy Code requires.
That was only a starting point for De Young. "We found that a lot of the techniques, construction practices and energy efficiency of our existing products were really not that far off from what was required to achieve that minimum," De Young says. "So we made a few adjustments to be certain we met that requirement, then we were off and running."
A year later, company leaders started looking for ways to improve, again. So the company upped its standards, from 15 percent better than California code to better than 30 percent.
"Over time, we doubled the number of points we achieved on the GreenPoint rated scale," De Young says. "You have to have a minimum of 50 points. Wefre now over 100 points, well over double what they require."
Since then, the company also has built zero-net electric homes with solar to offset consumption, which added more awards and accolades to the company, a recipient of two Gold Nugget Awards at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) for Zero Net Energy Home Design. A new lease packaging program from SolarCity for solar energy has made those options more affordable, too.
"It's a mindset of continual improvement and the drive to be that builder people think of when they are looking for energy efficiency," De Young says.
The company also has built two designer homes featured on the HGTV television series, "Showhouse Showdown,"
which highlights the customization features De Young offers for homes, which start at 1,700 square feet,
through the De Young Design Studio. The studio offers homeowners plentiful options for almost every detail.
Just for cabinets, for example, there are more than 60 types.
The attention to homeowner needs - and desires - helped the company make it through the market crash and is building momentum again.
"We have been fortunate to have the support of our community," De Young says, adding that the company has built over 7,000 homes - Another differentiator is a five-year, fit-and-finish warranty, nearly double what many other builders offer.
The company has a history of giving back to the community, too, he says. In 2009, De Young Properties stepped forward with the help of the community to build and donate a home for a local hero as part of the Emmy Award-winning ABC television show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The homebuilder also has served as the builder and major donor of the Central Valley St. Jude Dream Home since 2007, raising over $7.6 million so far to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
For the future, the company is focusing again on making zero-net energy homes more accessible.
“We have been working on it heavily since 2010,” De Young says. “We want to zero not just electricity but also natural gas. We designed and built one of our model homes to meet zero-net energy requirements.”
In 2013, the homebuilder erected a Clovis, Calif., home in collaboration with Pacific Gas & Electric Co (PG&E). The
De Young Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Home is designed to produce as much energy as it consumes each year, which also zeros its energy-related carbon impact on the environment. Along with high performing energy-efficient products and design, the ZNE home includes a solar photovoltaic energy system. The solar system is purposely sized to overproduce electricity, such that the surplus is equivalent to the amount of energy in the natural gas sent from the source to the home.
“It all starts with us being a family-owned company that has been raised here in the San Joaquin Valley,” De Young says. “We feel truly grateful to be supported for 40 years by our community so our team shares a deep commitment to serve the community. It just makes sense to give back in the most effective ways possible.”