Fresno, California’s De Young Properties has figured out how to leverage more than 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 also water usage, recycling, green construction and other factors.
“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 cutting 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 make sure that we are using cutting-edge technology,” De Young says.
One example is their electronically commutated motor, 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 five years.
“It is things like 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 keep trying 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.”
The team started pursing 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, 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 was really not that far off from what was required to achieve that minimum,” De Young says. “So we made a few adjustments and made sure we met that requirement, and 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 30 percent better.
“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. We're 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 for Zero Net Energy Home Design. A new lease packaging program from Solar City 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 plenty of options for almost every detail. Just for cabinets, for example, there are more than 80 possibilities.
The attention to homeowner needs and desires helped the company make it through the market crash to where it is now building momentum again.
“We have been lucky enough to be supported by our community,” De Young says, adding that the company is selling about 100 homes annually. Another differentiator is a five-year, fit-and-finish warranty, nearly double what many other builders offer.”
The company has made a point to give back to the community, too, he says. In 2009, De Young was the featured builder in ABC's “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which provided a home for a mother born without legs and only one fully developed arm. The homebuilder also has served as the builder and major donor for 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, California, home in partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The home is designed to produce as much energy, with solar photovoltaic energy, as it uses. The solar system is oversized ? beyond a home's electrical needs ? so that additional electricity produced in a year is equivalent to that used in natural gas.
“It all starts with us being a familyowned company that literally has grown up here in this community,” De Young says. “We feel so grateful to be supported so long by our community.”