A Builder's Perspective
by Barb Checket-Hanks
Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration: The News September 27, 2010
Shift in Buying Habits May Benefit HVAC Contractors
Ideas may be shifting in the home construction market, as a way to increase the attraction to potential buyers who face multiple opportunities in the existing home market. Bryan Kim (B.K.) Turner, Red Rock Builders, Edmond, Okla., said he believes homeowners are getting more involved in the equipment selection, through either the builder or the HVAC contractor.
"There is a definite increase in at least wanting to know and understand the value of the equipment installed in the home," he said. "Regarding selection, we have seen a steady increase in clients specifying equipment, especially high-performance equipment," such as specialized ventilation and geothermal systems.
He credits the buyers' increased knowledge to the Internet and "the explosion of informational TV that has given clients the knowledge and understanding to discuss equipment opportunities with the professional. I have, at times, seen the homeowner lead the professional into a higher level of product knowledge," Turner said.
In one respect, Red Rock Builders may be different from many other homebuilders: Red Rock includes IAQ equipment as standard. "Most clients are pleased with the inclusion of IAQ equipment once they understand the benefits to family health," he said. "Since much of our work is custom based, we still have a need to present the benefits of a product so the custom homeowner will develop 'ownership' value and decide to spend the money required to incorporate IAQ systems."
The company installs MERV 11 filters at its climate control units, as well as standard fiberglass filters as prefilters at all return air vents. "To introduce outside air, we utilize the Ultra-Aire whole-house ventilating dehumidifier," which is applied in conjunction with a Hydro-Temp geothermal system.
Why? "Our homes are tight," he said, "allowing several times' less air infiltration than even the Energy Star requirement of 0.35 air changes per hour. Mechanical ventilation is a must in our homes in order to meet the ASHRAE standard."
However, ventilating with high-humidity air "is senseless in our climate zone," he said. With this ventilation product, "we meet the standards for ventilation without taxing the air conditioning side of our equipment."
Turner said his subcontractors are able to get involved with the homeowner quite often. "Homeowners purchasing sustainable or high-performance homes are naturally more involved with the building process," he explained, because "they want to know what components are going into the home and how they will affect its operation. It is a part of their investment to hear what the experts have to say.
"It is important to remember it is not completely about the house or the location; it's about value. If the team is committed to delivering full value, then the full team has to deliver it."
Increased communication between the homeowner and the sub does not always work out. "I know that many builders are frustrated when a subcontractor communicates with a homeowner," Turner said. "At times I have been as well. Then I began to see that it requires training for both the subcontractor and the builder. This is especially true with sustainable or high-performance homes."
He said he and his wife Kate spend time with many subcontractors, showing them why the homes have value. "When they understand, they can help us sell value as well." Training often focuses on key points such as quality and health features; "doing this over a lunch works great for us."
The builder needs to know how to set the stage for the owner, "explaining what they can realistically expect of a subcontractor's work." This is just as important as educating the same subcontractor, he said.
When deciding whether he will encourage communication between a particular customer and subcontractor, teamwork is a primary consideration. "Working with green and high-performance homes requires a team effort," he said. "Key subs must be willing to work together to deliver the highest value to the end user, the homeowner."
This type of home construction requires a holistic approach, he added, and that also requires a team effort. "Frankly, if we sense a sub is not ready to step up and work with everyone else, we realize it is only a matter of time before we will need to find someone new."
For more information. visit www.hydro-temp.com, www.redrockok.com, and www.ultra-aire.com.