Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hot Market for Energy Efficiency

If you build it, baby boomers will come.

That's the attitude of local developers trying to entice the lucrative baby boomer market with energy-efficient homes.

Now that the children are gone and retirement is quickly approaching, analysts say baby boomers want their second or third home to have all the perks.

Hamilton developer, Midevco Group, built its latest townhome division with the market-driving generation in mind, said president Kirstin Paisley-Godsave.

The developer is the first to pick up on the latest technology in energy-efficient homes, known as the Zone Comfort System.

Midevco's Durand Park project, located at the corner of Robinson Street and Park Street, includes six up-scale townhomes all equipped with the new heating and cooling system.

The homes are about 2,200 square feet and range from $375,000 to $430,000.

"The price range is higher and they (baby boomers) are the ones who can afford these homes," Paisley-Godsave said.

"They are looking for homes with minimal maintenance, minimal effort and rooms that you can easily heat and cool without complex systems."

The Zone Comfort System is "captivating their attention," she said. Produced by Ecologix in Cambridge, the system allows the homeowner to set individual rooms at different temperatures by placing a thermostat on each floor.

By adjusting the thermostats, the homeowner can limit heating or cooling to the room they are using said Al Davies, co-owner of Ecologix.

"In the summer, people will often turn the thermostat down so they can make the second floor comfortable, but the air conditioner is working to also cool off the basement and other areas of the home not being used," he said. "It takes less energy to cool off one room."

The system also acts as a dehumidifier, which makes a room more comfortable at higher temperatures so homeowners won't have to crank the air conditioning, he said.

It is estimated the system will reduce the average annual household electricity consumption by a third. However, Davies said it all depends on how the homeowner uses the system. The homes are weeks away from completion and so far one unit has been sold.

Dana Senagama, market analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said the increasing number of energy-efficient homes is a sign the housing industry has discovered baby boomers make up a huge pool of current home buyers.

"Home builders are responding to a growth in baby boomers who are typically wealthier and looking for homes with upgrades and ways to control energy efficiency," Senagama said.

"They are willing to pay the up-front costs of buying an energy-efficient home if it means savings down the road."

Doug Dukes, executive officer of the Hamilton Halton Homebuilders Association, said the entire industry is catching on to the energy-efficiency trend.

"With costs rising, people are looking for ways to maximize efficiency," Dukes said. "And the technology and knowledge is getting better and better every year."

Dave Wassmansdorf, president of Passport Homes -- the builders of the Durand Park project -- said baby boomers' concerns about energy costs come from experience.

"They have already bought a few homes so they know what it costs to heat a cool a house."


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