If one of your New Year’s resolutions is making your home more eco-friendly, then Monterey County, California, is the right place to be.
Homeowners who are looking to make their domiciles a little bit greener – or a lot – now have an ally in the form of a unique new program developed by the Monterey County Business Council.
The program, StepUp2Green, trains and certifies inspectors who will come to your home, tell you what’s green and what’s not, and offer concrete ideas on how to make your dwelling easier on the environment, covering such topics as saving energy and water, improving indoor air quality, and use of recycled and natural materials.
“This is a way of getting knowledge out to homeowners as well as business owners,” said Samantha Johnson, program manager of StepUp2Green. “It’s good for everyone involved.”
There are currently 17 inspectors certified in the StepUp2Green program; they hail from a number of different companies and backgrounds around the Monterey Bay. Among them are several employees of Carmel Valley-based Renovations, a remodeling company which has long been known for its environmentally conscious approach.
“We are excited and proud to have three members of our team as part of the initial group of certified inspectors for StepUp2Green,” said Renovations general manager Penny Butler. “StepUp2Green is a focused and easy-to-use program that has been developed to help homeowners implement green upgrades to a house with a very minimal cost.”
She notes that Renovations is currently offering a limited number of free consultations for homeowners.
Cost for the inspection varies by the company offering it, but is in the range of several hundred dollars.
When a StepUp2Green inspector visits a home, he or she looks over the entire structure for such things as proper insulation and weather stripping, use of Energy Star appliances, low-flow toilets and shower heads, and low- or no-VOC paint. There are six “essential items” to be met. But that’s just the beginning.
The inspector will then fill out a one-page checklist which makes suggestions on what homeowners can do to boost their green quotient, from solar panels to tankless water heaters to countertops made of recycled materials. The suggestions are divided into three categories, one for energy savings, one for water savings, and the last for overall improvement.
By meeting particular requirements, the home can then be certified green at three levels: all the essential items plus two from each of the three categories nets the homeowner a “Sage Award,” essentials plus three from each category is good for a “Jade Award,” and essentials plus four from each category nets a “Emerald Award.”
Such designations are not just worth bragging rights, but can be most important if the home is ever put on the market.
Realtor/ecobroker Dana Bambace of the Carmel Rancho office of Coldwell Banker said that green homes are a hot commodity in real estate these days. A green certification can be important in selling a house, proof of added value from the get-go.
“Buyers want the most bang for their buck, especially now,” said Bambace.
It’s possible that at some point in the future, insurance benefits and mortgage incentives will be available for those who have homes that are green-certified. Also, as Johnson from StepUp2Green points out, homeowners will start saving money right away after implementing some of the eco-friendly changes.
Not all the suggestions are expensive or time-consuming – for instance, switching from incandescent lighting to energy-saving bulbs.
And homeowners may implement whatever changes they see fit. They can be as green as they want to be.
After changes are made, the inspector returns to give the home its green certification, providing that the necessary changes have been implemented.
Those who want to get a look at the StepUp2Green checklist can download it from the program’s Web site, www.stepup2green.org. The checklist is available in both English and Spanish.
“It’s not confusing, it’s not long, and it’s all on one page,” said Johnson.
A list of certified inspectors will be added to the Web site soon, with contact information, and should be available to view sometime in January.
The Monterey County Business Council unveiled StepUp2Green last year, but getting inspectors trained and certified has taken some time, Johnson said.
The program began when Michael Waxer, vice president of Carmel Development Company, tossed the concept around with colleagues at a state American Institute of Architects meeting. In 2008, he brought it to the Monterey County Business Council and it was enthusiastically adopted.
Now, it’s a partnership between the Monterey County Business Council, Hayward Lumber, Cal Am Water, Monterey County Association of Realtors, and the Monterey Bay chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Johnson see the program as a win-win all the way around. There’s recognition for homeowners, as well as promotion of green alternatives for retailers. Also hoped for is streamlined permitting through ongoing collaboration with county and city building departments.
There’s also the possibility that StepUp2Green will be the start of something big and nationwide. It’s designed to be licensed and spread to other communities, and each community will be able to decide what green parameters make the most sense for them.
“I’ve been at home shows and trade shows talking about this, and wherever I go, I get a really good response,” said Johnson.
More information about StepUp2Green is available on the Web site www.stepup2green.org.
Personal interviews with Samantha Johnson and Dana Bambace
Press release from Renovations