Home not effectively green, lawsuit says

The owner of a Gold Hill Mesa home filed suit this month against the builder, saying the home is not as energy-efficient as the builder purported.

Further, the builder knew the home wasn’t as energy-efficient during the sales process, said homeowners Hannah Polmer and William Robert Rudge in their lawsuit against Hi-Point Home Builders LLC, Wayne Intermill, G.J. Gardner Homes and M. Brook Swientisky.

They bought the house partly because of the touted energy efficiencies, which include photovoltaic solar panels and ground-source geothermal heat, Polmer said.

“I was very excited to be part of the green movement.”

– Hannah Polmer

“Plaintiffs’ decision to purchase this home … was based on … numerous statements and other information made and/or disseminated by each and all of the defendants, stating, among other things, that the home was LEED-certified, that … the home was a near net-zero energy home … with average energy costs around $55 per month,” the lawsuit said.

A net-zero energy home consumes as much energy as it collects from solar panels. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and LEED certification is obtained through the U.S. Green Building Council.

The home, at 1561 Gold Mesa Drive on Colorado Springs’ Westside, has a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating of 13 on a scale of 1-150, making it a “near-zero” rating, Intermill said. The HERS index is the industry standard to measure a home’s energy efficiency.

The 3,900-square-foot home was in the 2011 Parade of Homes. Literature for that year’s Parade of Homes, still on the Internet, says the house is LEED-certified.

Hi-Point Homes has built five homes at Gold Hill Mesa and has six under construction now.

The 2013 Parade of Homes has another home built by Hi-Point. The website for this year’s Parade of Homes says, “Hi-Point made a commitment several years ago to position the company at the forefront of Colorado builders by building new homes to LEED and WaterSense certification requirements.”

“I thought this was going to be so warm and I won’t have to shiver anymore,” Polmer said. “I decided to go to a new house and be warm. I was following the American dream.”

She toured Intermill’s houses, and “he was very sweet, very charming,” Polmer said. “I was very excited to be part of the green movement. I really embrace the whole lifestyle. It started out pretty blissfully. I was extremely happy.”

Polmer became initially concerned after she received her first utility bill, she said.

“The utility bills were fantastically high. It was not what he quoted,” said Polmer. She would not disclose how high the bills were, saying the numbers will come out during court.

The suit said the builder touted the house’s energy efficiency, which would “limit Plaintiffs’ average energy costs to around $55 per month.”

“That’s an average,” Intermill said. “In the winter, those numbers will be higher.”

Intermill said the Denver firm Energy Logic did environmental testing for the house.

Polmer said she had the systems inspected after the couple had moved in; they did not inspect the home prior to moving in.

The home is not LEED-certified, Intermill said, because “we just didn’t feel we needed it. It’s registered LEED. If the homeowner wants to get it certified, there’s a fee. It’s registered with the U.S. Green Building Council, but it’s not certified.

“I don’t believe we misled her,” Intermill said. “She’s got a very high-performing house.”

Intermill said he was surprised by the suit.

Polmer said she and her husband are inexperienced home buyers; they moved from a home built in 1929 that they’d lived in 20 years. Polmer said she looked forward to living in a new, warm house.

The couple bought the home for $485,000, according to the county assessor. Intermill said his company spent $80,000 on systems that make the home green.

“More investigation of the house needs to be done,” Polmer said. “I think I was misled, period.”

Gold Hill Mesa Marketing Director Stephanie Edwards said she hadn’t seen the complaint; she noted the development is not a party to this lawsuit.

“We have a very close-knit community,” Edwards said. “Our builders are involved more so than in other communities.

“We just really hope they can work it out.”

5 Responses to Home not effectively green, lawsuit says

  1. So the builder ‘didn’t feel’ the home needed to be LEED certified but the literature says that it was? Sounds shady.

    Hawk
    September 3, 2013 at 8:44 pm

  2. Seems to me the smart thing for the developer to do is to take the house back and make a quick and easy exit.

    Dennis Keegan
    September 4, 2013 at 11:51 am

  3. There’s probably more to this than the reporter could include in this story. I have had homes audited and received a HERS score much higher than this home and the house was very comfortable. Whether its a HERS 13 or 50 the home should be comfortable. I would like to know what the bills were, and the size of the solar system, and are there other systems that consume electricity such as 10 TVs and so-forth.

    Joe Johnson
    September 6, 2013 at 10:10 am

  4. If stated as LEED certified, then he needs to make it certified…. He cant say it was and then himself decided it did not need to be…. And to state the owner can certify it is wrong… USGBC need a lot of reports and paperwork.

    Danny, Los Angeles
    September 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm

  5. It would be interesting to look at the data. Who knows, the homeowner might have had the heat set to 80 in the winter and the AC set to 60 for the summer… that would totally turn a net zero home into a net positive home!

    Richard
    September 9, 2013 at 4:50 pm