Meritage Homes: Colorado Division

For Meritage Homes, green building is more than an industry trend. “When we talk about green, it’s about pioneering a new standard for homes and taking energy efficiency to the next level,” says Chris Presley, president of the national homebuilder’s Colorado division.

The company’s “Meritage Green” focus makes extreme energy efficiency a standard element in all of the new homes it builds. This includes foam insulation, ENERGY STAR-certified appliances, double low-E vinyl windows, low-flow faucets, weather sensing irrigation systems, programmable thermostats, CFL light bulbs and low-VOC paints.

All homes built by the company since January 2010 in Denver and other southwestern United States markets are ENERGY STAR qualified. The national energy efficiency program also named the company one of its 2011 Partners of the Year.

This focus on efficiency helps the company remain competitive amid not just new homebuilders, but in the existing housing market, as well. “We recognize that our main competition isn’t new home builders, it’s resale homes,” Presley says. “In a market that’s been flooded with foreclosures and short sales, we recognize that’s what we’re up against.

“We provide something that resale homes can’t offer, and that’s extreme energy efficiency,” Presley adds. “Our homes are 50 percent more energy efficient than the average American home.”

Vision for Growth

Meritage Homes has other divisions in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Florida and Texas. It launched a North Carolina division this year, with more nationwide expansion anticipated. “The company has a vision for growth and continues to add new communities,” Presley says.

Nationwide, the company has built more than 65,000 homes since 1985. “Our core purpose is to enrich lives by building the American Dream,” the company says. “Meritage takes pride in designing and building homes and communities that are innovative, built with care and superior craftsmanship, and deliver enduring value while practicing stewardship of environmental resources.

“We strive to provide an exceptional customer experience by respecting employees and trade partners, rewarding performance and creating an environment of personal growth and fun,” it adds.

Building Innovation

One way Meritage Colorado promotes its energy efficiency to prospective homebuyers is through a unique model home in the Sorrel Ranch neighborhood in Aurora, Colo. The model, which the company dubs a “deconstructed home,” features exposed walls and displays explaining the home’s numerous energy efficient features.

“When you enter the main level of the house, it looks normal, then when you continue inside, you get this incredible `wow’ factor when you see walls that spotlight our foam insulation,” Presley says.

“There are displays throughout that explain how the products we use create a cleaner, healthier home that is more cost-effective to live in because you’re saving money each month on energy costs.”

The house serves as a demonstration to prospective buyers of the company’s strengths in innovation and design. “Our goal is to create a product where homebuyers don’t have to choose between buying an affordable home and one that is superiorly built, and our innovative designs make us stand apart,” she adds. “People look to us to build in their communities because they know our products really have a flair to them.”

`From the Ground Up’

Meritage Homes entered the Denver market in 2004, building business “from the ground up” as opposed to through acquisition, Presley says. The division’s first closings were in 2006, just before the residential market began to decline. Presley joined the division in 2008 after serving as a division CFO for Centex homes. She has been in the homebuilding industry since 1997.

The division relied on a flat organizational structure and an emphasis on cost-cutting to work through the recession. “We dug in to understand where our costs were at every level of our organization and really empowered our team to improve our efficiency and impact our bottom line,” she adds. “The expectation here is that people wear a lot of hats … we really operate as a team.”

The Colorado operation has the lowest overhead within the Meritage organization. “We’ve been told we have the most financially aligned team within Meritage,” Presley says.

Meritage Denver expects to close a total 240 houses in 2011, which is an increase of 40 percent more than the company closed in 2010. The company builds homes on finished lots in planned communities. Meritage’s Denver-area communities range in size from 35 to 161 lots, Presley says.

“I see our division continuing to lead the local homebuilding community,” she adds. “Denver is an excellent place to live with a lot of opportunities. My goal is to continue to expand our division so we can continue to provide homes that deliver enduring value to a broader range of homebuyers.”

Key Partnerships

Meritage prides itself on maintaining open, honest relationships with each of its subcontractors and suppliers, coining the phrase “Meritage Forward” to describe its approach toward its partners. The company single-sources most of its trades, Presley says.

“We share information with our trade partners about the growth of the division, and have had tough conversations with suppliers about cost reductions,” Presley adds. “We’re very relationship-oriented.”

Some of Meritage’s key partners are Creative Touch Interiors (HD Supply), Metco Landscaping Inc., Rocky Mountain Drywall Inc., DJs Snowplowing & Maintenance Inc., Environmental Stoneworks and Applied Electric Inc.

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