Author Archive


Thousand Oaks The Oaks Collection


California Energy Commissioner David Hochschild invited me to speak at the California Energy Commission last week.  I accepted the invitation after he reached out to me several months ago when he heard about our solar all-electric homes.  He ended up coming down and touring our Downey and Bellflower solar all-electric projects.  We had a great conversation and he was very impressed with what we’re doing.  It’s still hard to believe that 5 years after developing the solar all-electric home, City Ventures is still the only builder in California building it.  As we approach our 1000th solar all-electric home its great to have someone like David acknowledge what we believe to be the future of homebuilding.


So I traveled to Sacramento last week to speak in front of the Energy Commission.  It was pretty cool.  Prior to speaking I spent a little time with David in his office and we talked about the future.  In his opinion, the future for California is one that is “electrified”.  That was his word.  What he meant was the future is one that is run by electricity.  Electricity powered by the sun.  Everything we do requires energy.  We’ve been using other natural resources to provide the energy we need to live our modern lives.  Although the sun puts more energy on earth in one hour than the entire state needs in one year, we haven’t really been able to capture that massive amount of promise.  That’s changing.  Even though the sun has made all of life possible its only now beginning to make all of life’s daily energy requirements possible.  We are close to what Commissioner Hochschild is referencing when he talks about electrifying California.


I laugh to myself sometimes when I think back five years and when we started the Green Builders Journal.  I knew nothing then.  Actually that’s not true, I knew that Green Homebuilding is the future.  And I knew the first one to figure it out wins.  What I didn’t know was what that meant.  It was a long yet fun educational process to learn what Green is and how it relates to homebuilding.  If you’ve read all 58 of my Green Builders Journals then you’ve followed the evolution of how we’re defining Green Homebuilding.  Its about electric.  Its about solar.  There is no question that the future of homebuilding is one that is powered by solar electricity.


What’s really cool is that Commissioner Hochschild believes that more than just homebuilding in California is about solar powered electricity.  It makes perfect sense if you think about it.  Why wouldn’t we transfer the energy from the sun which is free and limitless into the energy we need to run our modern lives.  Obviously the answer is we should and fortunately the technology is close enough that we can make that dream a reality in our lifetimes.


We at City Ventures will continue to push the envelope of what it means to be a Green Homebuilder and we applaud the efforts of people like Commissioner Hochschild and his efforts to promote our State towards becoming the first “electrified” State in the nation.


It’s only a matter of time.  In other words its not IF but when.


Until next time,



Evolution is inevitable in everything. To try and stop evolution is usually an exercise in futility that inevitably ends in failure. But when trying to stop evolution costs people money and delays the obvious its just sad. And should be stopped. Solar energy in California is growing at an amazing pace. Builders like City Ventures have been including solar power systems in new homes as a standard amenity for 5 years now. The future of the standard power grid is in jeopardy and its demise is inevitable. And the utilities companies are doing what they can to delay the inevitable and we need to stop their helpless attempts at delaying the evolution of power generation.

In October the utility companies are proposing new laws aimed at curtailing the solar power mania that has changed their entire business model. As I said its an exercise in futility but monopolies never go down easy.

Currently the “net metering” policies that exist pay a solar customer for the power they generate through their solar power systems at the same rate as the power they charge them. In other words if I pay 8 cents per kilowatt hour for power, the utility companies pay me 8 cents per kilowatt hour for the power my solar system feeds into the grid when I’m not using it. If the energy I use matches the energy I supply to the grid, then I pay zero for my electric bill. In this case the grid is a back-up supply of energy. If my household uses the same amount of energy that I generate then my home is a net zero energy home and the only reason I need to be connected to the grid is in an emergency situation.

The economics of this encourage the installation of solar power. I don’t need to spend much time on how this benefits Mother Earth from a climate change point of view and I probably don’t need to spend much time on how saving consumers money on a monthly basis in terms of energy costs is a good thing. But apparently I need to spend some time asking why the utility companies feel the inevitable needs to be put off. I remember when the newspapers thought the internet was a cute fad that would never interfere with their business model of supplying the public with information. They ignored the onslaught and did what they could to fend it off never actually embracing the inevitable in an attempt to modify or EVOLVE their business model to embrace the internet. The result was what we have now. Newspapers are essentially dead. Evolution won. And it always does.

And it will win in the energy sector as well. The utility companies want to fend off evolution by paying people less and less for the energy their solar systems supply to the grid and charge them more and more for the upkeep and maintenance of the current system. In basic terms they want to pay a solar provider 4 cents per kilowatt hour for power they provide and then turn around and charge someone else 8 cents per kilowatt hour for the same energy. They become a middleman. It actually discourages solar power installation as it makes it less of an economic benefit for someone to install it.

We can’t allow this. Evolution is unavoidable. Power grids are the newspapers of the 2020’s. They need to embrace solar power generation in homes and businesses as the obvious evolution of energy and evolve their business models to what that means. I’ll admit I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that trying to stand in the way of evolution is a losing proposition. The smart minds in the utility companies need to spend less time trying to figure out how to fend off the inevitable and more time trying to figure out how to embrace what is inevitable and evolve their business model to include solar power generation.

Mother Earth would be very happy if they did, as would consumers.

Until next time


It took us just under 5 ½ years to get our first 1000 homeowners and only 18 months to get our second 1000! Enjoy an encore blog post for the Green Builders Journal about why we sell all-electric homes.

Santa Ana Park Estates

Santa Ana Park Estates

So I left off last month with a question.

How can City Ventures sell all-electric homes?  Or better yet, WHY sell all-electric homes?

The first thing to remember when answering that question is that City Ventures is first and foremost, a business.  Businesses operate to earn a profit.  Without a profit there would be no business.  Being Green and “doing the right thing for Mother Earth” are certainly motivators on HOW we run the business.  But make no mistake that WHY we run the business is to make a profit.  So how do you make a profit as a homebuilder?  It’s pretty simple.  You sell homes.  Every decision you make as a homebuilder is designed to sell more homes.  Sell more homes and I almost guarantee you’ll make a profit.  Obviously I make it sound easier than it really is since there are homebuilders that sell homes and don’t make a profit, but that’s the subject of a whole different kind of Blog.

This Blog is about building Green.  And therein lies the point I want to make.

There are builders that are making a profit without being Green and there are builders building Green and not making a profit.  At City Ventures, our strategy is to make a bigger profit BY being Green.  Instead of making them mutually exclusive, we’ve chosen to USE being Green as the strategy that will help us sell more homes.  Once again this sounds easier than it really is because of one irrefutable truth.  It costs money to be Green.  Economics 101 tells us that when something costs MORE, people buy LESS.  Actually, depending on what aspect of Green we’re talking about, building Green can cost A LOT more.   So how do you sell MORE homes, if they cost A LOT more?  You can’t.  That’s not reality.  People may say they’d pay more for a Green home when they’re taking some survey coming out of a grocery store, but the reality is unless people see value, they won’t pay anything more.  Especially in today’s internet based society.  People are just too informed these days.  They don’t have to take anyone’s word anymore.  They can go online and do all the research they need to make an informed decision.  And they do.

So back to the question of why an all-electric home.

We believe the key to getting buyers excited about buying a Green home is twofold.  First, make the cost of buying Green be as close to zero as possible, and second, make one of the benefits of buying Green that it actually reduces the true cost of living for the homeowner.  That’s what the all-electric home does. We’re selling the all-electric Green home for the same price as our non-Green homes.  We have figured out a way to have the Green homes cost NOTHING more.  Obviously I won’t share all those secrets through the Blog, but I will discuss the other aspect which is having the Green homes reduce the cost of living to the homeowner and answer the question; How can City Ventures sell an all-electric home?

Here’s how it works.  We made the homes all-electric.  We put a large enough solar system on the roof to generate the power necessary to operate this all-electric home.  We then eliminated natural gas in the project.  Obviously the homeowner will have no monthly gas bill.  That’s a cost of living reduction.  Because the solar system on the home is big enough to generate a large amount of power, depending on usage, the homeowner will have no electric bill.  That’s a serious cost of living reduction.  We actually went one step further and pre-wired the homes for an electric car.  If the homeowner had an all-electric car, charged by solar power, they’d have no gasoline bill.  That’s a massive cost of living reduction with $5/gallon gas out there.

It’s possible with the City Ventures all-electric home to eliminate a natural gas bill, an electric bill and the monthly cost of gasoline.  We believe if you can show buyers that without paying any extra for a home, you can substantially eliminate the monthly cost of living for them, AND do the right thing for Mother Earth, we’ll sell more homes.

And we’re proving it every day.  We have over 100 homeowners in 4 projects that have no gas or electric bills.  And they didn’t pay one dime extra to get that kind of home.

I’ll expand on this further next month.

Until then


Read part 1 and part 2 of the Sustainable Homebuilding mini-series.

The Boulevard Collection - Solar-Powered Townhomes in Bellflower, CA by City Ventures

The Boulevard Collection – Solar-Powered Townhomes in Bellflower, CA by City Ventures

So last time I left off with a discussion about the supply and demand for energy from a household.  All the energy to 99% of the households in our country come from electricity and natural gas.  Natural gas is considered a much cheaper and efficient energy source that supposedly doesn’t harm the environment.  The problem is that it really only supplies the energy for our furnaces, our hot water, our cooking, and our clothes drying.  All the other energy a household requires for ALL OTHER needs is supplied by electricity.  That electricity, unlike natural gas , is anything but “natural”.  Its generated by a number of resources.   Most is generated by using another resource that is “burned” to create the current.  Namely coal and oil.  The burning of both of those resources has a negative effect on the environment and is non-renewable.

I think we all get that.

The energy we create is the “supply” of energy.  The energy we use as we go about the process of living in our homes is the “demand” for energy.  Someone asked me the other day that “isn’t the ultimate goal of the Green Movement to have the supply of energy meet the demand for energy for every home”.  I told them it already does.  If you turned on every light, filled every plug with a running device, ran your air conditioner 24/7, supply would still meet that demand.  The issue for the Green Movement is that the supply needs to come from a source that not only doesn’t affect the environment in a negative way but also comes from a truly renewable source of energy.  Burning a lot more coal or oil to supply the energy your household demands when everything is turned on and plugged in is NOT what the green Movement is about even though the supply meets that demand.

The “Green Movement”, “net zero energy”, “sustainable” world, (take your pick on what word or phrase you like best), wants the supply of energy to meet the demand of energy but the key difference is that the supply has to come from the same source that demands it.  The house both supplies energy and demands it.  If they equal then we have true sustainability, true net zero energy, true achievement of the Green Movement.

This world is moving very fast and here’s where it’s headed.  Last time I mentioned that solar technology is getting MORE powerful, requiring LESS space and is getting MUCH cheaper every day.  I talked about how originally I thought that the demand side of each household would improve with technology and supply would not need to get more powerful.  As it turns out getting more and more powerful solar systems on homes is happening at a fairly rapid pace.  Much like the computer chip in the 1980’s it’s easy to see that the supply of energy that a rooftop solar system can provide will easily meet the demand of any household.  And do so for a reasonable price while taking up less and less space.

It took me a while to get what I wanted the point of this Blog to be but I’m here now.  Right now the rooftop solar system City Ventures supplies to all of our solar all-electric homes generates 2KW of power whenever the sun hits it directly.  100% of the power that the home demands when the system is generating power is taken care of by the rooftop system.  If no one is home during the day then that power goes into the grid.  The power company essentially buys that power from you by using a net metering concept.  The amount of power you generate is credited towards your meter.  Then when you get home and start using power, the meter starts debiting.  At the end of the year you get a bill for the difference of the amount generated less the amount demanded.

In the real world today that number always has a positive balance.  In other words you basically never generate MORE energy than you use.  It’s always in the power companies favor.

That will soon change.

If the energy you generated during sunny days could be stored so that you could use it when you got home, then there would be no question that what you supply would be DIRECTLY offset by what you demand.  The power company would never get it first.

That’s what’s coming next.  It’s still early but like solar panels, it’s happening pretty fast.  At some point soon, and I and assure you City Ventures will stay on the cutting edge, your home will generate 100% renewable energy from the sun during sunny days, store it in home battery systems, and then be the supply of energy when people need it.  For a while the grid will still be needed in emergency cases but over time the grid will disappear as a necessary source of energy for all new homes.  The home will BE that supply of energy and as long as demand stays equal to or less than supply, and it will given the pace of solar technology, all new homes will have attained true net zero energy and be 100% sustainable.

Mother Earth will be so happy.

Until next time,


Read Part 1, Sustainable Homebuilding: A Preview of What’s To Come


Supply and demand.  It’s an economic term I learned in college 35 years ago.  Since then I’ve learned it explains the economic and non-economic behavior for everything. Certainly a bold statement, but in reality I have yet to try and understand human behavior as it relates to anything that isn’t explained by supply & demand theory.

Green building and sustainability are no different.  In this case we’re talking about the supply of power to, and the demand for energy of, a typical household.  The definition of pure sustainability is when the supply of energy comes from the same source that is demanding the energy.  If the supply equals the demand then we have true sustainability.  The household “sustains” itself without the need for energy supplied by any source outside of the household.  Mother Nature for that household is in equilibrium.

There is no question in my mind that all of homebuilding is headed in this direction and it’s simply a matter of time until it is reality.

Last time I talked about me having to change what I thought was the next breakthrough on that path to true “net zero energy” “sustainable” homes.  City Ventures as a homebuilder put a renewable energy source, namely solar power, on our homes as a standard part of the home.  That supply of energy offset the demand of energy the homes took from the “grid”.  The grid was still necessary because the demand was still exceeding the supply.  We are limited on how much energy we can supply by the size of the roof.  Once we thought we reached full supply capability, I made the proclamation a few years back that the next step would have to come from the demand side.

If we were maxed in terms of the supply we can produce than the only way to get to “net zero energy” is to reduce demand to the same level as the supply.  How that was going to happen was a mystery.  But I assumed technology, as it does in many other industries, would step up and make it happen.

It is.

But I was wrong in which side technology is affecting first.  As it turns out, it looks like the technology will affect the supply side of energy in a bigger and faster way then the demand side.  I now believe that the near term outlook for demand will remain fairly static.  In other words the typical home will continue to demand the same amount of energy it does today for a while.  But what will change is the amount of supply we can provide as a homebuilder for two reasons.

First technology is increasing the capability of solar panels to produce more power per square inch so that what now takes a typical townhome roof to supply 2KW will soon be able to provide more KW given the same sized roof.  Like the computer chip in the 1980’s and 1990’s, technology will allow MORE power out of LESS space.  Instead of lessening the demand, we’ll increase the supply, and over the near term the two will converge towards net zero energy.

Second ,as with the computer chip, technology will enable the price of that supply of energy to fall even as the power per square inch goes up .  Soon it will cost less for a 3KW system than it does today for a 2KW system.  When that will be is anyone’s guess but the fact that it WILL be reality, is not a guess.

This may sound weird but if the supply of energy comes from a truly renewable source, the sun, and is associated only with one home, than why worry about the demand side of energy that home requires?  Who cares how much energy a home uses if its use doesn’t contribute to climate change and is powered by a free, permanent, supply of renewable energy.  The answer is no one should care.

My new proclamation is this is where homebuilding is headed.  But there’s one more supply side surprise on its way to reality.  Home energy storage systems.

Let’s talk about that next time.

Until then,


Buena Park Parker Collection City Ventures

New solar, all-electric townhomes in Buena Park, California by City Ventures

Those of you familiar with the over 100 Blogs I’ve written in the last 5 years (either from the Homebuilder perspective or the Green Homebuilder perspective) will remember that a consistent and constant theme I use to explain aspects of our business is supply and demand.  Of course my belief ever since studying Economics in college is that supply and demand pretty much explains everything but I’ll leave that for a different Blog.

For this Blog I’m going to update a Blog from a few years back.  In that earlier Blog I made the statement that the future of Green homebuilding was on the demand side of the equation.  I felt that the supply side was constrained by size limitations and the only gains toward true sustainable net zero energy homebuilding would come from product innovations that accomplish what today’s modern homeowners want in their homes but use far less energy in doing so.

Let’s remember that every home has a “supply” of energy to it, and that every home has a “demand” for the use of that energy.   The “grid” is the supply of energy in 99% of all homes.  Net zero energy and sustainable homebuilding are an impossibility using the grid for supply.  Net zero energy means the demand for the energy EQUALS the supply of the energy.  The only way to create net zero energy is that the demander of the energy needs to also be the supplier of the energy.  If the demand equals the supply then a net zero energy situation has been created and that’s the true definition of what we refer to as “sustainable” homebuilding.  The home requires nothing outside of itself or from Mother Nature to “sustain” itself.  Its the ultimate goal of Green homebuilding as the grid requires tremendous natural resources to exist and creates CO2 emissions in the process of creating the energy homes require.  A truly “Unsustainable” strategy.

Solar energy is the answer for Green homebuilders in providing the sustainable energy for homes.  The logical place to put solar is the roof.  Therefore the amount of power that can be supplied is limited by the size of the roof.  There is also an orientation issue but for the most part the amount of power solar energy can provide is limited by the size of the roof.  As a builder of mostly urban infill townhomes, City Ventures has covered the roof with as much solar power as the roof can handle.  Townhome roofs are smaller than typical SFD homes.  This is why I made the statement that demand would be where the next achievements towards net zero energy would be made.  If a 2KW system covers the roof completely than getting more supply is impossible.

But I was wrong for two reasons.

As it turns out innovations on the demand side whereby products that use energy get better and better at using LESS energy have been slow in coming.  LED lighting is probably the only real breakthrough of any magnitude.  Nothing else has made much of a dent.

But two breakthroughs on the supply side have made my years-ago statement that demand is where we’d see the breakthroughs completely wrong.

I’ll talk about both of them next time.

Until then,


green homes city ventures

Last month I made the comment that the housing cycle can cause the Green Movement to go backwards.  I then went on to explain what the housing cycle is, what causes it, and why it probably won’t ever go away.  Now I can expand a little further on what I meant by the original statement.


At the start of the housing cycle, let’s call it stage 1, where supply far exceeds demand from the overbuilding at the end of the previous cycle, prices and costs are both at lows.  Too many homes for sale leads to lower prices and no building going on leads to lower costs.  Builders can’t sell homes, builders aren’t building homes, and labor and materials lower their prices in an attempt to get any work possible.


As we move through the cycle to stage 2 where the inventory of homes starts to sell at the lower prices thereby reducing inventory, supply starts to move back towards equilibrium.  Builders are still starting few homes so costs remain low.  As supply further shrinks, prices start to rise as demand catches up with supply, but new construction is still muted therefore costs remain low.  This part of the cycle is the favorite for builders.  Prices are rising but costs remain low.  In the current cycle this is where builders started to really embrace the Green Movement.  But being Green adds costs.  But it’s also popular with buyers and city governments to be Green.  With rising prices, the additional costs can be covered and therefore justified.


As we move further through the cycle to stage 3, leftover inventory is basically gone and builders are building at a rapid pace again.  This is when costs start to go up.  Labor and material costs increase as demand for them starts to run ahead of supply.  Now we’re experiencing rising prices AND rising costs.  Being Green has now become a part of the building process as more and more builders embrace it especially as their competition adopts it.  The marketing bang for the buck and the City government approval bang for the buck make being Green worth it as builders are able to cover these increased costs with increasing prices.


But now we get to stage 4.  Here the supply of new homes is running ahead of demand for new homes.  Builders are building too many homes but from a macro level it’s not only hard to know it, it’s even harder to convince builders to stop building.  It’s against everything we stand for.  As supply starts too further outpace demand prices stop rising.  Yet costs continue to increase as the demand for labor and materials runs far ahead of supply.  It’s a classic profit squeeze.  Builders now panic trying to figure out how to make more money when prices are not rising yet costs are.  Many decide that removing things from the home to lower costs is the answer.  If labor prices won’t go down, and materials are a choice, many choose to either buy less expensive materials or simply remove materials from the home.


4 Stages of the Housing Cycle

The 4 Stages of the Housing Cycle | City Ventures


Now I get back to my original statement and I’ll use solar as an example.  Back in stage 2, I decided to include solar in my homes to be Green and attract buyers.  Solar is basically a material choice.  It’s not necessary because a home can still hook up to the grid and function perfectly.  Solar is a choice it’s not a must.  Roofing is a must, drywall is a must, concrete is a must.  These are not choices and therefore cannot be considered as possible eliminations.  Let’s say solar costs $10,000 per house.  If its removed and the builder goes back to just hooking up to the grid, he saves $10,000.  It’s that simple.  He doesn’t want to, but stage 4 of the housing cycle almost forces him to go backwards in his Green Movement.  It gets even worse as stage 4 gets to the end and we’re back to stage 1.  Now prices are DROPPING yet believe it or not costs are still rising.  This is the beginning of the end of the cycle and many builders are stripping whatever they can from their homes to stay profitable.  And the first and easiest things to eliminate are what I call the choices.  Almost all Green components of a home are a choice.  The “musts” can’t be touched but the choices can go.  This is what I meant by the housing cycle can cause the Green Movement to go backwards.


City Ventures has not let go of its commitment to Green and have not removed anything we have added as a Green choice.  Nor do we plan on doing so.


Nothing wrong with a little propaganda for doing the right thing.


Until next time,




Without a strong commitment to being Green, the Housing Cycle can cause the Green housing movement to go backwards.  I know it’s a strong statement, but after 30 years in this business the only thing I know for certain is that the housing cycle won’t go away.  There are currently 115 million or so households in the US.  99.9% of these households live in a housing unit.  Every year around a million new households get created mainly through normal population growth.  If all of us 35,000 homebuilders got together and said “Let’s only build a million new houses every year so that we can eliminate the housing cycle”, we could probably eliminate it.


The problem is that most of us homebuilders are a pretty prideful group.  We all think we’re better homebuilders than all the other homebuilders.  We all have a chart in our offices that shows steady growth in the number of homes we will build in the next few years.  Every one of us has this “chart”.  It doesn’t take much of a mathematician to arrive at the conclusion that it’s impossible for all of us to continue increasing the amount of homes we build each year forever.  At some point we will be building more than a million homes.  At the peak of the last housing cycle we all built 2 million homes in one year.  All of our charts looked like they knew what they were doing.  Until they didn’t.  Until we ran out of new households to buy new homes.  The problem is that homebuilding isn’t like a light switch that you can just turn off.  There is a lag time between when we’ve ACTUALLY built too many homes and when we actually REALIZE we’ve built too many homes.  By the time we actually realize we’ve built too many homes….. we’ve built WAY too many homes.


And a crash occurs.


And for a while we build zero homes.  Homebuilders become a banks worst nightmare.  Nobody wants to lend money to build homes.  There are clearly way too many of them.  So we go from 2 million a year to zero.  It defies logic because we clearly don’t stop making more people.  And thus a cycle is created.  We go from zero to 2 million back to zero.  On the surface it sounds insane.  Why can’t we control this?  Let’s never let the number go above a million per year nor below it.  A perfect steady one million new homes every year for the one million new households we create every year.  My guess is even as you read that you realize it’s basically impossible to do.  How do you allocate who gets to build what?  How do you regulate that ?  There’s 35,000 of us, how can anyone believe we could mutually decide on anything let alone how many homes we each get to build.  This is a capitalistic country, we’re supposed to let the natural forces of supply and demand determine market size and market share.  Its dog eat dog.  The consumer votes on who gets to build homes with their pocketbook.  Therefore the cycle will never go away.  As a homebuilder you have to be smart enough to guide your business WITHIN the cycle understanding that the cycle is real and won’t go away and once you believe you can beat the cycle, I almost guarantee you’ll get run over.  The cycle is like Mother Nature and as the old saying goes “Don’t screw around with Mother Nature.”


So being that this is The Green Builders Journal, why am I talking about the Housing Cycle?  Well as my opening statement said, I believe the housing cycle can slow down the Green housing movement that basically started at the bottom of the current cycle.  I made the statement because I believe it.


The problem is I’ve already written too much for this month.


I’ll continue explaining next month.


Until then,


This Blog I wrote in 2013 is worth another read or a first one if you didn’t catch it then. This will be the last Encore Blog I will post as I will write 12 new ones monthly in 2015.

building sustainable green homes can it be done

Building Sustainable Green Homes – Can It Be Done?

May 31, 2013 | Author Herb Gardner

We started the Green Builders Journal as a way to share the perspective of a builder on what it means to us to be Green. As I’ve said a 1000 times in this Blog, Green is one of those words that gets used a billion times a day, but doesn’t have one standard definition. Everyone that uses it has their own definition. The Blog is our way of giving the public our definition. I’m also using it to share some of the interesting stories we’ve encountered on our journey towards being a “cutting edge” Green builder. I’ve teased my two favorite stories a bunch of times by referring to it as the insanity of government and last time I shared the first. Here’s the second. You be the judge on whether you think it’s pretty insane.

The State of California is, and has always been, a leader in encouraging Green building. Long before Green was even a term, the State has been a huge proponent of policies encouraging energy conservation. Because it involves a change of mindset and a new way of doing things, businesses, for a long time, ignored the Green movement and thought of it as government meddling in the capitalistic free market system. This short sighted, lame argument is what businesses always seem to use when they don’t like the idea of having to adapt to real world concerns. The benefit to others outside their businesses always seems to be of less concern than the current earnings of “their” company, and when someone asks businesses to look at the big picture instead of the quarter to quarter profit concerns of themselves, they scream government interference in the free market or another “tree-hugger” protest designed at limiting “their” ability to earn a profit. It didn’t matter that the rate of energy consumption at the time was completely unsustainable. Businesses essentially ignored the energy conservation movement for a long time.

So the State of California implemented through Title 24 of the California Code a compliance “test” for anything wanting a building permit in the State. It was now going to be mandatory for businesses to build more energy efficient homes and buildings. You literally cannot build anything in the State of California unless it “complies” with the “test”. Over time the State has continued to raise the bar of the compliance test as a way of forcing builders to continually evolve in what they build to the point that eventually everything built will be Net Zero Energy. Net Zero Energy means that the energy used by the home or building will be supplied 100% BY THE BUILDING OR HOME. That’s the ultimate definition of sustainability.

We’re a pretty long way from that goal but there’s no question we’re well on our way and the State, through the compliance test, is an example of “good government” because they implemented policies where the benefit of all outweighs the benefit of a few.

Here’s more good news. SCE, the power company has a program for homebuilders where they offer rebates for homes built that are more than 15% above the minimum compliance test. I know they’re technically not a government, but anyone that has ever dealt with them can tell you, it’s not much different. So we have two forms of “good government”. The State mandating a minimum level of energy efficiency, and the power company financially incentivizing a level 15% above that minimum. What a goal for a builder that has already bought into the idea that Green building is the future and the first one to fully figure it out….wins. City Ventures made that commitment when we formed the Company four years ago and incentives makes it an even sweeter and smarter decision.

But that doesn’t sound insane. It sounds like a great government/private partnership doing what’s best for all.

Until next time



With water a VERY hot topic in California right now, I thought I’d make an Encore post of a Blog I wrote on water back in June 2012. Enjoy.

Water Efficiency – An interesting aspect of the “green” movement.

Today I’m going to talk about Water Efficiency.

I find water efficiency one of the more interesting aspects of the “green” movement. First, unlike coal, natural gas or most other natural resources, the supply of water is actually unlimited. And it keeps getting made every day. Second, and probably most important, we actually NEED the stuff to survive. You could make an argument that we couldn’t “survive” as a modern society without the other supply-limited natural resources we’ve grown to rely on in everyday life, but without water we actually CAN’T survive. Our bodies need it to function.

So why do we need to be efficient with an unlimited resource?

The answer to that question is its the procurement and delivery of water that causes the issue. As I said, there’s enough water on the planet to take care of our needs… plus more gets made every day. Actually it recycles itself in a never ending circle whereby even the water we use today ends up falling out of the sky at some point in the future, available to be “used” again. The crux of the issue is it doesn’t always fall out of the sky or end up in the places where we need it the most. At least not today. Before modern civilization, humans ALWAYS chose to live where there’s water. After all our bodies need it to survive and before modern technology made it possible to get water where we want it, if you weren’t close to it, you didn’t last very long. Now that we’ve figured out how to procure and deliver it pretty much wherever we want it, we’ve been able to live in areas of the world that actually have no source of natural water, or a source so small it limits how much growth can occur without modern technology.

At the end of the day the simple answer is that growth of any kind is limited by the amount of water, or more realistically the access to an amount of water, necessary to sustain the population. Especially since the population NEEDS the water for their own biological survival. The more efficient we are with the use of water, the more growth that a given city, state, nation, whatever, can support. As the population grows and the demand for water increases, it’s obvious that if you don’t become more efficient with the use of that water, over time that population will need more water. The cost of procuring and delivering water to a given population, especially one where water isn’t naturally abundant, can be enormous. And sometimes physically impossible. Becoming more efficient with the use of water becomes a necessity, not an option.

Until next time



The Green Builder’s Journal is written by Herb Gardner, President of City Ventures Home Building Group. Herb has 30 years experience managing the building of residential and apartment communities in over 60 municipalities in 3 different states.

A big proponent of in-fill communities and the urban lifestyle Mr. Gardner has extensive experience in all aspects of residential home building, ranging from land acquisition to warranty management, he specializes in managing teams of people in delivering communities on time, on budget and to the quality standards the marketplace demands.

For Questions, Feedback or observations you can Click here to Email Herb