ENERGY STARS: Launched 25 years ago, every home Providence Homes builds is Energy Star-certified

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  • | 12:00 p.m. June 9, 2017
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By Maggie FitzRoy, Contributing Writer

During the recession of 1992, Bill Cellar got a good deal on a couple of lots in a Jacksonville subdivision and launched his business, Providence Homes.

He built a spec house on one of the lots, closed on it in 1993 and has kept going ever since.

“Built one house the first year, then two the next year, then doubled every year,” said Cellar, whose company officially celebrated its 25th anniversary April 28.

His first year in business, Cellar said he was his only employee — “chief cook and bottle washer.”

Now, his company builds about 200 homes a year, with models in many Northeast Florida communities.

Providence Homes also was awarded an Energy Partner of the Year award in April by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Since this was the third year in a row the Jacksonville-based builder earned that designation, the company also received an Energy Partner Sustained Excellence Award during the ceremony April 26 in Washington, D.C.

“We were one of seven builders nationally to receive the award for sustained excellence, said Robert Goettlicher, vice president of sales and marketing. “And the only one in Jacksonville.”

Every home it builds is Energy Star-certified, President and COO Sean Junker said. Providence’s homes range in price from the low $200,000s to the $800,000s, but they concentrate on making every one they build energy efficient — a byproduct of building a better and tighter house, constructed according to building science techniques.

It’s possible for a builder to build one home that meets Energy Star standards “and say they are an Energy Star Builder. But that can lead to a misunderstanding, because it doesn’t mean your home is Energy Star,” Junker said.

Energy Star homes are built to strict standards, and “most of our homes are 50 percent more efficient than a code-built home today. With that comes a healthier, quieter, more comfortable home,” he said.

Providence Homes joined the Energy Star program in 2009 after the EPA made the designation available to new homes.

Long used as a rating for appliances, homes built with the Energy Star label must meet stringent requirements that show they are designed and built to standards above the local building code.

They must be inspected, tested and verified by an independent third party and must be at least 20 to 30 percent more energy efficient than comparable code-built homes.

Providence builds its homes according to a system designed by a mechanical engineer that includes proper duct design, windows, doors, HVAC engineering, insulation and air filtration, Goettlicher said.

Providence also uses advanced framing techniques to assure homes are airtight and draft free to eliminate air leaks and maintain indoor air quality.

“If it was just about parts, everybody would just buy the parts,” Goettlicher said.

Instead, “this is a process that requires time and money,” he said.

It also saves the homeowner money. Based on an average of 367 homes that closed over the last two years, he said, “our homes are on average saving homeowners $798 a year in energy costs.”

Locally owned, and building only in Northeast Florida, Providence bills itself as “Jacksonville’s hometown builder.”

Cellar built his first home in 1992 in the Marietta Forest community on the Westside. The company now is building in many communities in St. Johns County, including Nocatee, where it has been active since 2012.

Providence’s primary targeted market is families, Junker said, so it concentrates on neighborhoods with the best schools, and attracts move-up buyers who often are buying their second or third home.

One of four builders in Nocatee’s new Outlook at Twenty Mile neighborhood, Providence offers a diversity of products on 60-, 70- and 80-foot-wide lots there.

Until recently, it featured a “Discovery House” in Twenty Mile Village that was purposely left half built so that customers and Realtors could look behind the walls to see the energy techniques and materials used, including insulation.

Providence applies spray foam under the roof deck that seals the home at the roof line, Goettlicher said. Completely sealing the attic, “it allows us to move the air-conditioning unit from inside the house into the attic,” he said.

The attic becomes conditioned space, which picks up square footage inside the house, as much as 60 to 80 square feet.

Cellar is proud of how far his company has come in a quarter-century, and its dedication to energy efficiency and quality building practices.

“I think of us as the best of the local, private builders in Jacksonville,” he said. “We are getting a great reputation. But at the end of the day, we have to build a great product, a great house, and on top of that, stay advanced.”