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Rebates encourage nearly half of those rebuilding after Marshall Fire to build more efficient homes

So far, Boulder County said, 41% of Marshall Fire survivors with permits to rebuild are rebuilding to high energy efficiency standards.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Nearly half of Marshall Fire survivors who have permits to rebuild will construct more energy-efficient homes, in part because of tens of thousands of dollars worth of rebates meant to encourage greener options, Boulder County said.

So far, 41% percent of residents with permits to rebuild are rebuilding with "high-performance" homes, the county said. 

The county cited data from California wildfire recoveries where only 6% of residents took part in similar programs. 

"It’s a little unheard of to have this level of participation," Boulder County Built Environment Coordinator Zac Swank said. "We hope this is a model and can change the narrative of 'It's way more expensive to build a high-performance home' to 'This is something we should look into and it's within reach.'" 

In fact, he said, the rebates make building a high-performance home cheaper than building a traditional one in some cases. 

But homeowners who opted for energy-efficient rebuilding said the thousands of dollars in Xcel and Boulder County rebates helped make the greener homes affordable. 

"With the incentives that everybody put in place, it just made a lot of sense for us to go that direction," said Greg Harms, who estimated he will receive $50,000 in rebates for selecting a "passive home" rebuild -- one of the most energy efficient.

"There were a whole lot of reasons to do it and not very many reasons not to, so we decided to go for the most efficient house we could possibly make," he said.

He added he would "probably not" be able to afford the option without the rebates. 

"The money certainly helps," Swank said. "I think the incentives are a huge part of how we’re getting these participation rates."

But he said as more builders get used to the green designs, the cost may come down even without the rebates.

"For us, for the community, for the building professional community, there’s a lot of lessons learned here that we can possibly carry forward," he said. "Incorporating these principles [like] adding a little extra insulation while you’re already putting your insulation in the first place, it’s not that much more expensive."

Harms thinks rebate incentives should be expanded to more people to encourage the green building. 

"I think anything we can do to encourage people in this direction is a good thing. It’s good for our environment, it’s good for our independence, it’s good for the future of our planet," he said.

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