Greening one neighborhood at a time

Friday, February 4, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 5
By Hollie Deese

Mark Deutschmann

Nashville real estate fixture Mark Deutschmann was looking for ways to help the city become more energy efficient. And as the owner of Village Real Estate and the chair of sustainability for the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute, it was only natural for him to focus on homes.

“We ended up pulling together a sustainability committee and we decided we wanted to look at retrofitting houses,” he says. “I realized NES, through TVA, has a really good program to help people get an in-home energy evaluation.”

But tackling the whole city at once was a pretty daunting task. Starting with a more manageable goal seemed the way to go.

“We talked to NES and then we talked to TVA, and as a group decided rather than focus on all of Nashville at first, we would focus on just one neighborhood,” he says.

So Deutschmann started a dialogue with Kristine LaLonde, who at the time was running for the District 18 Metro Council seat.

“We asked if she were elected to council, would she want to try and work toward a sustainability initiative,” Deutschmann says. “We laid out what we were thinking, and she said she would like to do that.”

LaLonde won, and Go Green, District 18 was put on the fast track. The plans for District 18, a neighborhood in the 37206 zip code area, were to lower the kilowatt usage for the entire neighborhood by five percent the first year. The mayor has set a goal to reduce Nashville’s energy usage by at least 20 percent by the year 2020.

“We thought we would get a little jump on that,” Deutschmann says. “We were able to get NES to come in and measure electric usage in the entire neighborhood.”

The next step was to convince homeowners it was in their best interest to get the recommended work done. The incentives being offered proved pretty enticing, and so far 327 people in the district have signed up.

“Our goal is 360, so we are well on our way,” he says. “We’ve been campaigning and door knocking and letting the neighbors talk about it. People are starting to give testimonials to show what they have saved.”

It’s been so well-received, in fact, the group has challenged other districts to get involved, and a few have already begun seeing success. Mike Jameson’s District 6, Energy Fix has seen 70 East Nashville residents sign up. Sean McGuire of District 25 has launched Greener Hills and with 136 interested homeowners.

Initial costs vary depending on the work the homeowner needs, but the initial in-home energy evaluation is $150. That money is refunded, however, if you get any of the recommended work done, such as adding insulation, weather stripping or even replacing an outdated HVAC system. Plus, $1,000 spent results in $500 returned through incentives.

Since December, NES and TVA have paid out $32,180 in incentives.

“If I can get a neighborhood as a group make the commitment to reduce energy, then everybody gets educated,” Deutschmann says. “Even doing the little things makes the biggest difference here.”