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The Associated Press December 7, 2010, 8:20PM ET

Study: KB Home tops green building rankings

The biggest public homebuilders in the U.S. are making an effort to build more environmentally friendly homes, but they have a ways to go, according to a new study.

Calvert Investments, which evaluates potential investments based on environmental, social and other factors, analyzed the green building practices of the top 10 largest publicly traded homebuilding companies in the nation.

In a study made public Tuesday, Calvert said that, since 2008, the builders have made strides in reducing the impact their business practices have on the environment.

Still, those strides vary widely from builder to builder, and overall, the industry needs to go further, Calvert concluded.

"Given the environmental impact that homebuilding has, the industry has significantly more progress to make," said Rebecca Henson, who co-authored the study.

Homes account for about 21 percent of U.S. energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions, according to the study.

Calvert sized up the builders' land, building materials, energy, water and climate change practices. It relied on public data and some information from homebuilders.

Calvert ranked KB Home ahead of all other builders in the study. The Los Angeles builder also topped the firm's ranking two years ago.

PulteGroup Inc. was ranked second, followed by Meritage Homes Corp. Rounding out the bottom three were NVR Inc., Ryland Group Corp. and MDC Holdings Inc.

The company builds homes with environmentally friendly features such as insulation, low-flow water fixtures, and paints and carpeting with low volatile organic compounds. Earlier this year, it built a model home in Southern California that uses batteries to store energy from solar panels.

KB also has been building communities to meet energy efficiency and water use guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Meritage and NVR also have made national commitments to build all new homes to EPA energy standards, Calvert said.

Out of all the Earth-friendly initiatives, homebuilders have made most progress on energy efficiency, the study found.

That's no surprise to homebuyers who step onto a new home community. Builders have been touting cost savings from energy efficient homes as a selling point as they compete with a glut of previously occupied homes on the market.

The also study found that, the economic downturn hasn't impeded many homebuilders' efforts to become more sustainable.

In addition, Calvert said builders need to provide more information to investors on their green building practices.

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