Over three generations spanning hundreds of homes, Scott Colwell and his family have earned a reputation for building dream homes.

Colwell is owner of Colwell Homes, based southwest of Boston, which builds semi-custom and custom homes that are differentiated by quality. That means brand-name materials, the best subcontractors in the market, customer service after the sale, and leading-edge energy efficiency.

“We exceed the state building code by being part of the Energy Star program,” Colwell says. “And I think today’s buyers are much more educated. They understand energy efficiency a lot more today than they did a generation ago. So when they come to us, we have the answers they’re looking for.”

In addition to high-quality insulation, LED lighting, and Energy Star appliances, Colwell typically uses high-efficiency gas furnaces and water heaters to meet those energy-efficiency goals. But natural gas is not available in Maple Park Estates, the community of 68 move-up Colonial-style homes he’s built in Norfolk, Massachusetts. Instead, Colwell has relied on propane to deliver the energy savings and desirable gas amenities his customers expect.

Like fellow builder Emerson Clauss, Colwell has used his leadership in both local and national builders associations to advocate for regulations that keep homes affordable and within reach for more prospective buyers. In the video below, Colwell and Clauss explain why preserving energy choice is one key factor in ensuring today’s new-construction and remodeled homes remain the best housing ever built in this country.

Great design starts in the kitchen

For Colwell, building the home of his clients’ dreams starts in the most important room of the house: the kitchen. “That’s the first thing people look at,” he says. “They look at the quality of the cabinets we’re building. They look at the level of quality of the appliances we’re using. We try to use a higher-end type of appliance, and the big gas range is very popular. Virtually every customer we work with, that’s what they want.” On the deck, the propane line is connected directly to the gas grill to eliminate the need for switching out small propane canisters.

Propane systems also help keep his homes comfortable. Colwell typically installs two high-efficiency propane furnaces (one on the second floor and one on the basement) to allow for multiple zones. Furnaces bring the home to temperature most quickly, especially with the well-insulated building envelope keeping heat inside the home. Gas fireplaces provide a realistic flame and added coziness at the flip of a switch, without the hassle for the homeowner of carrying wood into the house.

Similarly, propane power-vent water heaters or on-demand water heaters bring hot water temperature much more quickly than electric water heaters, Colwell says.

Advocating for fairness

Given the importance of these high-performance home systems, potential buyers would see an all-electric home as a negative, Colwell says. “If they were looking at a new home that didn’t have gas versus an existing home that did, I think they would think twice about that new construction. They would say, ‘Well, wait a minute, this is really important to us — how we heat the home, how we can cook.’ The features of it for your dryer or fireplace. I honestly believe buyers would definitely think twice.”

As a past director of the National Association of Home Builders and past president of the Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston and the state association, Colwell has advocated for policies that keep housing affordable in his state and community. Part of that advocacy has been to battle local communities attempting to override the state code with rules that ban gas in construction — rules that have so far been struck down.

“We have to be constantly looking to the future and understanding that we’re all on one planet,” Colwell says. “We have to work towards a solution, towards providing housing for people that they can afford and improving the environment. And the housing we’re building today is the best housing that’s ever been built in this country.”