The Housing Chronicles Blog: The future of green homebuilding

Friday, May 16, 2008

The future of green homebuilding

Although 'green building' has been noted a lot the last couple of years, it wasn't until recently that homebuilders have instituted a national set of standards to bring various local groups together. On a local level -- such as in Atlanta, GA -- green building techniques have helped to spike sales while offering homebuyers greater efficiency in a time of scarce energy resources.

My most recent article for Builder & Developer magazine discusses these trends in more detail:

It was in early 1977 when a newly elected President Jimmy Carter donned a cardigan sweater on national television, urged Americans to do the same and then asked them to turn down their thermostats to conserve energy. But who could guess that he was on the forefront of a movement towards resource sustainability that would take another 30 years to coalesce? Not only has green building and conservation emerged as the most important trend in homebuilding, but according to some experts will help drive the U.S. economy once the current recession eventually rebounds...

...according to the NAHB 2007-2008 Consumer Preference Survey as analyzed by Jonathan Smoke at, nearly 90% of respondents are concerned about the impact their homes have on the environment. Yet because only 16% are willing to pay extra to address that concern, homebuilders would be wise to first target those consumer segments actually willing to spend a premium. Fortunately, Smoke thinks three of his defined consumer groups fit into this category, including “Feature and Location,” “Elite” and “Active Adult Elite” buyers, who share in common a desire for quality, prestige and community. To further increase the odds of success, he suggests builders focus on top-rated green items including Energy Star-rated windows, energy-certified appliances and generous insulation while getting rid of now-dated design features such as two-story foyers which are expensive to heat and cool...

For those harried sales agents already under pressure to explain the specifics of a home plan and neighborhood, when it comes to explaining green building – or green mortgages, which allow buyers to qualify for higher loan amounts when they’re buying energy-certified homes -- it’s best to let simple displays in the model homes and colorful collateral in the sales office do the talking.

With some clever design elements, that collateral could easily double as a benefits list for comparison shopping – and pity the poor builder who thinks green building is just another fad, because they’re now in the minority. In a 2007 survey conducted by Professional Builder, 70% of homebuilders agreed that this is a trend that’s here to stay, and of those respondents, 83% considered it extremely important to their marketing strategy which has had a positive impact on sales.

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