The green building trend that has taken hold across the US in the past few years, and is surprisingly evolving toward a whole new level. Whereas before when there were only a few green real estate developments, today this trend in sustainable development has expanded to whole communities and neighborhoods as well.
The west coast city of Portland has been well known as an urban-design innovator, particularly for its transit-oriented developments, and is noted to be among the pioneers of green building and design.
Single-Family Home Builders Are Now Joining The Trend
The basic tenets behind green building- energy and water-efficient buildings that have features that stress the natural over the chemical, the recycled over the new and the renewable over the finite- have now become firmly mainstream.
According to environmental and real estate consultants, big developers today are slow to move, but they still see a using eco-friendly designs and materials green building. Even in the suburbs, which are home to large-scale builders of single-family homes, there is a lot more consumer interest swelling. In a McGraw-Hill Construction survey done in March of 2006, it forecasted that green building would reach a “tipping point” in 2007 and that two-thirds of US builders will be constructing greener homes.
Why Home Builders See The Need To Go Green
Home builders and real estate developers and are not simply riding the green building trend purely out of a sense that it’s the right thing to do. The housing and development industry knows that they can’t afford to be left behind. By 2007, it is expected that at least 6% of the nation’s non-residential construction, which represents a $15 billion slice of the industry, will be green, according to green-building experts, as six years ago it was less than 1%. More real estate developers are finding that using green technologies and construction materials adds no more than 1%-2% to total costs, which area easily recovered through energy savings.
Offering Incentives For Developers To Go Green
At present, the federal government, 15 states and 46 cities now require new public buildings to fully comply with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), that requires the use of non-toxic building materials, among other things.
Four states and 17 cities now offer incentives for LEED-rated private buildings. The Green Building Council has certified nearly 550 buildings across the country since 2002, and recent real estate developments have adopted eco-friendly standards by creating greener multi-structure projects, such as South Waterfront in Portland, Oregon. The Green Building Council is also working on creating LEED standards for single-family homes as well.
The corporate world was the first to see the value of going green that are way beyond energy savings. Businesses and companies now notice less absenteeism among workers, less time lost to asthma, allergies and other illnesses aggravated by mold, stale air and chemicals found in many conventional buildings.
However, to large corporations like Ford, Bank of America, Target, Toyota, Honda, Starbucks,Adobe and others, going green also was about image-building as well as cleaning up the environment and cutting costs. Many corporate giants know are aware that aside from image-building, the products they make should also be green, along with their manufacturing processes and factories as well.
Consumer interest in green building exploded in 2007, and it’s still growing. Thanks to extensive media coverage, an increasing number of consumers are becoming familiar with sustainability and green building. Newspapers warn about climate change and soaring gas prices. Retail giants like Wal-Mart have adopted sustainable practices and opened green stores. Hollywood has jumped on the green bandwagon, incorporating green practices in its 2008 Oscars. Home and garden television shows offer a steady stream
of shows promoting green living.
As the media pushes green building into the mainstream, consumers are becoming more attuned to the benefits of green homes. Homebuilders have an opportunity to meet consumer demand by adopting practices that improve the energy efficiency, durability, and indoor air quality of homes. It’s important to know the variety of consumer attitudes about green building in order to respond to the changing market.
Consumer uncertainty: Is green building more hype than reality?
Some consumers are skeptics and wonder about the hype surrounding green building. They may acknowledge that green is an effective marketing strategy, but they question companies’ motives for advertising a product or home as green. Many of these consumers are cautious of greenwashing, a tactic that companies use to mislead consumers into thinking their products or practices are green when they’re actually not. Homebuilders must be able to prove to these consumers that they’re homes are legitimately green.
Consumer profile: Who buys green homes?
People who buy green homes can’t easily be lumped into one category. They buy for different reasons. A family may find a green home appealing because they want their kids to grow up in a healthy home without allergens and toxins. Empty-nesters may be attracted to the cheaper utility bills.
For a growing number of consumers, green building is not a hard sell. These consumers have done their research; they’re concerned about reducing their ecological footprint or impact on the environment. They understand that energy-efficient homes can alleviate global warming and soaring gas prices even more than hybrid cars can. In some cases, they’re more knowledgeable than the homebuilder and can shop around for green features. Many others recognize the benefits of a green home, but their understanding is
Consumer values: What are the benefits of green building?
The key to selling green homes is to understand the values that consumers hold and what motivates them to buy green products. In other words, the best way to market green building is to educate homebuyers on its benefits. Realize that sustainability and environmental benefits won’t resonate with everyone. However, if you frame the benefits of green homes in terms of indoor air quality, comfort, and economy, you’re more likely to convince buyers that green homes have a direct impact on their health, happiness, and quality of life. Avoid using the vocabulary of the builder-”energy recovery ventilators” means little to most buyers, but lower utility bills and fresher indoor air make a whole lot of sense. The more relevant you make green building to consumers, the more they’ll recognize its value.
As an internet platform for green, energy efficient and sustainable homes, we have reviewed some interesting and creative verbiage used by some sellers in the real estate marketplace. In the environmental business we call this “green washing”.
Green washing is when someone uses “green” terminology to help drive more interest to an otherwise typical (in this case) home for sale, in a currently flat and bloated real estate market.
This “green” terminology could be words such as:
- Healthy environment
We’ve seen ads that would say “a solar home”, when all they really had was a wall that faced south.
Or maybe the home just has CFL’s (compact florescent lighting) and not much else in the home. Although minimal improvements help the environment in a small way, there are cool innovative green homes out there that are making heads really turn in a BIG way. includes ( loves to promote) innovative building technologies that we believe will make the quickest (and the biggest) change in the environment regarding the way we live, the homes we live in and the way we build them.
Things we take for granted every day, do have a direct impact on global warming. The toilets we flush, the indoor air we breathe, the utility bills we pay; all these everyday duties affect the environment and our health.
There currently are so many new technologies in sustainable home building, that we could make a huge impact right now, not years later. We can currently heat most of our water with thermal solar and not the black stuff you see on roofs, but innovative glass tubes that absorb UV rays year-round; recycle all our grey water (sinks and showers) and redirect that water to flush our toilets; building design and orientation to take advantage of the natural heating and cooling effects in a particular location; construct living environments utilizing innovative building materials that may come from recycled or renewable sources that also offer a tremendous R-factor.
A one-two punch in not only saving our limited building material resources, but also less requirement from fossil fuels and the like, to heat and cool our homes everyday.