Several indicators point to 2004 as a vanguard year for the green building movement as what has been niche moves into mainstream home building.
At Madera in Gainesville, Fla., PATH is testing several green technologies, including high-content fly-ash concrete, a tankless water heater and light-gauge steel framing. Green building systems help Madera homes qualify for 100% financing on the supplemental costs of efficiency upgrades through Fannie Mae’s Home Performance Power program.
Several indicators point to 2004 as a vanguard year for the green building movement. Here's what we see that suggests that green building practices and technologies will make great strides into mainstream home building this year.
From 1990 through 2001, 18,887 U.S. homes were built in accordance with a variety of local green building guidelines. In 2002, builders constructed 13,224 green homes - a 70% increase attributed largely to the growth in the number of green building programs and the maturation of programs started in the '90s.
Another national group championing the green building cause is the U.S. Green Building Council, which created the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. LEED currently focuses on commercial and large multifamily buildings, but the USGBC is exploring development of a LEED rating for homes. The USGBC has formed a committee to examine this potential and is gathering feedback from a broad range of home building professionals.
The growth of market demand will depend on consumer education on the short- and long-term benefits of green building. Savvy builders seize the opportunity to highlight the benefits of the green building products in their homes, even those products already in popular use, such as engineered lumber.
How to emphasize the added value of green building? Stress the things that matter most to your buyers, such as lower energy and water bills, increased comfort, healthy indoor air and increased resale value. Send the message that green homes are quality homes and excellent investments.
A PATH demonstration project in Dallas, The Vistas at Kensington Park, produced highly efficient and durable homes, which included structural insulated panels and fiber-cement siding, for a purchase price of approximately $85,000. New Jersey Green Homes, which evolved from an earlier PATH demonstration site, is building several new developments based on the success of the pilot home.
The NAHB's National Green Building Conference and the USGBC's International Green Building Conference and Exposition attract mainstream home builders. Conferences offered by local and regional green building programs are appearing in growing numbers. In addition, architecture schools are expanding their offerings to address growing demand for sustainable design courses.
Prestige is another key motivator. Industry award programs are recognizing more green builders. Each year, the NAHB Research Center's EnergyValue Housing Awards honor builders who voluntarily integrate energy efficiency into the design, construction and marketing of their new homes. The awards program also educates the home building industry and the public about successful approaches to energy-efficient construction.
Professional Builder's 2003 Builder of the Year award went to Atlanta-area builder Hedgewood Properties, the first builder to commit to building all of its homes to the voluntary EarthCraft House standard developed by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association. Hedgewood has demonstrated convincingly that green building can be profitable and provide a market advantage.
The USGBC's Leadership Awards recognize excellence in green building in the public and private sectors as well as within the council's membership. Also, look for growth in local and regional green building award competitions such as the Northeast Green Building Awards, presented by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association.
It's an exciting time to be building green, and the future seems even brighter - maybe it's all the fluorescent lighting!
Richard Dooley is a specialist in waste management and recycling at the NAHB Research Center. Jennifer Rivera is a project manager with the environmental consulting firm D&R International.