What's Seen As Green

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Builders and architects report on their challenges with high-performance homes

Courtesy of Pixabay.com

November 07, 2016

Are some builders trying to make “green” fit what they want it to mean? Nearly two-thirds of the builders that completed Professional Builder’s Green Survey intend to certify next year’s projects as high-performance homes, but a quarter of those respondents—up from 16 percent in 2015—certified this year’s projects themselves rather than using a third party. Rating proponents argue that self-certification effectively means no certification and that getting rated by an objective third party that uses established, measurable standards enables homebuyers to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to claims of sustainability. 

But with so many standards, rating systems, and certification programs in the marketplace, who defines green anyway? For one consumer, green could mean a home that reduces utility bills; for others, green, sustainable, eco-friendly—whatever term you use—means living in a home that minimizes the impact on the environment or promotes respiratory health. 

A Texas production home builder complained that too many builders are marketing green and confusing buyers as to its true benefits. Is a green home a system-built structure from the framing and housewrap to the whole-house ventilation, or is it merely a place that uses Energy Star–rated appliances? 

A slight majority, almost 53 percent, of respondents agreed that green helps sell homes, but more than 47 percent were neutral or disagreed. Many builders wrote in open text comments that green materials need to be more available and price-competitive, and those respondents that self-certify or don’t design or build green homes repeatedly stated that there’s just no demand for it. “There’s a large group of builders out there who say nobody wants it, and a much bigger group of consumers who say they do want it, so I think it’s an ironic disconnect,” says Michelle Foster, VP of innovation services for Home Innovation Research Labs, which administers certifications for the National Green Building Standard. “Buyers don’t ask for lots of things, but builders are supposed to sell it to them, like upgrades, for example.” 

(Click charts to enlarge)

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