Green Homes Market Slowly Improves

Green homes are a no-brainer, whether you’re talking the cooling construction industry or our warming planet. A recent study from McGraw-Hill, co-produced and released by the National Association of Home Builders, reported green homes could grow from an unimpressive 23 percent to a competent third of the overall residential construction market by 2016. That’s a value jump from $36 billion to over $100 billion, and it couldn’t have happened without the Great Recession.

“Green experience was a significant part of what kept builders in business during the recession, and now, those same firms are embracing the competitive advantage they earned by deepening their delivery of energy-efficient and green homes,” McGraw Hill Construction VP Harvey M. Bernstein explained in a press release. “We also see firms reentering the market that are using traditional home building practices versus green practices because that’s what they know.”

That’s a dirty problem: According to the World Bank, U.S. manufacturing and construction spewed out nearly 600 million metric tons of emissions in 2011. That’s a far cry from China’s well over 2,000 metric tons for the same, until you factor in that much of the sprawling nation’s overall greenhouse gases are driven by American and European consumption. No matter how you slice and dice the data, construction is a prime driver of climate change, and that needs to change.

It is, however slowly. McGraw Hill’s study was full of stats cheerleading the rise of green homes, and by extension the solar panels that empower them: 51 percent of builders and remodelers found it is easier to market green homes; 68 percent of builders say customers will pay more for green; 84 percent of remodelers report the same with 55 percent reporting customers will pay more than 5 percent for green features.

But McGraw Hill/NAHB found only 16 percent of builders dedicated to green building, which is underwhelming, in a word, for an industry that counts renewable energy nowhere among its list of national priorities, watering down its argument that housing is “normally” responsible for 17 percent of American’s gross national product. (Punch the word “solar” into the NAHB’s site and you won’t get too much in return.)

That said, the NAHB’s International Builders Show blowout in Las Vegas handed out many honors at the NAHBGreen Awards and sold out the premium green features tour of its vaunted, internetworked The New American Home 2014. Its panels came courtesy of SolarCity, which as I wrote earlier recently crowdsourced its funding out to individuals, not just institutional investors. But much more ink and attention was spent on TNAH-2014?s smart management system Milbank Synap6, which centralizes and mobilizes control of everything from its energy loads to its entertainment screens.

Of course, McGraw Hill/NAHB aren’t the only green home evangelists looking into the future and seeing inefficient traditions thankfully changing. North American residential building industry surveyor GuildQuality talked to homeowners who bought a National Green Building Standard certified home in the last three years and found that:

94 percent would recommend a green home to a friend, 92 percent would purchase another green home
71 percent of respondents believe that green homes are, overall, of higher quality
55 percent knew their home may have cost more than a non-green home, but believed the benefits outweighed the cost
90 percent were satisfied knowing they “did the right thing” in buying a green home.
The survey was commissioned by the NAHB and released as well at the International Builders Show in Sin City. It’s not as intriguing news as the new all-solar homes announced by Zero Carbon Solution, a joint venture of Newform Energy and Caplin Homes, which did not appear at the International Builders Show. But it’s a nice set of baby steps, nevertheless.

Let’s just hope green homes grow up much, much faster in the years to come.

This article appeared at Solar Energy