Building on the Green Momentum

This is part one of a two part series. Click here to read part two, High-Performance Strategies (opens in a new tab).

By Michelle Diller

How prevalent is green building activity in the residential marketplace? Are single-family and multifamily builders using green, high-performance strategies, systems and products in their homes?  Why or why not, and if so, what types? Does green cost more? What type of consumer is willing to pay more for a better performing home? Is the added value of green reflected during the sale?

The National Association of Home Builders, in partnership with Dodge Data and Analytics, has been surveying builders to capture this information since 2006. The latest iteration surveyed single-family and multifamily builders and remodelers across the United States about market activity, marketing, drivers and obstacles, and products and practices through four short, separate surveys. Respondents were also asked to identify their level of green building activity based on the in-survey definition (below). The results obtained from 2000 responses are packaged in the 2020 Green Single-Family and Multifamily Homes SmartMarket Brief.

In-survey definition: A green home incorporates strategies in design and construction that increase energy, water and resource efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and minimize environmental impacts on the site; and/or is certified by a third-party to the National Green Building Standard, LEED for Homes or any other green rating system.

Using these results as a benchmark of the high performance landscape can help building professionals emerging from the coronavirus-induced shock to the industry with business model adjustments as they look to respond to customers who have just spent months living hard at home and developing a heightened awareness of how efficient and comfortable (or not) their current home is.

Some builders are already seeing that customer.

“People have decided that they should live in a healthy home that can and will generate their own utilities,” reports Darrel McMaster of Sustainable Homes, Inc. in Boerne, Texas. McMaster has been ‘swamped’ by requests for his off-the-grid custom homes since March.

Jerud Martin of Urban NW Homes in Vancouver, Washington has seen an increased demand for HVAC technology that promotes healthy indoor air as people shelter in place at home.  “Extremely efficient furnace systems with heat recovery ventilation [HRV] and HEPA filters have been our standard for quite some time, when we help clients with respiratory illnesses or allergies,” said Martin when asked about recent customer demand.  “Now we are getting more requests for ductless heat pump systems, combined with HRV and “Air Scrubber” technology, where we minimize the duct work, recover some energy used to condition the indoor air and treat fresh air so it has the ability to neutralize allergens and kill bacteria on solid surfaces, such as counters and door handles in our homes.”

Highlights from the 2020 SmartMarket Brief

A main takeaway of the survey is that several areas of green building have become mainstream in the residential building market, regardless of if a builder or remodeler identifies as green. This market penetration can position builders to respond to a heightened customer awareness of efficiency, comfort and indoor air quality. Also critical to pivoting their business to serve new customer expectations is: communicating the high-performance aspects of their homes to customers in language they connect to; showcasing the homes’ high-performance features in real estate listings; and ensuring the appraisal reflects the value of the high performance products and systems in the home.

Michelle Diller is program manager, sustainability & green building at NAHB. Have a question about NAHB’s sustainability efforts? Click here to connect.

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