By Alessandra Malito
Kim Erle lost her 1940’s cottage home in Southampton during Hurricane Sandy. So when it was time to rebuild, she and her husband decided they were going to make a ‘green home.’
It was a switch she thought would protect her home — and it was a switch in lifestyle and mindset.
“Anyone who is building a house should make one of their goals a sustainable goal,” Erle said.
Erle is one of many people embracing the idea of a sustainable home with her new project Sunset Green Home. What was once a niche market is now becoming a norm for Americans who realize the value of using eco-friendly technologies could benefit not only the environment and their homes but their bank accounts as well.
“That business is starting to pick up,” Gary Painter, director of research at USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, said. “It comes down to the lower costs that are saved.”
According to a McGraw Hill Construction Study, green homes comprised 23 percent of the overall residential construction market. By 2016, it is expected to grow as much as 33 percent of the market. The value of the market, at $36 billion, is expected to be doubled by 2016 as well.
For years, consumers were cautious of going green because of the short-term high costs for the long-term investment. But after careful consideration, and a determination to make her home more sustainable, Erle is spending money now on solar panels that in seven years will pay her bills.
“For some features, there is a temporal shift in costs,” Erle said. “We are making a significant up-front investment in solar photovoltaics. But after a payback period of about 7 years, all of our electricity will be free.”
Alongside the growth in green homes is the rise of its codes and regulations, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program, which certifies the best practices for green homes and buildings. The United States Green Building Council, which sponsors the LEED program, has just celebrated its 50,000 green home since it started in 2007.
“As the consumers become more and more aware of the benefits of living in a healthy green home, the demand will increase,” Kelsey Mullen, director of residential business development at USGBC, said. said. “As the demand increases so will the adoption by homebuilders and apartment developers.”
Becoming LEED-certified is far more extensive than picking up products considered ‘eco-friendly.’ The process includes registering, having preliminary ratings and mid- and post-construction visits and then being ranked in different categories of your certification – LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold and LEED Platinum. Erle is participating in the process, but she says any move toward going green is a step in the right direction.
“Factors that contribute to increased green home building in any particular market can be competition, incentives, code and repeat builders,” Mullen said. “Builders are very aware of what their competition is up to and look to differentiate themselves and their offerings from the competition.”
According to the McGraw study, the willingness to participate in building green homes, by a consumer, has grown exponentially. There are 68 percent of builders who report their customers will pay more for green building in general.
Some states are developing green homes more quickly and efficiently than others. California and Texas are blowing away other states in the country with LEED numbers: California has almost 9,000 and Texas is close behind with a little over 8,000 LEED-certified homes. Some states in the east are seeing more green homes as well, like New York.
California has truly embraced the industry. The government has created a program called CalGreen, which has its own set of mandatory measures for being green and include the way water is administered and irrigation systems.
“Since the 1970s, the State of California has been a leader and innovator on energy and environmental policy,” Don Knapp, a spokesman for Build It Green in California, said.
It is probably more in California than anywhere lately that the need for conservation is dramatically displayed. The state has been suffering from extreme drought conditions, leaving many to reconsider the way they use water.
“More people are realizing that water conservation efforts – which are already strong in California – need to go even further, and there is so much we can do to lessen the water consumption in our homes,” Knapp said.
But regardless the state, green home building is becoming a thing of the future, and it will create competition in the housing market.
“Whenever new kinds of homes are out there, they see an increase in demand that’s going to be competing with existing home demand,” Painter said.