Perhaps Kermit should explain what it means to be green. He could probably give a clearer answer than home builders, buyers, and Realtors possibly could. After all, he was born green.
Building green is a real conundrum for home builders. There is no national standard by which the ground rules are defined. There are currently some 80 different building organizations, local and national, promoting their own set of guidelines for what consitutes a green home.
The plethora of varied guidelines and the lack of a national standard creates confusion in the green marketplace for builders and buyers. The National Association of Home Builders is working on standards for green building but running into some resistence. But this is like asking the National Association of Realtors to promote a labyrinth for Realtors to traverse in order to sell a house.
Commercial buildings generally go for the LEED certification through the US Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Desisgn. The residential LEED program is not as long-lived and is still operating under a pilot program which costs the participating builder a $2,000 inspection fee for certification. The inspection fee is in addition to any additional construction cost to build or bring homes within LEED compliance.
A builder is likely to build a green house only if:
- it furthers their ability to sell their product,
- it adds value to the home in the eyes of the buyer (same thing really),
- government regulations force them to thereby leveling the playing field,
- it does not deduct from the bottom line.
A buyer is likely to buy a green home only if:
- they hold a firm belief that it is the only responsible decision and is willing to pay for that contribution to the environment, or,
- it doesn't involve a sacrifice either in terms of cost or housing preference.
Will building green give a builder the advantage in capturing the attention of a buyer? Probably so with all other things being equal. Marketing green is no doubt a positive message and buying green, with caveats, is self-satisfying for buyers. We all want to be seen as doing right thing for society.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that a typical house emits approximately 3 tons of carbon every year. A typical car is responsible for 1.5 tons a year. To put all this into perspective, a heifer emits up to 300 pounds of methane a day thanks to a ruminant stomach. The natural gas is 20 times worse for the atmosphere than CO2, but it dissipates faster. (This was not from the EPA but from Wired Magazine.) The "C" word has a scary connatation and now implies new terrors of CARBON.
Is it enough, however, for a builder to market their homes as green when no one has a clear idea of what that means? Seems like an empty promise to me. Some builders say that green homes tend to sell much faster than traditionally built homes but there is no real way to quantify that statement.
With the housing slump and credit crunch we may have to wait until better times to make huge advancements in the residential green business. Maybe by then reasonable, effective, sellable, national-wide standards can be tailored for home builders that will render new houses sustainable. Today, the name of the game is survival.
The green movement seems to be an unstoppable train with a few decades of steam behind it. Sustainability is probably the most often used term, other than "green", by devoted developers, land planners, architects and real estate futurists. Now that the effects of global warming can be seen with the naked eye (vs. the invisible consequence) the regular man on the street is covertly drinking water out of a designer plastic bottle.
Being green is our only responsible choice, but I can't help but feel that to some degree it is like the health warnings which change daily. One day it is only acceptable to drink spring water, the next you might be pegged as a Communist if you don't drink tap water. One day our saving grace is tomorrow's deadly threat. But to not try to leave a smaller footprint on the planet is not acceptable.
We know too much to turn back now.