Demand for Green Homes Leads To New Home Building Approaches

An increased interest in sustainable homes is changing how homes are made

By BRIANNA FRIES

 

Green and sustainable home building has become the trend of the day, month, and year. The age of eco-friendly homes being seen as an outlier in the home building world is long gone. Now, green, sustainable, and energy efficient homes are in demand and rapidly becoming the new norm.

Major buyer profiles have already begun to make their mark in regards to what will increase the likelihood they will sign on the dotted line for a new home. A survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) looked at what features different generations would consider essential in a new home. The overall response was that “energy-efficient strategies, including ENERGY STAR appliances and windows and above-code insulation, made the most-wanted list and would positively influence the purchase decision of 80 percent or more of all home buyers.” Water efficient features also showed up as being desired by up to 72 percent of survey participants.

Even if we look at a specific buyer profile, we can see the trend toward a desire for green homes. Nearly 40 percent of Millennials surveyed by the NAHB said they would want an environmentally friendly home. Sustainable building trends have become more established and demand for them is increasing rapidly.

We now know that building remarkably energy-efficient and sustainable homes isn’t as expensive as originally thought. For example, Zocalo Community Development has created a LEED Gold registered, 55+ multi-family development in Littleton, CO that features energy efficient apartments for affordable rent pricing. What’s more, they have been creating affordable housing that is LEED certified for years!

Combine this with state-wide trends, such as the new California mandate that all new homes be equipped with solar panels by 2020, and it seems like green building methods for sustainable homes will become the norm sooner rather than later.

It is encouraging to see that data, trends, and demands are being heard. Homebuilders have already jumped into creating eco-friendly and sustainable single-family homes, multifamily homes, retirement communities, and active adult homes in ever increasing numbers.

Sustainability is changing how we build our homes

We can already see how the demand for eco-friendly and energy efficient living is beginning to affect not only the way homes are built, but also the way they are structured. Primarily, we are seeing this in the smaller sizes of new homes being built. Smaller homes are easier to seal, regulate, and maintain, keeping costs low for energy, water, and even the materials purchased to build the home. The lower cost of these homes is even drawing millennials, who are ever careful about their spending on all things to do with a new home, from the home’s price to the cost of the furniture they put in it.

Making homes with smaller interior floor plans has led to another new home design trend: making better outdoor spaces. This is a perfect response, as the demand for outdoor living is also on the rise with the same markets that are seeking green homes.

According to NAHB, Baby Boomers are more active than previous generations, leading them to look for homes with easy to maintain outdoor areas, larger windows, and flex spaces that they can adjust according to their needs. Similarly, Millennials, now that they are finally starting to enter the home buying market, are on the lookout for energy efficient homes with unique floor plans, and spaces that emphasize health and wellness and encourage activity and outdoor living.

As floor plans for the interior of new homes change, we are seeing floor plans for outdoors spaces increase. Potential buyers are spending just as much effort decorating their outdoor areas as they are their indoor areas. And the love of the outdoors doesn’t stop there; homebuilders have to adapt to an increased demand for home designs that use large windows, glass walls, folding doors and more to blur the lines between the indoor and outdoor space of the homes.

The increased demand for environmentally-friendly homes has already left its mark on the home building market as green home standards like net-zero homes, passive houses, and geothermal homes are on the rise. For the time being, this means building eco-friendly homes with smaller interior floor plans, designs that blur the indoor and outdoor areas, and well-designed outdoor spaces, all of which emphasize health and wellness. From what we’ve seen, this has created some beautiful indoor/outdoor designs and has challenged builders to put their best foot forward in terms of building green.

It is exciting to think that the future can only be better, and greener, than ever before.

Brianna Fries is an Assistant Editor for Green Home Builder magazine. She can be reached at brianna@penpubinc.com