The new chairman of NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building subcommittee shares his goals and outlook for 2021
Green Home Builder: Congratulations on your incoming role as Chairman of the NAHB Sustainability & Green Building subcommittee. What are some of the things the subcommittee is responsible for? What goals do you have for the subcommittee in 2021?
Brandon Bryant: The subcommittee is there to be a voice in anything having to do with sustainability, green building and all of these initiatives. One of the main things is the National Green Building Standard (NGBS), promoting and encouraging the use of that. I think we do a lot more stuff that’s monitoring policies and legislation. With a new administration coming in, there’s a possibility that there’s new stuff coming out that we’ll need to be picking up on and advising on. As for goals, our subcommittee is producing some amazing stuff, so one would be promoting what we put together and being a voice and resource to NAHB members that are interested in green building.
GHB: You mentioned being a resource to builders who might be interested in green building. What would you say to builders who are on the fence about offering green products and getting into this market?
BB: There’s a ton of research you can do out there and there’s a lot of resources. But the way to make it is to get a great green rater and to make sure that you’ve got great trade partners, like having a great HVAC subcontractor. So I’d really say to builders that are looking to do it is you’ve got to get a certification because that gives you a checklist and gives you a way to go about doing it. Just having a green rater there to verify and coach you through it — it really helps you make informed decisions. I always tell people that you don’t have to hit a homerun the first time. Just get an entry-level certification then build on that knowledge base.
GHB: When it comes to marketability, how important is it for buyers to understand what energy-efficient features are in their home and how would you pitch that?
BB: I think right now, especially with interest rates at an all-time low, we’re asking more from our houses. We’re working from home or doing more school work in them, so that energy bill is probably higher for almost every American. So it’s important to understand what that monthly cost truly is. It’s the mortgage plus your power bill and all the other bills that come with that. You start looking and comparing the two and it’s a good apples-to-apples comparison. You can look at it and say, “okay, this is my monthly cost of this ownership,” as opposed to just looking at mortgage. So, you may spend a little more money on the home, but your monthly payment potentially will be less. I think it’s important for them to know that. I don’t think energy is a big motivator to some people, I just think that as builders we can do a better job marketing certain aspects of it. The auto industry does a good job at simplifying it down to just the monthly payments and helping customers figure out whether or not they can make it or not.
GHB: 2020 was obviously a year that changed the lives of many. What is your overall outlook on green homebuilding in 2021 and beyond?
BB: I think it’s going to be really positive. There’s going to be a switch from the conversation of energy efficiency to more health and wellness. I think the marketplace is asking more questions about their homes. No one wants a house that’s making them sick, right? I think it’s a really exciting time to be in green building.
GHB: Are there any trends that you’ve noticed that have emerged or been accelerated by the pandemic?
BB: One trend is that green homes don’t have to be ugly. It doesn’t mean they’re ugly. The number one trend is really looking at homebuilding as holistically as possible, as a great built house, a well-designed house that becomes the fabric of your community. People will go to great lengths to take care of houses that are well-designed and with beautiful architecture. So I think a more core value of green home building is a beautiful design.
And then there’s the health and wellness aspect of it. I think there’s also the component to the emotional wellness. I didn’t think that when I decided to be a builder 15 years ago that I knew that I would be looking into the building science of stuff as much as I was looking into the emotional wellness side of it. If you look at homebuilding, we’re providing the single biggest purchase for somebody. We’re providing where all their memories are — so many things emotionally are tied to homes. And that emotional wellness can be tied to things like the paint colors, the connectivity to nature and more. There’s so many things we’re doing to affect somebody’s life. So we’re able to have a positive affect on them. If we just took a moment to think about it.
GHB: You’ve received numerous accolades for your work in green building, such as NAHB’s Green Professional of the Year. Talk about what it takes for a green building professional to take that next step to go above and beyond the call to a greener, more resilient future.
BB: I’m 41 and I’m in Gen X. My generation and the generation after us (millennials), are really looking to do something to make more of an impact and a difference. From that, it’s ingrained me as a green building professional to go a little bit farther and not look at building codes as the standard, but really looking at where the standard should be at my company and where’s the impact this makes. I don’t think you get into green home building for the profit and all that, you’re really coming into it at a whole different approach. This is really about asking yourself what can you do not only for the Earth, the environment and the next generation, but for the people today as well.
Also, it’s about taking some risks to, because there’s a lot of risks to it. When I started 15 years ago, it was more of the wild West, right? We were still trying to figure it out. You have to a little bit of that risk-taker mentality. I know this is a good thing but you know, there was nobody out there to tell me how to do this.
GHB: IBSx is on the horizon. What energy-efficient, green events or education panels should our readers know about?
BB: There’s eight different education classes varying from entry-level green building, all the way to full electrification of homes. The high performance zone is still with us virtually. It’ll look a little different of course. And I’m on a panel of an education class. What I like about this is that it’s 60 design ideas in 60 minutes. Typically, it’s one of the top five education classes.
GHB: Is there anything else you’d like to add that we didn’t go over?
BB: From a green building standpoint, and going back to how people can get involved and get started, I think people should take a holistic approach to green building, meaning we can’t just focus on one sector like energy. When you focus on health and comfort, energy-efficiency ultimately results from that. You can’t just focus on one area because there’s always this cause-and-effect. And that’s one of the biggest reasons I’m involved in the subcommittee. We certify every home we build to a green certification and because I’m doing a lot of things, there is no standard or a code that tells me, “Oh, you can’t do that.” It’s really “all systems are working together.”
At Red Tree, from 2020 to 2021, all of our homes are Zero Energy Ready. We’ve got a program going with Panasonic on intake and all that, as well. We just won Best American Living Design Awards from one of our green-built homes.