Standardization in homebuilding could help ease concerns over the climate crisis
By Camille Manaloto
In 2022, there’s no question that the climate crisis is, in fact, a crisis. The southwest region of the country is experiencing major drought while the east is being destroyed by hurricanes and flooding. Regardless, these areas are some of the most desirable for homebuyers, and they are willing to move in search of the “perfect” home.
Alongside this issue comes housing regulations. While many individual builders are becoming more sustainable on their own accord, many choose not to for varying reasons. Whether it be the rigorous standards, time it takes to build or the cost of building these homes, for many smaller builders the option to build green homes is not in their best interest.
The homebuilding industry is one of the largest contributors to CO2 emissions, and building green homes should be standard. With government funding and regulation of building codes, these issues could start to feel some relief. The government has programs in place, like the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR, Indoor AirPLUS and WaterSense programs. There are also national building codes in place that individual states are able to modify, adding varying degrees of sustainability. Although, many states are very lenient when it comes to green building.
When it comes to sustainable building, the U.S. falls behind many countries. In a study run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) called the Green Future Index, 76 countries were ranked on progress for working towards green futures, with the U.S. ranked 40th on the list.
Last month, Don Neff, President of LJP Construction Service, shared with us technology that the U.S. should adopt from European countries in his Builder & Developer column, “Leading Edge Homebuilding Technologies.” He shared several green technologies that are either standard or widely used in Europe. Aerogel insulation, transparent solar panels and dynamic glass windows are a few of the listed technologies.
“It is not surprising that solutions from Europe and elsewhere are being utilized in the U.S. and we expect to see wider scale adoption in the future,” Neff said. “Thinking beyond these ideas, American builders are well positioned to take advantage of innovative product solutions from domestic research and development labs and from Europe as well.”
Earlier this year, President Biden signed an order committing the government to becoming net-zero by 2050. An article from Raconteur touches on incentivising homebuilders as well as buyers. Building and buying green homes comes at a cost, and in this economic downturn, both are looking for relief.
Incentives from the government could include “preferential interest rates for mortgages on environmentally friendly new-builds, and harmonized standards on what constitutes green building so that tenders can be compared like for like on their sustainability credentials.
Since the pandemic, sustainable and healthy homes have been a trend for homebuyers. In 2021, while the market was hot, green homes were selling left and right as buyers were able to buy their dream home at a low price. As the market cools, more and more buyers are pulling out due to massive increases in new home prices, and extra amenities are becoming less important. For builders who are already struggling with supply issues, paying extra for sustainable materials and fees to certify, may not be a priority either.
On the brighter side of things, many organizations have been formed in hopes of combatting the climate crisis and guiding homebuilding professionals in doing their part for the planet. With accredited certification programs such as LEED and NGBS, more organizations are becoming inspired to do their part and make health central to building performance.
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) recently announced the WELL Performance Rating, a new rating system that aims to provide a roadmap for homebuilders to demonstrate excellence in occupant experience and building performance across key indoor environmental quality (IEQ) indicators related to air quality, water quality, thermal comfort, acoustics and lighting.
With the guidance from green organizations, standardization of sustainable practices and government funding, the homebuilding industry could start to see drastic improvements in emissions and Biden’s net-zero initiative could be more achievable.
Camille Manaloto is the Editor of Green Home Builder. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.