Sustainable building practices will continue to progress until they become the norm of the industry
By ABBY PITTMAN
Change is happening. We are improving. Green and sustainable designs are becoming the norm, and we are on the verge of something wonderful.
Not long ago, I was scrolling through Facebook (possibly a dying pastime, but a pastime nonetheless) when a sponsored article popped up from Buzzfeed titled How Normal Are Your Home Energy Habits – sponsored by Southern California Edison. Shortly after, another article popped up: If You Can Ace This Quiz, You Definitely Care About Energy Efficiency. In my opinion, Buzzfeed became a media powerhouse through their endless viral quizzes – these are quizzes that get millions of clicks. Bored students and professionals are just dying to know what kind of cat they are, or how they will meet their soulmate based on their Olive Garden order. They also want to know about energy efficiency. That, my friend, is progress.
In this digital age, a world of information is at your fingertips. It takes but a few clicks to search for data on things like global warming, overpopulation, climate change, and more. The consumer has never been so informed. You would think that all this information would lead to better choices – and maybe it has, but despite access to endless information, there is still a gap in consumer education when it comes to a sustainable home. Green building is on the rise to becoming the norm, and new developments are happening everyday. The whole point of this magazine, Green Home Builder Magazine, is to showcase the greenest of green designs and to exemplify that it is not that hard to build green. Our hope is that, by showing beautiful project after project, all of which are certified green, more and more builders will take the road less traveled and begin incorporating sustainability into their designs. But the issue is not always just the builder needing to build greener. Often, what stops a builder from building green is not the price tag, or the process, but instead, the lack of consumer education, which leads to a perceived lesser interest in their product.
One of my personal favorite features from this issue is a profile on Builder of the Year, Meritage Homes. Meritage has made it their standard practice to build green, while actively trying to change the norms of the homebuilding industry at the same time: “Throughout the country, the last remaining barrier isn’t the ability to build green homes, the barrier is to promote the appraisal and transaction process to validate that to the consumer when they buy it,” Vice President of Innovation, CR Herro, explained in an in-depth interview which you can read on page 82.
Herro outlined a very specific problem that the green homebuilding industry is facing – builders can build green, but buyers will not automatically default to BUYING green until they are educated on the cost benefits that go along with owning an energy efficient home. This highlights how, despite it being the age of the Internet, it is important that buyers and realtors are educated on what the total cost of a home is in order to make an informed decision.
“We have to do a better job at educating our buyers about what the true cost of a home is,” Herro pointed out. “It’s not just what you pay for, it’s what it costs every month with the mortgage, the maintenance, and the operating cost. If you buy like that then you buy like you build, and it changes the way the market works.”
Meritage is aware of this issue, and is actively trying to enact change for the betterment of the industry: “We’ve been supporting legislative changes to enable buyers to get that information, to include energy efficiency and reduced operating cost in the real estate transaction, to better builder education and appraiser education to support this sort of change,” Herro said. “It does require a change in the transaction that recognizes the economic benefit of these homes to really make the average buyer make better decisions. As soon as the buyer is hip to the game, the whole market will change.”
There is always more we can do, and there are always improvements that can be made when something as important as the state of our planet is at stake, including better educating both builders and buyers. We should continue to take heart in the fact that we ARE progressing, and continue to research and develop, creating more sustainable green designs to implement into our building practices, not only for the betterment of our industry, but for the betterment of this earth.
Abby Pittman is the Editor of Green Home Builder Magazine. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org