Sustainable home building in 2021 goes beyond a lowered energy bill, and a third party certification can help you start
By Brian Alvarado
Green has been the name of the game for builders across the nation in recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Building professionals are learning that offering a green product with green features can play an important role when it comes to choosing a home. But the importance of having a green, third-party certified home goes past how much money a buyer can save each month on their energy bills. Instead, buyers are also interested in how a home can contribute to their health and wellness.
“…the importance of having a green, third-party certified home goes past how much money a buyer can save each month on their energy bills.”
With the coronavirus still a threat to today’s society and many homeowners fleeing to the suburbs in search of more open space and less populated areas, putting an emphasis on the health and wellness aspect on top of the energy-efficient features will go a long way for a builder’s success.
As mentioned in Wellness Within Your Walls Founder Jillian Cooke’s column on page 22, green features were already a given in a home, but now, they’re associating it with their health.
“Energy efficiency had already evolved to be a baseline expectation among most homebuyers; that is not expected to change,” Cooke said. “Homeowners are becoming more aware of how to connect the dots between personal health and the functionality of a home’s integrated mechanical systems.”
Looking back at our interview with Michelle Foster, vice president of sustainability at Home Innovation Research Labs/National Green Building Standard, buyers want an energy-efficient home for different reasons.
“Too often builders solely rely on the message that energy-efficient homes save money, and that is often not the most persuasive reason,” Foster said. “One message doesn’t fit all for any home features, and that includes energy efficiency.”
Additionally, homebuilders were building green. In the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) 2020 Green Single Family and Multifamily Homes SmartMarket Brief, which was released before the pandemic began, nearly half (47%) of single-family builders surveyed said they built green to create healthier homes, whereas 68% also said it was the right thing to do.
In this month’s featured interview on page 66, Brandon Bryant, the new chairman of NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building subcommittee, takes it even a step further, saying that he’s noticed the importance of emotional wellness gaining traction as well.
“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,” Bryant said. “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.”
Whether it’s physical or emotional health and wellness, it’s clear that buyers are beginning to gravitate toward a sustainable home. Builders who are on the fence should be focusing their agendas on offering a line of green products if they aren’t already doing so.
But many builders who haven’t made the transition might ask questions like, “Where do we start? How will we market this?” That’s where a third-party certification comes in from well-respected organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council, the International WELL Building Institute and NGBS.
According to Foster, a third-party certification is what can make buyers feel at peace when choosing a home.
“When you have a third-party certification, you can tell the homebuyer, ‘Don’t take my word for it, this home was certified as compliant with the National Green Building Standard by Home Innovation,’” Foster said. “Third-party certification is an effective way for builders to improve consumer trust, boost their confidence in your green claims, and increase sales.”
And as Bryant said in this month’s interview, you don’t have to perfect when starting out. Just start at square one and the rest will fall in place.
“I always tell people that you don’t have to hit a homerun the first time,” Bryant said. “Just get an entry-level certification then build on that.”
As a new administration takes over office and we begin to move toward the light at the end of the tunnel, the focus on green building is entering the limelight. Not only are buyers looking past saving money and saving energy, but they’re looking for homes that are healthier and will positively contribute to their wellness.
While it may seem like making the jump to offering green homes can be complicated, making the effort to start will help get your feet off the ground and help you reach out to a market that your company may not have entered before.
Brian Alvarado is the editor for Green Home Builder Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.