Year-End Reflections for Green Homebuilding in 2017

2017 saw plenty of advances in green home building and design that demonstrate how powerful this ‘niche’ really is

By SERGIO FLORES

Crafting homes that are energy-efficient and healthy, for both the homeowner and the environment, and all while presenting itself as a visually striking piece of architecture, is what the venerable movement of green homebuilding is all about. What started as a small, niche market is quickly gaining traction and the recognition it deserves from other professionals in the home building industry, from builders, developers, manufacturers, designers and such.

I describe the green building movement as niche for now, as I do believe in the coming years it will continue to grow and prove itself to be the best way to be building and designing homes for today’s day and age. In fact, a recent report conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics with NAHB explored the rapidly growing green construction activity among single family and multifamily home builders in ‘Green Multifamily and Single Family Homes 2017’ (available for download at www.nahb.org/SMR). According to the report, “At least one third of single family and multifamily builders who were surveyed said that green building is a significant portion of their overall activity (more than 60 percent of their portfolio). By 2022, this number should increase to nearly one half in both the single family and multifamily sectors. Within this group, nearly 30 percent of multifamily builders fall into the category of “dedicated” green builders (more than 90 percent of their portfolio). On the single family side, the percentage of “dedicated” green builders is nearly 20 percent, but that share is expected to grow sizably by 2022.”

California is blazing the path for zero net energy (ZNE) homebuilding with a legal mandate that requires all residential construction built in 2020 to adhere to ZNE standards. California’s Title 24 made headlines this year as many homebuilders look for answers on how to design, develop, and construct these homes. “The state of California’s Title 24 Energy standards is an ever-present target that moves a little bit further away at every code cycle. With the state’s goal of Net Zero residential construction by 2020, the rapidly ratcheting Title 24 Energy requirements demand that nearly every project be more energy efficient than the last,” explained Ben Kasdan, AIA, LEED AP, Director, Design for KTGY Architecture + Planning. “California is typically a pioneer in many aspects of society, including sustainability and residential design. In fact, the LEED Certification Program, which is a national and international system, uses California’s Title 24 Energy standards as a baseline for performance in their energy efficiency goals.”

The green movement invites product manufacturers to bring to the table innovative, healthy and smart tools for a design team to utilize. “As demand increases for more energy-efficient products, building materials and technology, more options will come to the marketplace, which will hopefully drive down costs,” said Kasdan. “For example, the installed price for home solar systems is less than half of what it was eight years ago. Smart home technology, for example, is becoming synonymous with energy-efficient homes.

Much of ‘green building’ I’m finding tends to fixate on the sustainability and energy-efficient aspect of a project, but what I’m finding these days from ‘green’ builders is that the best part of the project isn’t the environmental responsibility they take on, which is absolutely commendable, but it’s the return on investment that really makes green something to bet on.

As we approach the last month of 2017, the future seems promising. NAHB reported builder confidence for the month of November was at an 8-month high, “This uptick in housing production is aligned with our reports of strong builder confidence,” said Granger MacDonald, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Kerrville, Texas. “Our members are optimistic about the future of the housing market, even as uncertainties remain and they continue to face supply-side issues.”

Despite the good news, we can’t forget that the same problems that have been plaguing the industry, including labor shortage, housing prices, shortage of land and lots, etc. “We are seeing solid, steady production growth that is consistent with NAHB’s forecast for continued strengthening of the single-family sector,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “As the job market and overall economy continue to firm, we should see demand for housing increase as we head into 2018.” 2018, the green homebuilding movement is ready for you.

Sergio Flores is an Editor for Green Home Builder magazine. He may be reached at sergio@penpubinc.com.