Emotional appeal of being green may be inspiring US homebuyers to purchase homes with green features, suggest two recent studies; some of more affordable green options like programmable thermostats, insulation have been widely embraced
February 16, 2014
(The Columbus Dispatch)
– In theory, we all love to be kind to the Earth.
In practice, it's not always easy being "green."
As much as we think it's socially beneficial to own a smaller home with a smaller carbon footprint on a smaller lot in the city, where we ride a bus to work, millions of Americans still prefer the comfort and lifestyle of a big new home with a three-car garage in the suburbs.
Two new studies, however, suggest that the emotional desire to go green might be starting to translate into something real: buying homes with green features.
Both studies were released this month at the International Builders' Show sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders in Las Vegas.
The building data firm McGraw Hill Construction unveiled a study showing that green homes accounted for 23 percent of all homes sold last year and are expected to occupy up to 33 percent of the market by 2016. According to the study, 68 percent of builders, up from 61 percent in 2011, said customers will pay more for green features.
Another study, by GuildQuality, an Atlanta company that measures customer satisfaction for homebuilders, found that 94 percent of green-home owners would recommend a green home to a friend or relative.
Although the study doesn't offer comparable numbers for nongreen homes, Mark Miles, chief operating officer of GuildQuality, is confident that green-home owners are more likely to recommend their homes.
"That's extraordinarily high," Miles said. "We work with 1,300 of North America's largest builders and have conversations with 20,000 homeowners a month. Among our members, the average recommendation rate is about 90 percent, but across the industry as a whole, the rate is much lower."
The survey also found that 55 percent of respondents said they know their green home cost more but think the benefits outweigh the cost.
Demonstrating that green features are worth any extra cost, inconvenience or discomfort remains the fundamental challenge of the green movement. As much as homeowners, for example, like the idea of LED bulbs, will they pay 10 times the price of a regular bulb for one?
Tyler Steele, the vice chairman of the central Ohio chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council who has been active in the green-building movement for years, thinks interest in green homes has grown. Homeowners are better-educated about green features and ask more questions about products.
But, Steele added, they still seek a payoff.
"Where do you get the most bang for your buck?" he asked.
In reality, of course, homes are not green but shades of green.
They are aqua, olive, forest, teal, mint and a thousand other gradations depending on what specific features the home includes. A home might have a high-efficiency furnace, extra insulation in the attic, triple-pane windows, a recycled countertop, a programmable thermostat or any number
of other environmentally friendly features.
Some of the most affordable, such as programmable thermostats and insulation, have found a ready home in the real world.
But I still doubt that costlier green features such as geothermal systems will become common until homeowners can be shown that they have a reasonably short payoff time.
Green must appeal to more than our sentiment. If the movement must survive on the finer side of our natures, it might as well throw in the trowel.
(c)2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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