Rate It Green is one of Green Home Coach’s Trusted Partners and provides a host of resources for education, research and discussion in and about the Green Building space. I am honored to have been 1 of 5 industry professionals interviewed by Grace Morrison for 2 in-depth articles about residential green building certifications and where we stand with green building. My blog 5 Categories Green Home Certifications Typically Have in Common, highlighted Part I of this 2-part series.
Marla Esser Cloos, Green Home Coach
Sheridan Foster, Elemental Green
Matt Hoots, Sawhorse Inc.
Brett Little, Green Home Institute
Carl Seville, SK Collaborative
Where is the green building market for homes now?
The green home market continues to grow and is moving past (or has?) the early adopters. When I got into this market in 2006, it felt like 90% of our time was spent educating people – builders, trade contractors and homeowners. While we are not having to educate everyone on the basics per se, “adoption still feels painfully slow to many experienced practitioners and the acceptance of these practices isn’t where it should be. Many builders don’t fully understand green building or building science, but increasingly many must also consider sustainability and building performance questions in their building practices, especially in areas with stricter requirements and as technology evolves and costs drop.”
With the many demands of a building or trade professional, it can be challenging for these professionals to find the time to educate themselves and to learn how to integrate new technologies, materials and processes into the many variables already a part of their routine.
It is encouraging to see how many “influencers” are working through speaking, the Internet, videos and social media to help building industry professionals learn more about the steps to healthier, greener homes. I am proud to contribute to this body of work.
Demand for homes that contribute to better, healthier living experiences is also increasing from both health conscious people (which got a big boost from the pandemic) and the millennial home buying demographic. As younger generations grow up with more knowledge of green and healthier practices, the demand accordingly increases for their desires in homes.
Many practices considered upgrades just a few years ago are now common practice in many homes – LED lighting, low or no VOC paint or properly glazed windows are just a few examples. “Green building professionals aren’t giving up and still hold optimism about the industry, creating hope for the future.”
Challenges for the Green Home Market
As with the general home building market, the labor shortage, especially of licensed trades, means fewer people understand how to install the systems needed for a green home. And those that do understand are in big demand. “Moreover, contractors who have been building a certain way over decades or generations tend to be more resistant to change, the main reason why some fight building code changes. For a small building firm especially, major changes to their building processes can be burdensome and while new generations bring new technologies and schools of thought, the evolution process can be slow.”
Understanding how to compare different ways to build green as well as the certification programs brings additional challenges to builders. Add to this, the challenge to articulate the benefits and value of green building to their clients and colleagues, it is easy to understand the reluctance of many builders. Even choosing a more sustainable or healthier option during the build project is typically too late as projects must keep on schedule and supply chain issues have complicated this even further.
Planning and communication are another area that are key to the success of a green home or project. There may be a disconnect between those designing the home or project and those building it. Holding a charette with all stakeholders before the project begins is a great way to align goals and to set responsibilities. A charette can help identify problem areas up front and identify ways to work together and through potential conflicts. Keeping the communication going throughout the project helps keep things on track and working toward the final goal.
“A challenge to green building adoption generally is that many owners and builders lack an understanding of green building benefits and building lifecycles and they focus too much on the short-term or upfront costs….Partnerships are needed between green building professionals, investors, finance institutions, and governments to help inform consumers and professionals about smart long-term decisions and provide the loans or grants to fund making better decisions.”
Retrofitting our Existing Housing Stock
The home industry should be putting more focus on improving our existing housing stock as that is the bulk of homes in the market and that’s where some of the best improvement opportunities are. As Sheridan Foster of Elemental Green says, “We’re not going to get to where we need to be in residential construction in terms of how buildings contribute to climate change unless we retrofit existing stock.”
Where Do We Go Next for Green Homes and Buildings?
The author raises some important questions about how we make green homes and buildings more affordable and more approachable. Incentives can help motivate yet education is needed for all parties – including builders, trade contractors and homeowners. Managing the upfront costs will help yet educating all parties about life cycle costs and how building better will help reduce operating and maintenance costs over time is also a key part of the equation.
And thank you to the author for my quote “Marla Esser Cloos suggests that homeowners should continue to ask themselves, “How do I live better in my home?”
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