Green Builders, Homeowners Must Work Closely to Bridge ‘Performance Gap’

by | May 3, 2012

Recently, I listened to an interesting discussion via webinar between Ron Jones, president of Green Builder Media, CR Herro, vice president of Environmental Affairs at production builder Meritage Homes, and Chad Ray from small volume builder Olde Heritage Builders & Realty. The webinar explored the urgent need for mass, exponential change in the way that we build and value homes, as well as policy tools such as the SAVE Act, that could lead to this change.

Although there have been extraordinary advancements in smart technologies, green products, and sophisticated building science techniques, the way that we construct homes hasn’t changed for decades. According to Herro, most of our existing housing stock uses twice as much energy and water than is necessary, resulting in $1.2 billion of annual waste that could otherwise be directed into job creation and bolstering the economy.

Herro and Ray both advocated that it’s the job of the builder and architect to work closely with the homeowner to bridge the current performance gap in homes by employing sound building science and specifying green products.

Ray stated that his biggest challenge isn’t convincing his clients that green homes are better homes. “When I relay to my customers that I can reduce their costs, lower their maintenance, extend the durability of their home, improve their indoor air quality, increase their home’s value, and have a lighter impact on the environment, they get it,” he says.

This aligns with the results from our recent market study, in which 42 percent of building professionals reported that the biggest driver for the green building market is consumer demand (34 percent reported the biggest driver is advances in green technologies, and 31 percent named personal interest), and that clients have the most influence on selecting green products.

So, where does the gap between knowledge and performance reside? Herro and Ray both lamented that it’s the other service providers who have a major influence on homebuyers at the point of purchase (the ones that the homebuyers are actually paying to advise them)—namely the realtors, lenders, and appraisers—that are perpetuating the disconnect.

What’s the solution? Herro states that by implementing legislation like the SAVE Act that would modernize valuation, appraisal, and lending practices so that they accurately measure and reward energy efficiency, we could not only address today’s major performance problems, but we could also redirect the money wasted on underperforming homes to be spent on more sustainable innovation and we could save the average homeowner as much as $144,000 over the course of a 30-year mortgage.

Good business value. Good sense. Not much to lose here.

Sara is the Co-Founder and CEO of Green Builder Media.  An experienced entrepreneur, investor, and sustainability consultant, Sara specializes in developing companies that are simultaneously sustainable and profitable.  Sara is a former venture capitalist and has participated in a portion of the life cycle (from funding to exit) of over 20 companies.  Sara graduated Cum Laude from Dartmouth College and holds an MBA in entrepreneurship and finance from the University of Colorado. This article was reprinted with permission from Green Builder Media.

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