Green Building Gets Nods from the Residential Market

When making an argument for green building, one of the first things green proponents will bring up is the over-time savings — which can balance out the initial extra sustainable building costs.

However, the green building focus thus far has largely been on commercial green building. That’s partially because of the scope of commercial construction — larger building projects use more materials and create more waste, so building green buildings will make a greater impact on the environment than building smaller home structures would.

But that’s not to say the residential market has totally ignored the green trend. It’s become more popular in recent years, and although it’s still gaining support, there are signs that residential green building is becoming a business:

  • Banks such as Bank of America are adding green financing packages. In March, it announced its Green Mortgage Program, offering  a reduced interest rate or $1,000 back for each home-purchase mortgage meeting ENERGY STAR specifications.
  • In 2006, almost 9,000 people attended the West Coast Green residential builder show in San Francisco; this year, more than 10,000 attended (4,000 more expected), according to the San Jose Mercury News.
  • And the U.S. Green Building Council has expanded its energy-efficiency rating system to include homes. So far, 7,500 homes and 330 builders are taking part in the pilot program. Home- and building-owners get credits for using green materials used, which can help them get lower mortgage rates and tax incentives from state and local governments.
  • Green furniture is also on the upswing: Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the American Home Furnishing Alliance, told the Arizona Daily Star that "A wide variety of eco-friendly furnishings will be available to consumers this summer and early fall."

It’s also likely green building first took off in the commercial sector
because of the centralized planning it requires — large developers
fund several projects at a time and many cities have passed legislation
encouraging or requiring green building practices.

In neighborhoods and small towns, aside from entire planned divisions,
you’re dealing with individual builders, small building companies,
contractors — even people building their own homes. The highly
individualized system makes it harder to encourage green construction.

And of course, large developers are likely more able to absorb any
extra green building costs, as opposed to small suburban building
companies or individual homeowners.

But the residential market is showing interest in green building. And the incentives banks are offering, coupled with increased industry research and promotion, just may turn the green trend around — and bring it right home.