As a result, the premium he pays for windows through his lumberyard has ebbed from 25 percent to less than 5 percent, with more demand keeping prices in check while also delivering the environmental benefits of green building market-wide. “It drives down our costs when others demand it,” says McKown.
Wade, meanwhile, has seen his exposure to liability and defect litigation retract, callback and warranty costs drop to near zero, and buyer satisfaction rise since going green with improved building practices and superior product performance. “We want to sustain our business for multiple generations,” he says. “This was a business decision as much as an environmental choice.”
Despite premiums for masonry construction and solar hot water, among other green building features and systems, Miller set a price point for his Armory Park del Sol project in Tucson below $200,000 for models measuring less than 1,600 square feet. He has since sold a third of the 90 homes planned and watched buyers add energy and environmental upgrades to push some sales prices into the high-$400s. “The market has told us what they want, and that they're willing to pay for it,” he says.Golden Opportunities
Miller's longstanding commitment to green building (including leading what was then a task force of a NAHB subcommittee on the issue nearly a decade ago) has translated to a stable of suppliers that not only expect him to spec green products, but also be the market guinea pig for innovations. “Vendors and manufacturers seek us out with new products because of our history,” he says.
More often, though, builders report having to drag their lumber and building materials dealers along. “There's lots of room for improvement in the supplier realm,” says Alexander, whose efforts in part pushed his longstanding lumber dealer to carry framing materials certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). “Some materials are widely available, but most are hard to get or require a longer lead time or other challenges.”
McKown can't recall an instance when his lumber dealer brought him a green building product to consider, but credits the company with investigating and sourcing his needs. “We told them what we wanted and they went out and found it,” he says.
As part of an overall philosophy of treating suppliers and subs as partners in its success, Ideal Homes easily integrated its desire to build green into the regular contact it has with its vendors. “We already had the groundwork established, so they were open to [green building] when we brought it up.”
A few dealers are getting the hint. Dunn Lumber, an 11-location dealer in Seattle, formed a “Green Team” among its sales force and distributors that has led the company to stock limited supplies of FSC-certified lumber, engineered framing and decking, composite siding, and formaldehyde-free insulation to serve builders like Alexander and others.
“We looked at the Built Green [local green building council] checklist and saw that most of what they listed was lumber and panel products,” says Racine Snyder, the sales associate leading Dunn's Green Team. “We just need to get everyone up to speed to respond to [builder] requests.”
While McKown might be shocked to see his dealer present a green product he hasn't heard of yet, he sees suppliers helping educate builders and consumers by underwriting and hosting building science workshops or other forums, then supplying that increased awareness and demand. “A dealer's job is to show builders options,” he says. “These workshops would help bring new products to the market.”