As optimistic as I am about the potential of green building, I still get pretty down when I see negative comments about sustainability on some of the blogs I frequent and in some of the open-ended questions of EcoHome’s reader surveys (speaking of which, please take our latest survey, on green building in a down market, here). One that got me riled up a few weeks ago was a comment on an energy blog that basically said “rich greenys” are to blame for rising fuel costs.
While everyone is entitled to their opinion, what frustrates me is that many of the negative comments I hear and read are unsupported and continue to be based on the notion that sustainable building is a fad, a mere marketing ploy, or the agenda of tree-huggers. Indeed, green sometimes IS those things, and consumers should be cautious. But in the mainstream, green is becoming something much more: a way of building and living that can enhance our lives and save us money. And more and more Americans are starting to see that--and demand it.
Last week EcoHome ran two articles supporting this assumption. In one, NAHB’s Remodeling Market Index shows that 33% of remodelers indicate their customers are leaning toward energy-saving improvements such as low-E windows, spray-foam or fiberglass insulation, and high-efficiency HVAC systems. In a similar study, by Plastpro, 73% of 700 homeowners surveyed said they are willing to pay more for eco-friendly and energy-efficient home improvement products.
“Most buyers are not buying these homes just to be green,” said Mark Fischer, senior vice president of The Grupe Co., in a second article. “They’re doing it for the financial benefits.” Fischer should know: A group of his homes boasting 50% less energy consumption than standard houses recently outsold competitors by nearly two to one.
If your audience isn’t among those clamoring for high-performance homes and you’re facing skeptical buyers, your best weapon is proof. Make your models a showcase of the cost savings your techniques can achieve. (McElroy Custom Homes in Florida takes a simple yet effective approach: posting the energy bills of its efficiently built model home on the showroom wall.) Put together a portfolio of past projects outlining the specific long-term ROI. Conduct follow-up studies on your completed houses, and make those results available to the community. Dispel the myths with hard numbers.
One thing to keep in mind is that even if there are skeptics in your showroom, they’re still there, so they must be curious. I tell myself that about the negative comments on green-themed blogs: If the commenter didn’t think there was some truth to all this green stuff, some reason to care, why would he or she be frequenting the site in the first place?
Katy Tomasulo is deputy editor for EcoHome.