One afternoon last week, Sam Raskin, national director for Energy Star for Homes, chatted with me and a colleague at EcoHome’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. Although our gathering lasted just 15 minutes, I concluded that the EPA official and I share the same opinion about high-performance housing.

“If you have to wait for consumers to ask for it, it will never happen,” Raskin said. I couldn’t agree more.

Americans want to save money on their water and utility bills, and they want their homes to be healthy and comfortable for their families. And surveys show that many Americans will pay more for such features. Nevertheless, most adults don’t have the time or the inclination to make these things happen.

For example, if your typical home buyers are 40-year-old dual-income couples with two children, a dog, a cat, and a goldfish, they spend their evenings and weekends carting the kids to orthodontic appointments, sports activities, dance and concert rehearsals, art shows, and church school classes, all while helping with homework and scurrying to get dinner on the table, pay the bills, go grocery shopping, mow the lawn, wash 10 loads of laundry, clean the house, walk the dog, take the cat to the vet, and so on.

Most of these mothers and fathers are too exhausted during the work week to even read a newspaper, let alone comb magazines and Web sites for information about eco-friendly products and advanced technologies that would make their houses safer, healthier, and more efficient.  

During our conversation, Raskin commented that pros need to take the lead, educating their clients about why green products and advanced technologies are valuable and offering them as options. Americans want these options; they may just not know it.

Raskin pointed out that when the Toyota Prius hybrid was unveiled, the manufacturer and industry experts underestimated consumers’ desire for a high-efficiency car. People weren’t bombarding automakers with requests for more fuel-efficient, less-polluting vehicles, but when they were presented with one, they clamored for it--even though they had to wait months to buy one and pay thousands of dollars more than a traditional car. 

“You don’t know someone’s willingness to pay until you have the value proposition in hand,” Raskin said.
Energy Star for Homes provides builders a relatively easy way to offer buyers dwellings that are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC) and that include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20% to 30% more efficient than standard houses. But Energy Star-qualified houses are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to green building. That’s why EPA’s Climate Choice program seeks to accelerate market adoption of cutting-edge technologies.
“To ask consumers to drive technology is foolish,” Raskin said.

Your customers value your expertise. If you exude the virtues of high-performance products and houses, your clients will take note. So what are you waiting for?

Jean Dimeo is Chief Editor, Online for EcoHome.