Americans are increasingly demanding lower energy costs, healthier living, and improved indoor air quality–particularly those earning less than $75,000, according to findings from a survey conducted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and McGraw-Hill Construction.

“We're crossing the tipping point for green home building,” Harvey M. Bernstein, a McGraw-Hill Construction vice president, said in a statement. “Concerns about energy costs, health, and even resale value are adding up green for builders, buyers, and renters. Green homes are here to stay.”

“Being able to afford your utility bill is as important as being able to pay your mortgage,” Michelle Moore, USGBC senior vice president, added. “Green homes are shining through as the bright spot in an otherwise gloomy housing market.”

The survey estimates that more than 330,000 homes with green features were built in the United States during the past three years, and that 60,000 of those homes were third-party certified through LEED or a local green building program.

McGraw-Hill Construction surveyed 1 million U.S. households (3 million residents) to find individuals who had purchased LEED-certified and other green homes during the past three years. The vast majority of those surveyed (83%) said their new homes will have lower operating costs, as well as lower energy bills (79%) and lower water bills (68%), within the first year after purchase.

Going green was the top reason cited by survey respondents for remodeling their homes. Environmental benefits such as lower energy costs and healthier indoor air were identified by 42% of respondents as the main reason for home improvements; 34% cited increased comfort; and 24% noted improved appearance.

Of those surveyed:

  • 70% of were either more or much more inclined to purchase a green home over a conventional home in down housing market.
  • 56% who bought green homes earn less than $75,000 per year; 29% earn less than $50,000.
  • Lower-income Americans said they found tax credits and government programs, indoor air quality benefits, and green certifications to be the most important incentives for them to buy green homes.
  • Almost half (44%) of homes renovated between 2005 and 2007 used products chosen for their green attributes.

The full McGraw-Hill Construction “SmartMarket” report will be released this fall. The aim, said Bernstein, is to help builders better respond to the green needs of home buyers, and to help product manufacturers and others understand the expanding value of green in the industry.