Lower Cost Seen as Key to Success for Green Products, Homes

LAS VEGAS — Green-built homes will take an increasingly large percentage of the market in direct proportion to their price, because home buyers’ prime motivation today is cost effectiveness.

That’s the view of representatives from leading building-products manufacturers who convened at the recent National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders’ Show.

“The key is value for every stakeholder in the process,” from the manufacturer to the builder and the home buyer, said Richard Davenport, director of sustainable construction for BASF.

The good news, said Kohler’s Rob Zimmerman, is that product manufacturers have been able to focus on the creation of new technology during the current building downturn “that will make green building more affordable.”

The speakers represented sponsors of NAHB’s fourth annual “Green Day,” held each year to commemorate growth in green, energy-efficient and sustainable home building and remodeling practices.

In a separate but related development at the show, a newly released survey found that while green homes are generally perceived as expensive to build or purchase, consumers and builders believe that reduced prices on building materials will help these homes become more affordable. The survey, conducted on behalf of Whirlpool Corporation and Habitat for Humanity by the NAHB Research Center, reported respondents’ opinions on barriers to more affordable green building and how to overcome them.

According to the consumer survey, 59% of the consumers polled indicated that lower cost of products and materials is needed for green homes to become more affordable. The builder survey found that builders were largely in agreement with consumers about this point. Most builders (75%) indicated that the costs of materials and products for green homes need to be reduced.

“It’s encouraging for us to see that consumers and builders are taking a stronger interest in green housing concepts,” said Tom Halford, general manager, contract sales and marketing, Whirlpool Corp. “We need a combined voice of manufacturers, builders and volunteer organizations to continue helping the general public see the benefits of green building. Their collective input is valuable to us as we work to overcome the hurdles that are pointed out in the survey.”

Another change consumers in the survey claimed is needed to make green homes affordable is an increase in incentives for sustainable building and remodeling. Of all respondents, 53% felt that increasing incentives for homeowners would help with green home affordability, and 36% suggested increasing incentives for builders.

In addition, the majority of consumers (69%) indicated they believe that both state and federal governments should provide incentives for purchasing green building products. Among builder respondents, 40% said they believed that incentives for both homeowners and builders would help promote green building.

The survey also revealed that 77% of consumers feel that green homes are at least somewhat, if not very, important to them. The primary reasons noted for the importance of green homes were: the positive impacts on the environment, the long-term financial savings and the health benefits for the family.