Homeowners are increasingly interested in green, but there remains a large number of potential clients who need to be sold on it. Once a remodeling company decides to offer green as an option in its projects, the next step is marketing it to the homeowner, says Paul Morse, CR, GCP, principal of Morse Constructions of Somerville, Mass.
Morse, who was the first NARI Green Certified remodeler in the Northeast, says remodeling clients typically grasp the energy-efficiency aspect of green but they need education on the additional benefits that may be realized from other green principles, such as sustainability and deconstruction.
“Certainly in this current iteration of responsible, or green remodeling, clients gravitate toward the energy benefits of green. They see the environmental aspects or they see dollar savings for themselves,” explains Morse. “But people generally don’t think about their carbon footprint.”
Understanding the process
Each remodeler needs to define what a green remodeling project is for them. Most remodelers implement green in steps. For some, it may mean only offering a very rigidly green program top-to-bottom. But many will take a more pragmatic approach and offer green options that the client can afford. Every project has the potential to be a green remodeling project. It starts at the planning and demolition phase and goes right into the framing lumber that one chooses. It could be using recycled insulation if not using a tighter, closed-cell product.
To get started, Morse suggests obtaining certification through a process such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s Green Certified Professional (GCP) program. “I think that its a good way for a remodeler to understand that it doesn’t just have to be putting in solar panels to be a green project. I think that once remodelers get their head around that, they can start to take baby steps towards environmental responsibility and savings that really starts to add up in the long run.”
To move a homeowner towards a green remodeling project, it’s also a good idea to tell them about any energy tax credits, because there is a definite financial advantage for them there. The return on investment might take a few years to get back, but if a homeowner learns right away that they can get a few more dollars from a tax credit or energy bill savings, they are more willing to take a step toward a greener project and begin talking about the additional benefits of green such as the comfort level in their homes. This could include something as simple as keeping out the cold winter drafts around windows and doors and can be an easy green topic to approach.
“Even just talking to a group of homeowners about what energy efficiency really means to them and how to read their energy bills, explaining what a therm or a kilowatt is, can get them excited about remodeling green,” says Morse. “I think that green is a mystery to a lot of people. They just don’t understand all the little steps they can take or the big effect that they can have on their comfort, their return on investment or their environment.”
The conversation really starts with the first phone call from the client, whether a remodeler asks if the homeowners are interested in green remodeling or they bring it up. Morse Constructions informs its clients about green initiatives on its Web site. The team will also do a mailing in a neighborhood on a new project to talk about how it is incorporating green on the project. This shows potential clients that green is part of the company’s core values in being responsible to the environment.
“We also do networking in the community with the chamber of commerce and with community action groups to reinforce our green commitment,” adds Morse. “We’re involved with the Stretch Energy Code within our town to try to get that passed, because all of these networking pieces are more great marketing pieces for the company.”
Green means energy savings in the mind of the homeowner and that’s generally right where they go when discussing green according to Morse. “We can talk about the comfort level of their home and we can talk about the air quality and it rings a bell with them, but that’s not where their thinking begins,” says Morse.
Very few people are saying they want their project to be LEED green in the strictest sense of the word, Morse says. Homeowners are more interested in how they can be responsible; what they can do a little bit better than what they have to do; and what changes they can make to get the best return on their money.
“Just building well can result in a green remodeling project,” explains Morse. “I think that’s one thing that gets overlooked. If you use best practices and build a project that is going to last, you’re building well and building responsibly. That’s really what green is about. If we put in products that are bound to fail, use methods that aren’t sound, or have properties that will diminish in a short period of time — that’s not green at all.”