Pocketbook concerns have merged with environmental interests in recent years, with homeowners and buyers focusing on green building with new enthusiasm. For decades, environmentally aware architects, builders and consumers have touted the benefits of solar power, careful land use, recycling and using less energy, along with the cost-saving payback of such efforts.
Since 2003, the number of counties with green building programs has risen from eight to 39, according to an American Institute of Architects (AIA) study titled, "Local Leaders in Sustainability: Green Counties." The study found that the eastern region of the country, which includes the Washington area, has the most counties with green building programs, with 19 programs covering a population of about 19 million people.
The study focuses on Montgomery County as one example of an innovative program that has encouraged the development of sustainable buildings. The Arlington County government introduced the Green Home Choice Program in 2003 as incentive for builders to go green. The program includes listings of the techniques and products that make homes more environmentally friendly.
The District was named one of the Top Ten Best U.S. Green Roof Cities by the advocacy group Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. Todd Tibbitts, senior vice president for property services at Post Properties Inc., wrote in an article on green roofs for Units magazine that in 2007, more than 55,000 square feet of new green roofs were installed in the District.
Green roofs, which can be installed on residential and commercial buildings, feature landscaping and foliage on the top of the building that often can be used by residents and tenants as a natural space for relaxing and socializing. Green roofs limit water runoff, shield the rooftop from damaging ultraviolet rays and provide extra insulation that minimizes cooling costs and cuts down noise pollution. A green roof can add to the life span of a roof, in some cases doubling the length of time the roof can function.
National and local builders have responded to buyer interest in green building. A survey released in July from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and McGraw-Hill Construction revealed that 78 percent of homeowners earning less than $50,000 per year say they would be inclined to purchase a green home. This same survey estimates that more than 330,000 market rate homes with green features have been built in the United States during the past three years, representing a $36 billion per year industry.
The "Home Preferences of Green Home Buyers" survey by McGraw-Hill Construction and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in 2006 said that home buyers are willing to pay an average premium of $18,500 for greener and cleaner homes. A 2007 NAHB-McGraw Hill study predicted that during the next decade, green building construction will increase an average of 30 percent to 60 percent each year. By 2010, up to 10 percent of the housing starts in the United States are predicted to include green building, compared with just 2 percent of housing starts in 2005.
The number of Energy Star-certified homes has doubled since 2001. Energy Star-certified homes meet high standards of energy efficiency as established in a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.
Plenty of smaller and custom builders locally focus on green building for their customers, including Arlington Design Homes, Sagatov Associates Inc., JBL Construction LLC, Cathedral Investments, High Tec Homes LLC and Studio 109 with M.T. Puskar Construction Co. Inc., all of which have built energy-efficient homes in the Washington area.
Green building also has swept through the remodeling business, with homeowners turning to contractors to increase the energy-efficiency of their homes. The National Association of Home Builders' quarterly Remodeling Market Index released in June reported that 33 percent of the surveyed remodeling contractors said clients had hired them to make changes to their homes to conserve energy.