You will be hearing more and more about "Green-BUILT" homes from now on. There are even now new searchable fields in our RMLS listing forms to indicate which kind of Green-Certification a house comes with. This alone indicates that a phenomenon is upon us which will affect how we buy and sell houses, starting now, and even more so in the future.
The idea is to create residential and commercial buildings which are more environmentally friendly, more energy efficient, and more healthy for occupants. The trend is meant to include remodeling as well as new construction.
There may be several certifying standards emerging, but currently, the most strict standards (whose certification builders seem to be seeking most) are from Earth Advantage. Another standard, which deals more with energy efficiency, called EnergySTAR, is often folded into Earth Advantage. Another is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
The Environmentally Friendly component covers everything from forestry practices to building site protection and enhancement, to reduction of construction and demolition waste. It encourages using more recycled materials and fewer new materials.
The Energy Efficiency component applies not only to the building in its intended use, but in the actual construction techniques used, and in the manufacture of the materials used.
The Health issues range from the elimination of toxic substances in the building materials themselves, including paints, carpet and adhesives, to protecting water.
A recent survey indicated that 96% of home buyers would pay more for a house with Green features. So the builders are embracing the Green Building concept because they perceive a higher demand for it. And, yes, it will cost more, at least in the beginning. But there are state and federal tax credits available for energy-efficient systems (both in remodeling and in new construction). During use, a Green-Built home will consume less energy. And it is very likely that a Green-Built home will have a higher resale value than an otherwise identical non-Green-Built home.
If you are downsizing or don't need a large house, the city of Portland has several house plans available which, if used, will reduce building permit costs by 50%.
Be Careful . . .
Companies or individuals may try to gain financially on the word "Green" without having any real Green-Built offerings. This phenomenon already has a name: "Green-washing." Some will use the word "Green" in their advertising, literature or slogans in clever ways to imply Green-Built concepts being built into their products or services, but that may be contrary to the truth.
As consumers, we owe it to ourselves to become educated about the Green facet of the building industries, and to be able to ask the right questions when we think we are facing possible "Green-washing." The links below, to the major epicenters of the Green-Building movement, are a good place to start.
Useful Web Sites:
Earth Advantage: www.earthadvantage.org
Portland Oregon Office of Sustainable Development: www.portlandonline.com/osd