During the recession, green home construction increased while traditional construction tanked. Since then, the market for green homes has only continued to grow. It’s a trend that builders expect to continue—a 2017 study found that 31% expect to be dedicated green home builders by 2022.
Green building can mean a lot of different things. Energy efficiency ranks at the top of the list, due to ongoing savings that help homeowners recoup their investment. In a 2007 survey, consumers said they’d be willing to spend an extra $8,964 on a home if it was energy efficient. But there are other aspects to green building, like sustainable materials and preserving indoor air quality.
You don’t have to become a dedicated green builder to get a piece of this market. You can simply add green options to your services. There are many ways to green a new home (or a home remodeling project) that don’t require radical measures.
Here are the top six green amenities you can offer for a more energy efficient or environmentally friendly home.
Idea #1: Insulation
Properly insulating a home is one of the most fundamental steps a home builder can take towards environmentally friendly construction.
Heating and cooling are responsible for half of the energy consumption in your average home, so installing high-quality insulation and properly sealing windows, doors, and ducts can make a huge impact on energy consumption and costs.
Take it a step further and use recycled or sustainable materials for even greener results.
Idea #2: Energy-Smart Roofing
Standard roofs can reach 150°F or higher on a summer day. Building or coating a roof in materials that reflect the sun or hold less heat can reduce air conditioning needs, improve comfort in non-air-conditioned structures, and extend roof life.
If you work in an area where cooling costs are the primary concern, consider promoting cool roof options. But cool roofs can also increase heating costs, so it’s a poor strategy if you live somewhere with harsh winters.
And of course, the other green option for roofing is to install solar panels. New construction is a much better time to install solar than retrofitting an existing structure. Residential systems are cheaper than ever, and homeowners can recoup the costs by selling excess power back to the utility company.
The financial advantages vary based on where you live, so learn about local energy costs, climate, and state incentives before you decide to invest resources here.
Idea #3: Energy Star Windows
Energy Star windows reduce heat and sound transfer with features like three or more panes, quality framing materials, and special coatings. Energy Star doors and skylights are also available. These products are more expensive, but homeowners can save hundreds per month in energy bills and they’ll get a quieter home.
Idea #4: High Efficiency or Multi-Zone HVAC Systems
Proper installation is critical in high efficiency HVAC systems. Ducts need to be straight, short, and air-tight, with under 10% leakage.
These systems don’t just save money on energy. They also tend to be quieter, produce less variation in temperature, and experience reduced wear and tear.
Even if homeowners don’t want to go with a pricey high-efficiency system, you can offer a programmable or smart thermostat that is compatible with their traditional HVAC. Programmable thermostats also spell energy savings by letting you automate lower usage when you’re out and comfort when you’re in.
Multi-zone heating and cooling systems are another option. They offer long-term energy savings by keeping each room an appropriate temperature. They can also fix comfort concerns like extreme temperature differentials in different parts of the house, or very different individual preferences for sleeping temperature.
Idea #5: Recycled & Sustainable Materials
Flooring is perhaps the best area of home construction for sustainable materials. Bamboo has become a popular flooring option, in part because it’s highly renewable; bamboo is technically a grass and grows very quickly. Better yet, it’s cheaper than traditional hardwood flooring. Linoleum, made from dried and milled flax seeds, is making a comeback as well, due to its sustainability, long lifespan, and hypoallergenic qualities.
Idea #6: Low VOC Materials
A different component of green building that’s attractive to consumers is the use of materials that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds are “off-gassed” by new building materials like paint, varnish, carpet, vinyl flooring, and composite wood. In other words, many traditionally built new homes emit harmful gasses like benzene, ethyl glycol, formaldehyde, and others.
In the short term, high VOC levels can lead to acute symptoms like headaches and worsening asthma, but over the course of years, they’ve been associated with cancer and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
Homebuyers with respiratory issues or young children are seeking low-VOC homes in increasing numbers. There are now several regulated labeling programs for low- or no-VOC products to help you practice source control during a build. Ventilating a new home before occupancy is another option.
The installation of energy-recovery ventilators (ERVs) are also an attractive feature for anyone concerned about their home’s indoor air quality.
Marketing yourself as a green or energy-efficient home builder is a good investment in your future. We also know it can insulate you from some of the housing market fluctuations. Just don’t forget the basics. The latest building trends are nothing without a properly trained crew and dedicated craftsmanship.