If you still think green building isn't something you need to be thinking about, consider this: in St. Louis, Belcher Homes is selling lots for some of its green-designed houses before due diligence is even completed; in New Mexico, the governor recently made an executive order that new public buildings in excess of 15,000 square feet achieve a minimum silver-level LEED rating; and in the year since NAHB introduced its Model Green Home Building Guidelines, at least four green building programs based on the standards have launched, adding to the 30-plus other various green building programs already in place around the country.
One of those new programs is through the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico, which includes Albuquerque, the site of this year's NAHB National Green Building Conference, held March 12–14. The green wave we reported after last year's conference appears to have crested, as words like “tipping point” and “mainstream” flowed easily from the mouths of speakers and attendees. The builders and experts there seemed confident that green building has begun to infiltrate the minds and hearts of consumers and contractors alike to a point where eventually those builders that aren't offering green options—and presumably those dealers unwilling to supply them—will be left behind.
“Fifteen years ago we were called a ‘tree hugger' and a ‘freak,'” says New Mexico home designer Armando Cobo, who helped organize a bus tour of green homes during the conference. “Today we're like the cool guys. Green building has become more mainstream.”
Research presented by McGraw-Hill Construction at the conference indicates that the value of new green residential housing starts will grow from $7.4 billion in 2005 to as much as $38 billion by 2010, representing 5 to 10 percent of the residential construction market (not including remodeling).
One reason for the growth could be the proliferation of green building programs throughout the country—ranging from initiatives based on NAHB's guidelines to the Energy Star program to the soon-to-be-released LEED for Homes—that give builders clear-cut methods to achieve certifications. NAHB's program offers guidelines HBAs can adopt outright or adjust as needed for local requirements. For example, Build Green New Mexico, launched two days before the conference began, utilizes the guidelines, but includes tougher water restrictions to address that region's desert climate and water conservation demands.
Build Green New Mexico already has about two dozen members, Cobo reports. “We'll now have more than just me asking for this,” asserts Albuquerque custom home builder Steve Hale, president of Hale & Sun Construction and a past president of the HBA of Central New Mexico. What's more, “We're finding newspaper articles about green building popping up everywhere,” he says. “As soon as consumers start asking, builders are going to say, ‘Whoa, I'm missing the boat.'”
Source of Supply With the growing attention being paid to green building, pro suppliers that have been turning a blind eye to the movement should consider taking a closer look. As you'll read in this month's Market Matters feature (page 111), supplying green building doesn't require an entirely new inventory, as products like engineered lumber, low-E windows, and insulation often fit the needs of sustainable builders as much as specialty items like SIPs, solar panels, and high-efficiency HVAC. The challenge lies in making a commitment to gain the knowledge of products with green properties, to seek out new products that meet guidelines, and to promote those products.
Ward Hubbell, executive director of the Portland, Ore.–based Green Building Initiative, which works with home builders associations to launch green building programs, calls pro dealers “a natural fit” in the green building process. Dealers can get involved with HBAs launching green building programs by becoming a member, participating in demonstration homes, and helping to create buzz in the media and the community, he says.