Comfort is on the Horizon

Green Home Construction on the Rise

Green Home Construction on the Rise

New Energy-Efficient Designs Now Represent 17% of All New Home Construction

Even as home sales continue to struggle through this recession, green home building is one real estate sector that’s thriving.

According to recent data, more than 1 million homes have been certified by the government’s Energy Star program since it began in 1995 and more than 75,000 more were added in 2009 alone. In 2008, homes with the Energy Star rating accounted for almost 17% of all new single-family dwellings built, which marked a more than 5% increase from 2007.

The Energy Star label may be familiar to many consumers—the seal appears on all kinds of appliances and household electronics—but Energy Star home construction is a relatively new concept.

In order to receive the Energy Star seal of approval a home must be at least 20% more energy-efficient than similar new houses. Generally, Energy Star homes have more efficient lighting, insulation, windows, heating and cooling systems, and appliances.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star certification program is not the only one to report growth in eco-friendly home construction. There are also several private and not-for-profit organizations that certify green homes, including the United States Green Building Council and the National Association of Home Builders.

These private groups also report significant increases in green-certified new home construction despite an overall 30% slide in new homes built or completed by October 2008.

Nate Kredich of the US Green Building Council, a group whose rating standards are even stricter than those of the Energy Star program, says that the council’s number of certified homes has risen from just over 1,100 in 2008 to more than 3,000 in 2009. Though the increase is small, Kredich notes that growth has been steady and suggests that more and more homeowners are considering greener alternatives to traditional residential construction.

Kevin Morrow, from the National Association of Home Builders, echoes Kredich’s assertions. The NAHB certified just 99 green homes in 2008; in 2009, that number jumped to nearly 600. As Morrow suggests, the increased interest in green home construction is driven by consumers looking to save money on their energy and utility bills, and to reduce their impact on the environment.

And it’s not just new construction that’s going green. A recent USA Today poll showed that more than 68% of homeowners surveyed made home improvements designed to make their houses more energy efficient. Of those, nearly 72% said it was to save money on utilities, while almost 30% said the changed were prompted by concerns about the environment.

Regardless of their motivation, homeowners are clearly impacting the way new houses are built. Typical best-sellers are those products that pay for themselves quickly—like solar panels, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, or major appliances like dishwashers and light fixtures. Price is a key factor, as many consumers are willing to pay a little extra up front to ensure considerable savings in the long run.

As energy prices continue to rise and concerns about the environment reach the mainstream, most building experts expect green construction and renovation initiatives to increase in popularity. At Horizon Services, we believe it; our heating and air conditioning technicians are seeing more and more Energy Star certified homes in our Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland service area. Soon, we predict, these eco-friendly options may be the norm rather than just a passing trend.