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The Tentacle


September 21, 2009

Itís Expensive Going Green, But Worth It

Michael Kurtianyk

Whatever happened to going green? Didn’t it seem that the big buzzword in housing in 2008/early 2009 was going green? Has this become a fad that has passed already? What does it mean to go green anyway?

 

In general, construction of green homes produce less waste, and once built, the homes use less energy, less water and fewer natural resources and offer better air quality for people living inside.

 

The homes may include appliances that are energy-efficient, better ductworks and air filtration systems and/or windows which can keep heat from filtering in or out of them. Builders may even consider a home’s orientation to the sun or the color of its roof as ways to conserve energy.

 

A typical home requires power for heating, air conditioning, hot water and lighting – enough to cause the emission of tons of polluting carbon gases each year. Such a house is responsible for the emission of more than three tons of carbon annually, compared with about one and a half tons for the typical car, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

Here are some fun facts I’ve seen:

 

Proper use of a programmable thermostat can save up to $150 per year, per heat and air system.

 

If every home in the United States replaced one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, we could save $800 million dollars in energy use annually.

 

Solar water heating systems can reduce costs by up to 80% annually.

 

As a result, each of us must do our part to go green, the idea being that we must think globally, and act locally. Many homeowners are implementing a home audit as part of their checkup to save money. This audit is the first step in making a home more efficient. It will help pinpoint areas of energy loss in the house, and tell the owners what they can do to improve efficiency, lower their monthly power bills, and live greener.

 

When it comes to new homes, there’s an energy certification program worth noting. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit group that developed its own point rating system for green commercial projects and has certified 800 projects as green since 2000 through its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, or LEED. The organization uses consultants under contract to certify projects according to USGBC rules. In 2004 the Green Building Council rolled out a pilot program for similar grading of residential projects, and to get a home certified as green, builders would have to pay about $2,000 for the required inspection.

 

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), even though prospective home buyers want the benefits of new, more efficient homes, they are unwilling to pay much more for a green home. Builders said that among buyers who are willing to pay more for green features, more than half – 57 percent – are unlikely to pay more than an additional two percent.

 

The August survey coincides with news that the NAHB National Green Building Program continues to grow. More than 400 homes, developments and remodeling projects have been certified by the NAHB Research Center, which administers the program and trains and accredits local project verifiers. Of those projects, 43 have been certified to the required standard, approved earlier this year by the American National Standards Institute.

 

What’s interesting is that the preferences for specific green building techniques are regional, with builders in the West reporting much more interest in water efficiency than builders in other areas. Interest in homes built with recycled materials is particularly high in the Northeast (the region where the fewest new homes are built) and low in the South (the region with the highest number of housing starts).

 

Also, according to the NAHB survey, only 11 percent of builders nationwide indicated that their customers ask about environmentally friendly features. Overall, energy efficiency continues to be the primary factor driving the green building movement.

 

Moving to another sector of the housing market, the deadline for first-time buyers to receive their $8,000 tax credit is coming up fast (November 30, 2009). According to recent reports by the Commerce Department, production of new single-family homes slowed in August. While overall housing starts rose 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 598,000 units for the month, single-family starts declined 3 percent to a rate of 479,000 units, ending what had been a five-month run of improvements.

 

The National Association of Realtors, along with others, including the National Association of Home Builders, are calling on Congress to extend the first-time home buyer tax credit for another year and to offer it to all income-eligible buyers of primary residences. If successful, many predict that this will be a boon to our national economy, which needs all the help it can get.

 



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