Green building: It’s not what they say … it’s what they want
I was at the Greenbuild conference last week, and my general, unscientific assessment would be this: there are many passionate individuals – true believers – holding down the green building fort and pressing it forward.
But the event seems smaller than it used to be. It seems to me there were fewer booths than there were six or seven years ago, and the ones that were there were smaller.
I’d love to say that’s because green building is so mainstream that there’s just no need for a separate conference on it. But at the International Builders’ Show earlier this year, I didn’t exactly see a preponderance of green messaging in booths, and there certainly wasn’t a huge emphasis on it in the educational tracks (definitely some sessions, but I wouldn’t call it a major push).
So what’s going on? One of my clients noted that his experience as an exhibitor at Greenbuild is that there are a lot more attendees looking to learn, not really to buy. And in the quarterly profits cycle we live in, most companies want to see immediate leads and sales come out of an expensive trade show investment.
When I talk to builders and architects, I hear the standard refrain: consumers aren’t asking for it. Maybe, in turn, builders and architects aren’t asking manufacturers for it, so they don’t see a need to showcase it.
They would all be wrong, by the way.
The reality is, Americans do want greener homes. They just don’t call them that. In fact, if you created a profile of the person in the market for a new home and put it alongside a profile of the person who’s already bought a certified green or energy-efficient home, you’d see that those two profiles are almost identical.
Today’s new home buyer is looking for all the benefits of a green home:
- Comfort: They might reference that their current home is drafty or that there’s one room that’s always colder than the others – and of course, they don’t want this in their new home. Consistent temperature and improved comfort – that’s a benefit of a green home.
- Excellent air quality: The average American will almost never say these words. Although more than 60% of Americans are concerned about indoor air quality, they don’t exactly know what leads to diminished air quality or what to do to fix it. What they will say is, “My son has asthma,” or “I know it sounds crazy, but I sometimes think our current house is making us sick – I can feel fine all day at work and then I come home and my nose gets all stopped up. It’s like I’m allergic to it.” Breathing easier – that’s a benefit of a green home.
- Control: Nobody likes getting 12 surprises a year, even if they can afford them. Yet that’s the experience most of us have with our utility bill. It’s usually more expensive than we imagined, sometimes less, but always feels like a wild card. If you add some smart tech into your higher-performing homes, you can offer lower, predictable monthly bills. And that means peace of mind – another benefit of a green home.
- Peace and quiet: This doesn’t get mentioned a lot on the front end of a sale, but it’s something we hear from people who live in high-performance homes. They say, “I can’t believe how quiet it is. I don’t even hear the garbage truck!” It’s a benefit they didn’t know they needed, but one they quite enjoy. And it’s another benefit of a green home.
The folks interested in greener homes – again, they’re essentially the same folks interested in a new home – also want open floor plans, walkable communities and smart technology to manage things automatically for them. So give them these things. And build green homes. And talk about all these benefits to sell your green homes. It won’t matter if you ever utter the word “green.