green building

Become a residential green giant


  • Residential green building is growing more popular each year.
  • Both single-family and multifamily builders agree on four criteria of green living spaces that are most important today.
  • Energy efficiency, healthier indoor environments, water efficiency, durability, and efficient resource use are the keys to greener building performance.

By 2019, 38 per cent of single-family homebuilders and 41 per cent of multifamily builders will be completely dedicated to or highly involved with green building materials and techniques, according to survey results reported in Dodge Data & Analytics’ November 2017 webinar “Top Opportunities in Green Residential Building.” Here’s why and what to focus on to make your green commitment profitable.

Green living spaces provide clean indoor air, in addition to using less energy and water, as reported by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design organization. While LEED-certified homes don’t get as much press as other types of green building, green home building is still on a growth curve. Green homes made up 23 per cent of new single family homes in 2013, and that was up from just two per cent in 2005. By the end of 2018, single family green building is expected to account for 40 per cent of that market.

Single-family buyers choose green features to save on energy costs and because they see them as better for the environment. Fifty-eight per cent of builders say new home buyers are willing to pay one to four per cent more for green homes. The same dynamic is at play in the multifamily sector. Multifamily builders say their clients will pay more for green features, with almost 40 per cent saying clients are willing to pay over five per cent more.

As evidence of the value of green homes mounts, not just from a resale perspective but also due to the energy savings they provide, traditional lenders are opening up to more green projects in their portfolios.

Moreover, while single-family and multifamily green builders differ slightly in what features to include to make their projects attractive to buyers and owners, their standards overlap more than they differ.

Today’s Green

Recently surveyed builders of single-family and multifamily living spaces say these are the top four things you can do to make living spaces greener today:

  • Deliver energy efficiency
  • Use technological products to boost the indoor environmental quality
  • Increase water conservation
  • Conserve materials and resources

What you can do to improve green home performance is only slightly different for single-family and multifamily.

Energy Efficiency

The starting point here are highly efficient HVAC systems that are sized correctly and installed properly. Builders may also aim to exceed the code minimums for insulation. Another energy-saving tactic is using more efficient lighting as well as windows that exceed the performance the code requires.

Besides relying on highly efficient HVAC, multifamily builders say energy efficient appliances are slightly more important for their clients than efficient lighting and windows exceeding code performance.

Healthier Indoor Environment

If moisture is too high or ventilation is poor, there’s no amount of filtering that’s going to improve indoor environmental quality. Nearly all surveyed single family builders (85 per cent) say balancing moisture control and ventilation is a best practice for bettering indoor air. Seventy-five per cent of multifamily builders feel the same.

Reducing volatile organic compounds is a closely related issue. It improves indoor environmental quality while minimizing allergy stressors on the occupants. High percentages of both multifamily and single-family builders rated this practice as very important to improving a home’s green performance.

Air filtration is the last method highlighted by home builders for improving indoor environments. Fifty-six per cent of surveyed multifamily builders and half of single-family builders say a best practice in achieving better indoor air is to use Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 8, which amounts to finer air filtration.

Water Efficiency

Multifamily builders differ from single-family builders in their third choice of top practices for improving green home performance, with 48 per cent naming water efficiency (single-family builders’ third highest marker of efficiency was durability and resilience in the home itself — see next section).

From reducing to reusing water to installing water conserving fixtures, landlords are increasingly sensitive to water and sewerage costs. In Long Beach, California, an apartment building owner cut their water use in a 161-unit building by 49 per cent after installing low-flow shower heads and low-flush toilets.

Durable and Resilient

A building that’s durable will last longer and, in many cases, will cost less in maintenance over its lifetime. Durability depends on factors like moisture control within the building’s envelope; expansion and contraction from heating and cooling; the ravages of sunlight and insects; and choosing long-lasting materials. This comes down to paying close attention to design, matching specified materials to the local environment, and making sure people install building components correctly.

Use Natural Resources Efficiently

This is where you focus on recycling materials, reducing waste, using prefabricated components, and including reclaimed building products. Again, this must start in the design phase for maximum effectiveness — with minimal changes once construction gets underway.

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