Home Buyers Want Green Amenities

Posted by pcbasentry on January 26, 2009

reprinted from ecohome

By Sharon Linstedt, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Jan. 23–When home buyers size up potential new digs, their checklists of “must haves” increasingly include such features as high-efficiency heating systems, upgraded insulation, and energy-sipping appliances.

Some are making conscious choices to be environmentally friendly, while others just want elements that will result in long-term savings. But the end result is a growing market for “greener” homes.

“More and more of our members are adding green features to their plans. It’s certainly a trend,” said Joseph W. McIvor, executive director of the Buffalo Niagara Home Builders Association.

According to a 2008 McGraw-Hill Construction study, more than 330,000 homes with eco-friendly features were built in the U. S. in the prior three years. That includes 6.2 percent of new homes, up from just 1.8 percent of green residences in 2005.

That survey also noted that “going green” was not a phenomenon limited to high-end home buyers. More than 50 percent of purchasers choosing green features earned less than $75,000 a year, and 30 percent earned under $50,000, according to the McGraw-Hill report.

The National Association of Realtors estimates the average “green” home buyer will spend an extra $12,400 to get the slate of special features they want in their domicile.

Builders are routinely outfitting their homes with products and appliances that are certified by the federal Energy Star program. The 6-year-old national initiative, governed by Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, includes everything from refrigerators and washing machines, to windows, furnaces and roofing materials.

The Energy Star label can also be put on entire homes. The certified homes are billed as being at least 20 percent to 30 percent more efficient than standard homes.

Clarence-based Essex Homes is among builders that have redesigned their product to qualify for the program.

“We’ve gone exclusively Energy Star,” said Philip Nanula, president of Essex Homes. “All our homes meet that threshold and we’re seeing a lot of buyers add on to create even higher efficiencies.”

A popular “extra” is foam insulation, an upgrade that can add several thousands dollars to a home’s price tag. But Nanula said low long-term heating and cooling costs are strong motivation for buyers to pay higher upfront costs.

“If you can afford to pay out an extra $50 a month on mortgage for the upgraded insulation, but you’re saving $150 a month on your heating bill, why wouldn’t you build it in?” Nanula said.

Beyond big-ticket infrastructure features and appliances, home buyers and builders are working through an expanding menu of interior decor choices with green implications. Vinyl flooring is being bypassed for bamboo, cork, tile and wood products. Carpets and window treatments made from natural and recycled materials are beating out synthetics.

Buyers are requesting volatile organic compound (VOC)- free paints. And while granite and marble might be natural materials, more than a few buyers have crossed them off their lists because of the environmental costs of importing them to the U. S.

Even furniture is going green, with cushions fashioned from soy-based instead of chemical-based foams, and natural fabric coverings devoid of formaldehyde-based coatings.

Locally and nationally, definitions of “green home building” are under debate. While highly defined “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” — LEED — certification has made major inroads in commercial construction, it is only trickling into the residential arena.

“We’re getting very few requests for more extreme green things, like solar panels,” Nanula said “but this is an evolving thing, and five years from now, who knows?”


Copyright (c) 2009, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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