Suggesting that homebuyers are turning their backs on the environment because oil prices dropped to $50 a barrel, is at best premature. Writing an article about a "trend" in the housing industry should be based on more than the opinions of two or three builders. It's more likely that lower fuel prices has provided those builders who have never been comfortable selling green, with a convenient excuse to revert back to their old approach.
Energy-efficient homes are about more than saving energy. Lower oil prices doesn't justify pumping a few million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I know we're better than that. There's a little thing called our environment at stake. Every average sized home built to old standards unnecessarily puts an additional 2 to 3 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each and every year, and requires the destruction of over two acres of forest to build. Yes, building a more energy-efficient home lowers energy costs, but it's also good for the environment. There is simply no excuse for this with so many cost-effective solutions readily available.
Are we so naive that we are willing to purchase a new home, finance it with a 30-year mortgage, and believe the cost of oil will not go back up over the next 30 years? Of course it will. And when that happens, any homeowner who passed on the opportunity to build a more energy-efficient home will once again be at the mercy of utility companies. Based on what we've seen over the past 10 years, well let's just say homebuyers should know better.
So whose job is it to help homebuyers avoid these types of mistakes? Builders and realtors are considered as the authority in the home buying process. These are the people getting paid to build and sell homes - that makes them the experts in the minds of most buyers. The average homebuyer isn't familiar with construction methods and building codes. They depend on their experts to keep them informed of money and energy saving opportunities that involve the building shell.
Unless real estate experts take the time to present energy saving opportunities that are not as apparent, homebuyers feel satisfied with a few EnergyStar appliances. They end up with an energy-efficient dishwasher and a building shell that leaks air. That's like putting an energy-efficient radio in a Hummer. Putting homebuyers into homes today that builders know will be branded as energy-hogs once new codes are mandated, without informing them of the alternative building solutions available, is irresponsible to say the least. It's hard to say who is most "cheated", the homebuyer or the environment.
At some point we have to get over the idea that building green is more expensive. The decision to not build green is based on the misconception that it costs more to build green. It's possible to build an ultra green home, even LEED certified home, that is highly energy-efficient and pay less per month. And when it's time to resell, energy-efficient homes appreciate at a rate far above ordinary wood frame homes.
Unfortunately, discussing cost-of-ownership and payback is uncomfortable for many sellers. It's just easier to shortcut the selling process by dismissing the idea with "it's more expensive to build green". Frankly, not presenting the financial advantages of building green is a disservice to homebuyers.
Over the next few years new building codes will increase the minimum energy standards in new construction. In fact, we're already seeing evidence of this. Why not make these types of improvements because it's the right thing to do instead of waiting for government mandates?
I'm looking forward to the day that building green is non-negotiable. How about you?
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