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High Performance Building Practices Prevalent in the Residential Home Building Market

Home builders across the country are prioritizing high-performance building practices in their projects, regardless if they consider the home they are building to be green, according to new research published in the 2020 Green Single Family and Multifamily Homes SmartMarket Brief. The latest in a series of studies conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics in partnership with the National Association of Home Builders finds that almost all builders are incorporating energy-efficient practices and over two-thirds are also using practices designed to improve indoor air quality and water efficiency.

Builders reported that practices promoting energy efficiency are commonly used in homes, whether they are considered green or not. Key findings include:

  • 91 percent of homebuilders use energy-efficient approaches, and over two thirds do so on the majority of their projects. These practices may include the use of LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances and right-sized, highly efficient HVAC systems;
  • Energy efficiency and durability are the top influential green attributes in product/system selection;
  • Over two-thirds also use practices designed to improve indoor environmental quality and water efficiency; and
  • Almost all green builders (defined for this study, as doing more than 50 percent of their projects green) report using energy efficiency practices on more than 75 percent of their projects; 88 percent call out a tight building envelope and 61 percent use high-performance ventilation.

“These findings complement the results of a recent NAHB study where home buyers ranked high-performance products and practices among the top features they want in a home,” says John Barrows, NAHB sustainability and green building subcommittee chair. “This shows us that the value of home performance is increasing among builders and consumers.”

The study reveals both customer demand and perceptions about performance are driving green engagement. Most builders believe that the top factors influencing consumer decisions about whether to invest in a green home are concerns about cost and performance, with related issues—like their return on investment and the quality of the home—following close behind. Almost three quarters of builders/remodelers credit consumers’ perceptions on performance with being influential/very influential on their decision to build more green, and most of them also found that consumers regard green home performance as better than that of a traditional home.

However, builders and remodelers also see the need for increased market demand from customers for green homes in order for them to increase the green projects they build. Lack of market demand was cited as the top reason that companies are not currently doing more green building. “This presents an opportunity for growth in the green market, as only one-third of builders identifying themselves as green, built green at least half of the time, while nearly half of single-family and almost one third of multifamily builders reported doing no green projects at all,” says Donna Laquidara-Carr, industry insights research director at Dodge Data & Analytics.

Cost is also a major influencer in the green building market. A majority of builders/remodelers believe that their customers see green homes as costing more, but also as achieving higher performance. In addition, 70 percent of single-family home builders believe that their customers will pay more for a green home, suggesting that many home buyers understand the benefits of green. In fact, over 80 percent of single-family builders and remodelers believe that the lower operating costs of a green home provide more value to the home owner than the initial premium, and over half also believe that owners gain value from the greater comfort and better occupant experience that a green home provides.

Download the full report