Diversity helps build strength and resiliency. Nowhere was this more apparent than at last week’s Greenbuild conference in Phoenix, AZ. Over 28,000 people from around the world gathered to share, learn and plan for the continued acceleration of green building practices. The opening plenary included reports by U.S. Green Building Council leaders from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Taiwan. Green building is driving global change.
We’re not just thinking globally now, we’re acting globally. Every person in every home has a role to play, a contribution to make, a vision to create. It’s exciting to know that people everywhere are engaged in this process now.
There were many indications at Greenbuild that new home builders are more committed than ever to creating green communities. They understand that business as usual is no longer acceptable and that green homes are becoming the new standard.
The millions upon millions of existing homes also represent a tremendous opportunity. Remodeling an existing house can be much greener than building a new one. If done properly, a green remodel can drastically reduce utility bills while improving occupant comfort, safety and even health.
It’s important to do it right and our local HomeFree Nevada program is a great way to start the process (www.homefreenevada.org). An excellent source for green residential remodeling information is the REGREEN program (www.regreenprogram.org). It was announced at Greenbuild that the REGREEN site has been newly enhanced and improved.
Tom Toomey is president and CEO of UDR, Inc., a real estate investment company specializing in multi-family dwellings. During a presentation at the Greenbuild Residential Summit, he said more than 60% of his customers are looking for green features when shopping for an apartment and 68% tend to renew their lease if green features are present. They are aiming for LEED Silver or better ratings on new projects. All of them are being built in areas where quality transportation options are available, especially light rail. (Hint to our urban planners…)
A typical UDR customer pays $1,500 to $2,000 in yearly utility bills. The company determined that for existing buildings, a green upgrade costing approximately $350 per unit would result in an average utility savings of $600 every year for their customer. More education is needed since so far, most customers are not inclined to take advantage of the offer.
Large scale economic issues were also a major topic at Greenbuild. Ed Mazria, visionary architect and founder of architecture2030, outlined a plan that would help homeowners obtain deep energy retrofits, significantly reduce their monthly expenses through energy savings and lower mortgage interest rates, provide a 200% return on taxpayer dollars used for the program, greatly reduce carbon emissions and create 4.5 million jobs. Details on “The One-Year, 4.5-Million-Jobs Investment Plan” along with ways to support its adoption are available at www.architecture2030.org.
Greenbuild exhibitors offered an ever-increasing array of green building products, materials and services. From improved daylighting products from SolaTube to new super energy-efficient LED light bulbs from Phillips, many new ideas are shining brightly. In fact, Greenbuild is growing so fast that several hundred companies had to be turned away due to shortage of space.
The bottom line for homeowners is that there is a major shift occurring that will impact the value of our homes and the viability of our planet. Energy efficiency is becoming an increasingly important part of a home’s value. In fact, steps are being taken at the national level to educate realtors, appraisers and lenders about the true value of green, energy-efficient homes. This will help assure that investments in efficiency and renewable energy systems are properly tallied when it comes time to sell your home.
Don’t be left out in the cold – Green retrofits are hot. With so many diverse options, there’s bound to be at least a handful of solutions that will make your life just that much better.
Green Living column for Thursday, November 19, 2009, published in the Las Vegas Review Journal: “Green building practices expand globally”