The Green Building Movement  &  Its Affect on the Building Industry


The Green Building

Its Affect on the Building Industry

April 4th, 2016
A recent Professional Builder article discussed
the results of a recent builder and architect poll they commissioned. 
Here are some of the results of the survey.  The first section asked the
respondent to list the percentage of homes the builder built with certain
energy efficient items in them.  The top 5 items were unchanged for the
last 3 years.  They were: 1) energy efficient windows, 2) high efficiency
A/C systems, 3) energy efficient appliances, 4) enhanced insulation, and 5) air
sealing to reduce infiltration.  Between 70 and 90% of homes built contain
some or all of these items.  At the bottom of the list were these 5 items:
1) Graywater reuse systems, 2) geothermal heating/cooling, 3) insulated
concrete forms/structural insulated panels, 4) rainwater harvesting systems,
and 5) solar panels.  Between 2 and 11% of all new homes have one or more
of these items.
When the builders were asked about the primary
barriers they encounter with building and selling green/high performance homes
over 50% answered the primary reason was buyers were unwilling to pay a premium
or it adds significantly to costs.  Almost 40% answered lack of buyer
demand and 36% answered subs have difficulty understanding/fulfilling green
building methods.  (The builders were able to select 3 choices)
65% of builders believe a certified green home
sells for a premium over a noncertified home.  However, almost 50% of
builders say the premium buyers are willing to pay is 1-2 percent or less.
So what does this all mean to a SW Florida home. 
First, most people are unaware that the building industry is subject to
periodic energy efficiency increases mandated by the Federal Government. 
Just like cars, appliances, and other items, every 2-3 years, the required
energy efficiency of homes increases.  There are two ways the State of
Florida allows homes to be shown to comply.  The first is impractical for
the custom home market and requires the home to meet all of certain
requirements including glass to living area ratios.  The second, which is used
in most custom homes, is for the individual components of the home to be rated
as a unit to obtain the required efficiency rating.  This allows the
larger glass sliding doors and more windows to be used, providing other high
efficiency items make up for the reduction in energy performance the extra
glass allows.  Going back to the top 5 “green” items used in the poll
above, all 5 are required in most custom homes in our area.  Therefore all
5 are standard in Divco homes.  3 of the next 5 (are also standard in our
homes in order to meet current requirements.  So, just to meet building
code requirements, 8 out of 10 of the top “Green” items in the poll are used.
In March of 2017, we expect the next increase in
energy efficiency to be announced and made mandatory for permits issued after
June 2017.  It is expected that this change will require a change from
aluminum framed windows and sliding doors to vinyl clad windows and
doors.  The window/door industry is currently working towards this and they
are getting impact certification for some sizes and configurations of vinyl
sliding doors that currently have not been rated.  It is probable that
some homes will not be able to have the current amount of windows and doors
without large cost increases in other products to offset the heat loads from
the glass.  It is also expected there will be increases to the “fresh air”
requirements of homes.
 So, while the polls say the majority of
buyers are unwilling to pay any large increases for high performance houses,
the changes in building code will require builders to provide them to meet the
energy efficiency requirements.
Most interesting for the SW Florida market is
the overall lack of solar energy installed.  While there is a fairly large
startup cost for solar panels, they usually operate for 10-20 years with
limited maintenance.   Several years ago I personally installed solar
panels at my NH house.  Since these panels were installed to an existing
house, there were several incentives I received to install them.  These
incentives from the State of NH, the local electric company, and the IRS
resulted in a net 50% or so reduction in the initial costs.  Making my
payback time under 10 years.  With an expected life of 20 or so years, it
was a good investment.  However, in FL there is no state or utility
company credit, only the IRS credit and that applies only to a system installed
after the house is finished.  Interestingly, California leads the country
in solar requirements.  As I understand it, all new homes must have a roof
design compatible to allow a certain KW rating of solar panels and the panels
must be prewired allowing for a simpler connection when installed.
In summary, while Florida homes are not required
to be certified Green by an independent agency, they face energy efficiency
requirements none the less.  The overall design of the home plays a role
in these requirements.  The ratio of glass square footage to living area
space has a large impact in other efficiency requirements.  These requirements
will increase periodically as the energy code changes, with the net result
being a reduction in energy and water use in all new homes built.
Written By,
Stephen Kauffman, CEO of DIVCO Custom Homes