Homes represent a critical piece of the built environment—they are the structures where we spend the majority of our time, and are a valuable and sizeable segment of the green building industry. Homes that have sustainability measures incorporated into their design and construction are in high demand, and it’s estimated that by the end of this year, 79% of builders will have green homes included in their portfolio of projects.
It’s a myth that sustainability is a luxury item in a home or that green homes are only for the wealthy. Savings on utility bills, increased resale rates and added tax benefits make green homes more affordable and attainable for everyone, regardless of income.
Green homes are not just better for the environment, they enhance the health and well-being of occupants and can be financially beneficial to homeowners. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average American household spends over $2,000 a year on energy bills, but green homes use 30% to 60% less energy. That translates to thousands of dollars in savings in energy bills alone over the lifetime of the house, not to mention a much more comfortable living experience. In many markets, certified green homes are now selling quicker and for more money than comparable non-green homes. Research shows that green-certified homes sell for a 3% to 9% premium.
Additionally, state governments are implementing tax credits on homes that incorporate a green building rating system, like Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, the most widely used green building rating system in the world. According to a 2016 report examining green building criteria in low-income housing tax credit plans, more state housing finance agencies are deploying LEED and other third-party green building rating systems as tools to ensure the environmental, economic and social benefits of sustainable building practices are brought to all.
There are more than 330,000 LEED-certified residential units in the U.S., nearly 50,000 of which are affordable housing, meaning sustainability is not just for the wealthy or considered a luxury. Sustainability in a building where we spend the majority of our time is important for the longevity of the house and, more importantly, the health of its occupants.
The U.S. Green Building Council believes access to and the benefits of sustainable, high-performance buildings should be available to all, regardless of income, and is working with partners across the country to promote the development of affordable green homes. American families should not have to choose between living in a healthy, sustainable home and affording their monthly bills. The added economic benefits of sustainably constructed homes, and continued ability for people to afford them, will see that the number of green and LEED-certified homes continue to grow.
Patti Mason is the mountain west regional director for the U.S. Green Building Council. She can be reached at [email protected]