Colorado has always been a national green building leader. We’ve been among the top 10 states in the country for LEED-certified commercial buildings every year since the U.S. Green Building Council first issued its annual ranked list in 2010. We’re home to one of the nation’s largest green building conferences, Rocky Mountain Green, which will be held in Denver on May 3. We have leaders who understand the importance of sustainable building, and who have put policies in place to help the industry thrive.
That groundwork has positioned us well to capitalize on the exceptional potential of the residential green construction market, which is expected to grow from $55 million in 2015 to $100.4 million this year – representing year-over-year growth of 24.5%. This positive trajectory is helped along by the increased availability, understanding and use of green building guidance and rating systems, which provide developers and owners with peace of mind that their projects are as healthy and sustainable as they intend.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building program in the world, and is applicable to every project type, including residential buildings. LEED homes enhance the health and well-being of occupants, and they are designed to save costly resources – energy and water – lowering utility bills each month.
The LEED for Homes rating system is designed for both multifamily and single-family projects. Here in Colorado, there are nearly 11,000 residential units and 350 single-family homes that are LEED certified. Globally, there are more than 1.58 million residential units participating in LEED, and the rating system continues to grow as individuals demand healthier, more efficient homes, and developers recognize the premium that sustainability features offer.
One company leading the way locally is Denver-based Thrive Home Builders. Thrive is a longtime partner of USGBC and has been a leader in developing energy-efficient homes since 1993. Thrive has been recognized for focusing on areas beyond traditional energy efficiency such as materials and resources, location and transportation, and occupant health and comfort. Thrive’s new LEED-certified Hyland Village project in Westminster is one of the most energy-efficient developments in the state.
So what does a LEED home mean for the homeowner? On average, a LEED-certified home uses 20% to 30% less energy than a comparable traditional home, with some owners reporting up to 60% cost savings. LEED-certified homes are designed to maximize fresh air indoors, and minimize exposure to airborne toxins and pollutants. That’s particularly important when you consider that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.
More than half of consumers rank green features and energy efficiency as top requirements for their next homes, and a 2016 study found that green homes sell for 3.5% more than those without green features. Research shows that building to LEED standards increases construction costs between 0.5% and 1.5%; however, green-certified homes sell for a 3% to 9% premium. Also, a 2013 report from the Institute for Market Transformation, “Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks,” analyzed 71,000 homes and found that energy-efficient homes had a 32% lower default risk.
The continuing growth of green homes in Colorado represents a healthier and more sustainable future for our state.
Patti Mason is the mountain west regional director for the U.S. Green Building Council. She can be reached at [email protected].