The 1997 Economic Census indicates that residential construction
represents approximately 40% of the value of the building
construction activity in America, or over $275 billion,
at that time. In the United States, there are:
- more than 76 million residential buildings,
- an average of almost 1,600,000 residential units built
each year, with approximately 78 percent containing single
residences and the remaining units containing multiple
residences. Source: National Association
of Home Builders, Units Completed 2001
Home construction and long-term operation
require a tremendous amount of resources. With the average
square footage of homes doubling from the 1940s and 1950s
1999, more resources are used during construction of homes
and also to operate them.
Top 10 U.S. States: Total Residential Permits in
5. North Carolina
Source: U.S. Housing Markets, The
Meyers Group, April 2002
- Building construction and operation is accountable for one-third
of all energy use in the United States. Source:
- Construction activities often degrade water quality in streams,
wetlands, and groundwater near construction sites. Source:
- Indoor plumbing and modern appliances have contributed to
copious amounts of water use within the home. One study indicates
that between the years1900 and 2000, each resident has increased
water consumption from 5 gallons a day to 62 gallons a day.
- As estimated in 1996, 43% (58 million tons per year) of construction
& demolition (C&D) debris is generated from residential
construction, renovation and demolition sources. Often, this
material ends up in a private or community landfill where it
occupies space and may potentially cause additional adverse
environmental effects. Source: http://www.p2pays.org/ref/02/01095.pdf
- Buildings contribute a significant amount of pollution to
the air, which contributes to acid rain, climate change, health
problems, and other impacts resulting from degraded air quality.
- A growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the
air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted
than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized
Today our communities are feeling the pressures of limited
land, air and water pollution, liability and health insurance
costs, non-renewable energy shortages and costs, waste management
tensions, and habitat loss. The practice of Pollution Prevention
(P2) strives to use all resources in the most efficient
manner possible and to eliminate waste and pollution before
it is produced. During the past several years, the residential
construction industry has recognized a need to incorporate
P2 practices into daily activities and has begun to achieve
these changes through "green building", "resource-efficient
construction", or "sustainable design" techniques.
"Because of the profound effects
of the built environment on the availability of natural
resources for future generations, those involved in
designing, creating, operating, renovating, and demolishing
human structures have a vital role to play in working
to put society on a path toward sustainability."
Charles J. Kibert,
Reshaping the Built Environment: Ecology, Ethics,
Green built homes strive to change adverse affects of traditional
building techniques through the use of sustainable building practices.
Sustainability, as defined by the United Nations Environmental
Programme Document, is meeting the needs of people today without
destroying the resources that will be needed by persons in the
future. Source: http://www.nrg-builder.com/greenbld.htm#sustain
Sustainably built homes strive to:
- conserve natural resources
- minimize waste products
- conserve energy
- create a healthy environment for the occupant
These goals are met by an 'integrated' or 'whole system' approach
where all aspects of the home and the construction are considered
together. The use of a whole system approach involves:
- The selection of a site suitable to reduce commuting, enhance
community, maintain environmental quality, and maximize renewable
- Site design that provides homes oriented to the community,
that capture a unique environmental focus, and utilizes renewable
- Building design that incorporates these optimal site characteristics
into integrated water, indoor air, and energy systems through
the use of "green" materials, products and techniques.
Builders have a strong role in the development of communities
by providing homebuyers with an opportunity to become more active
in protecting the environment and by using practices during construction
that conserve and protect existing resources. Pollution prevention
practices help reduce the risks of accidents or exposure to harmful
substances, both to employees and to homeowners. Builders benefit
from green building practices through:
- Reduced Disposal Costs
- Enhanced Health and Safety for Workers
- Reduced Materials or Labor Costs
- Reduced Liability
- Improved Market Appeal
- Enhanced Community Leadership
Buying a home is one of the largest investments that an individual
or family will make. They recognize that long-term maintenance and
operation of their home can be a financial drain. They also want
their home to be a reflection of their lifestyle and desires. Consumers
benefit from green building practices through:
- Reduced Utility and Maintenance Costs
- Occupant Satisfaction
- Reduced Health Impacts
- Enhanced Durability (environmental conservation and protection)
- Strong Resale Value
- Enhanced Community
- Increased Global Security (less reliance on imports)
Gallup poll surveys show that a majority of citizens embrace
environmental protection, even if it risks economic growth. Source:
The Gallup Organization. Individuals and communities are
looking for ways to actively take part in the protection of resources
and habitats. They are finding that the homes in which they live
provide an avenue to demonstrate efficient resource use and environmental
protection. According to direct surveys and market research, 89
percent of homebuyers are willing to pay extra for "green"
features that improve quality, durability and the health of the
house. Source: http://www.housingzone.com/topics/pb/green/survey/builder.asp.
Consumer preferences and changing demographics are already driving
changes in the way new homes are built. According to the Meyers
the largest residential real estate information research company
in the U.S., the "old way" of development is being pushed
aside by "new strategies" as shown in the following
Developing Communities: "Old Way"
To New Strategies
| Mass marketing ....................................
||Niche markets for life stage and lifestyle
|Unplanned suburbs ...............................
||Master planned communities
|Hard infrastructure; single purpose .....
||Soft programming and multiple purpose
|Golf course as sole amenity ...................
||Open space/natural environment focus
|Suburban anonymity and individualism .....
||Creation of community
|Contemporary styling .
||Neotraditional values (implies density)
|Low tech homes ...
|Public sector Vs. private .....
|Find more land ("sprawl") ......
Meyers Group, http://www.meyersgroup.com/homebuilding/homebuilding.asp
These new strategies embrace green building practices and correlate
to smaller, more comfortable homes that provide savings in utility
bills and maintenance costs.
The building industry is focusing on ways to build homes while
preserving environmental quality, providing desired communities,
and conserving resources. A whole system approach to home building
promotes the development of partnerships as many interests, (i.e.
planning, architecture, construction, affordability, health, realty,
codes and standards, energy, water protection, wildlife, transportation,
waste and utility infrastructures), are combined into one home.
These varying interest groups are finding that homes can be built
in an affordable manner and still maintain environmental integrity.
Examples of resource-efficient home construction are found throughout
the nation and are becoming more common.
National and local Home Builders Associations now have technical
assistance and informational resources directly relevant to resource-efficient
design and construction strategies. Mortgage and real estate brokers
recognize the importance of developing tools and skills to work
with homeowners interested in "green homes". These groups
are joining others in ensuring that consumers are fully aware
of the benefits of resource-efficient homes. Local, state, and
federal entities are also interested in developing better communities
and protecting resources. Partnerships between government agencies,
trade and consumer groups are becoming effective ways to encourage,
certify, and recognize green building efforts throughout communities.
"To remain competitive and continue to expand and
produce profits in the future, the building industry knows
it must address the environmental and economic consequences
of its actions. That recognition is leading to changes in
the way the building industry and building owners approach
the design, construction, and operation of structures. With
the leadership of diverse groups in the public and private
sectors, the building industry is moving towards a new value
in its work: that of environmental performance."
David A. Gottfried, "Forward"
Sustainable Building Technical Manual http://www.sustainable.doe.gov/pdf/sbt.pdf