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Background and Overview
Green Design
Green Products
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Water Use
Indoor Air Quality
Solid and Hazardous Waste
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All Residential Construction Links
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Best Background and Overview Links
Building Greener Building Better: The Quiet Revolu...
An overview of some of the many methods of building "green homes". A wide variety of measures that ...
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Green Building: A Primer For Builders, Consumers a...
A thorough overview of what to look for in a home that is more environmentally sensitive; intended t...
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New Privately-Owned Housing Units Completed
Provides statistics on housing completions; total, regional, monthly.
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Pollution Prevention for Residential Construction:...
Practical ideas on how to reduce or eliminate waste; range of "Best Pollution Prevention Practices" ...
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Sustainability Objectives
Importance of reduced resource consumption to sustainability; methods for creating opportunities to ...
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The State of Green Building 2001
Builders give more weight to environmental issues when planning new residential developments than th...
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What Is Sustainable Development (SD) ?
Overview and importance of sustainability.
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Pollution Prevention and Residential Construction- Background and Overview

Resource Efficient
Residential Construction

Background and Overview

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, and Source:http://www.sustainable.doe.gov/buildings/gbintro.shtml
  • 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 to
1999, more resources are used during construction of homes and also to operate them.

Top 10 U.S. States: Total Residential Permits in 2001

1. Florida
2. Texas
3. California
4. Georgia
5. North Carolina
6. Arizona
7. Colorado
8. Illinois
9. Virginia
10. Ohio

Source: U.S. Housing Markets, The Meyers Group, April 2002

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, and Economics.

Building Green

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 energy opportunities.
  • Site design that provides homes oriented to the community, that capture a unique environmental focus, and utilizes renewable energy inputs.
  • 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.
Benefits To Builders

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
Benefits To Consumers

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)
Trends in Green Building

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 Group http://www.meyersgroup.com/homebuilding/homebuilding.asp, 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 table.

Developing Communities: "Old Way" To New Strategies

Old Way
New Strategy
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 ...…............................ Technology integration
Public sector Vs. private .....….............. Partnerships
Find more land ("sprawl") ......…............ Adaptive reuse
Source: The 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.

Partnership Development

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

The Residential Construction Topic Hub was developed by:
Peaks to Prairies
Contact Laura Estes at Peaks with questions or comments:
406-994-3451 or laurae@montana.edu