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Affordable Sustainability
Designed to provide technical assistance to HOME Program grant recipients, this website guides users...
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Building on a Green Budget
Low-cost green design and construction practices for commercial and residential construction.
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Green Building Initiatives
Provides links to organizations and agencies which provide incentives for "Green" building.
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Green Built Home Buyers Guide: Suggested Prioritie...
Green Built Home (Wisconsin) provides this priority ranking of measures to reduce the environmental ...
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State Recycling Tax Incentives
Descriptions of tax credits, deductions, and exemptions for recycling related activities, ie. equipm...
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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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Pollution Prevention and Residential Construction- Affordability of Green Practices

Resource Efficient
Residential Construction

Affordability of Resource Efficiency

"Resource-efficient construction" or "Green Building" is about the efficient use of resources. The goals of resource-efficient construction aim at decreased long-term and lifecycle costs associated with building construction, but builders must maintain reasonable up-front costs. How does a builder realize the benefits and manage costs?

Balancing Costs

While most green building activities require more up-front planning, many green features do not add material or labor costs. A well-designed home with less square footage and air-sealed building envelope may actually reduce costs through reductions in materials use, waste, water- and energy-use as well as raising the quality of comfort in the finished space.

"The average American house, like the average American, is just over-weight. It needs some trimming down."

Samuel Mockbee, MacArthur "genius" award architect. Newsweek, October 16, 2000. http://www.notsobighouse.com/

Some "green" features do have higher up-front material costs but lower labor costs, others have higher labor but much lower material costs, and some just cost more. Balancing these costs is easier when looking at the whole house project. A sealed, well ventilated building envelope is important, but also allows for a reduction in the size of the heating and cooling equipment.

Consumer Preferences and Construction Trends

David Ritchey Johnston, author of Building Green in a Black and White World, concludes that it is worth it to consumers to buy green and that means builders can profit. He shows through market research that "a strong segment of the population is ready to buy environmentally sound products. And, for those who are well informed about the benefits of green building, the environmental package included with their home is second only to location in their purchasing decision." Source: http://www.housingzone.com/topics/nahb/green/nhb00ca002.asp

Recent Gallup polls (2000 - 2001) indicate over half of the population considers themselves to be active participants or sympathetic to the 'environmental movement'. Source: The Gallup Organization Many individuals have not known how to contribute towards environmental protection, but they are finding a place to start is with their own home. And, they are willing to pay for it.

A landmark survey conducted in 2000 by a group of building industry manufacturers and associations confirmed the willingness of consumers to pay more for green building features in their homes, and consumers desire for these features. Eighty-nine percent of consumers surveyed were willing to pay between $2500 to $10,000 for green features if they improved quality, durability and the health of the house. A follow-up survey in 2001, showed that this trend is increasing, consumers are willing to pay even more this year. "On average, they’ll pay $2,327 extra, [for energy efficiency] a 36% increase over what they were willing to pay last year." Both surveys also showed that builders were familiar with many green building features, but underestimated the demand and willingness of consumers to pay for these features. The 2001 survey showed that the gap between consumer demand and builder estimation of that demand was growing. Source: http://www.housingzone.com/green/

But, many architects and builders are getting involved in the movement. Environmental Construction and Design magazine documented that 94 percent of architects, builders, developers, and others surveyed were already incorporating some green aspects in some of their design and construction projects (III. Trends Part IV). "Builders and architects alike believe that green building will corner increasing amounts of the market share for new home construction." Source: Conclusion http://www.housingzone.com/topics/nahb/green/nhb00ca002.asp

The trends show that there is interest and there is activity towards resource-efficient construction. The roles of the players (consumer, builder, architect) are still being formed and the traditional method of buying and selling homes is starting to change. These changes are taking place as more and more consumers are challenging the status quo and more and more builders are educating consumers about what they can provide.


A growing number of marketing studies indicate that builders will profit from efforts to design sustainable homes.

  • Consumers are looking for comfortable spaces that reflect their lifestyle and character. They want durability, efficiency, protection of the environment and a safe, healthy place to live.
  • Builders can transfer costs of excess square footage, number of bathrooms, and oversized heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to quality construction and innovative design.
  • Numerous organizations are providing technical and financial assistance to assist builders and homeowners to design in resource-efficiency.

Consumers will win with 'green' homes because they will gain long-term dollar savings when their home conserves water, materials, energy, and protects their environment and health. Energy efficiency is often the easiest green feature with which to calculate direct paybacks to the homeowner. But, other resource efficient techniques result in intangible paybacks to homeowners and the community including:

  • health and the costs associated with it,
  • maintenance costs from increased durability, and
  • stress on local services (water supply and treatment, landfills),
  • natural resource conservation (quality wetlands, rivers and openspace and increased support for recycled material markets).

Green building practices are a win-win for everyone.

Resources and Assistance for Affordabilty

Many public, non-profit and private organizations recognize the need to promote green building practices in the United States. An infrastructure of technical and financial assistance is available to architects, builders, homeowners and communities. Many of these organizations focus on energy-efficiency. But, most do consider other areas of green design, and many advocate the "whole-house design" approach.

Assistance comes in the form of guidelines, standards, incentive programs, grants, certification and ratings programs. A few of these resources are:

  • National "Affordable Home" Initiatives
    Affordable housing and economic development advocates support legislative mandates and establish requirements to include energy efficiency and renewable energy into housing assisted by their programs.
  • Certification and Ratings Programs
    Certification and ratings programs create partnerships between builders and federal, state, local and non-profit organizations to enhance communities and home marketability one home at a time. These programs often provide builders with training, audits, recommendations, third-party certification and sometimes marketing and mortgage information.
  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Initiatives
    Organizations working to promote energy non-renewable energy conservation strive to provide tax incentives and guidance that will help builders and consumers more effectively incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency into their homes.
  • Audits and Utility Incentives
    Many utility companies provide audits and incentives for energy efficiency as well as renewable energy technology development. For example, Seattle Public Utilities and partners have joined to promote sustainable design and construction practices and technology in the building and landscaping industries. They Provide technical assistance on many municipal and commercial projects.
  • Lending Incentives
    Some construction may also qualify consumers for higher than normal debt-to-income ratio when calculating loan potentials, enlarging the market of potential home-buyers.
The market is ripe for green building. Builders and architects who actively market green features will capture a slice of this quick growing market.

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