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Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Green Design
Green Products
Energy Efficiency
Water Use
Indoor Air Quality
Solid and Hazardous Waste
Building Codes and Standards
All Residential Construction links
Only Background and Overview links

Essential Links:

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...

Pollution Prevention for Residential Construction:...
Practical ideas on how to reduce or eliminate waste; range of "Best Pollution Prevention Practices" ...

Sustainability Objectives
Importance of reduced resource consumption to sustainability; methods for creating opportunities to ...

What Is Sustainable Development (SD) ?
Overview and importance of sustainability.

Building Greener Building Better: The Quiet Revolu...
An overview of strategies to build "green homes". Case studies and builder interviews touch on the ...

Residential Construction: Background and Overview
Pollution Prevention and Residential Construction- Background and Overview

The 2002 construction statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that residential construction represents approximately 49% of the value of building construction in America, or over $336 billion. In the United States, there are:

  • nearly 80 million residential buildings (Source: http://www.sustainable.doe.gov/buildings/gbintro.shtml), and
  • an average of almost 1,600,000 residential units built each year; approximately 78% contain single residences and the remaining units containing multiple residences. Source: National Association of Home Builders, Units Completed 2002

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 to build and operate them.

  • Building construction and operation is accountable for one-third of all energy use in the United States. Source: U.S. Department of Energy
  • Construction oftens degrade water quality in streams, wetlands, and groundwater near construction sites.
  • Plumbing and appliances contribute to large amounts of water use within the home. One study indicates that between the years 1900 and 2000, residents increased per person water consumption from 5 gallons a day to 62 gallons a day. Source: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
  • As estimated in 1996, 43% (58 million tons per year) of construction and demolition (C&D) debris is generated from residential construction, renovation and demolition. This material often ends up in landfills where it occupies space and may potentially cause additional adverse environmental effects. Source: U.S. EPA, Office of Solid Waste
  • Building construction, operation, and maintenance contribute significantly to air pollution, which contributes to acid rain, climate change, health problems, and other impacts resulting from degraded air quality.
  • A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that indoor air can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.

Building Green
People feel the pressures of limited land, air, and water, pollution, liability and health insurance costs, energy shortages and costs, waste management tensions, and habitat loss. 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.

"Green" homes strive to reduce adverse affects of traditional building techniques through 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 people 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 construction are considered together. This approach involves:

  • Suitable site selection to reduce commuting and maintain environmental quality.
  • Homes designed to enhance the community and use green products and renewable energy.

Benefits To Builders
Builders can have a major role in community development by providing homebuyers opportunities to be more active in protecting the environment and preserving resources. Pollution prevention can help reduce accidents and 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 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. Individuals and communities are looking for ways to actively take part in the protection of resources and habitats. They are finding that their homes provide an avenue to demonstrate efficient resource use and environmental protection. According to direct surveys and market research, 89% 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, 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 that preserve environmental quality, enhance communities, and conserve 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.

Home builders associations offer technical assistance and information for resource-efficient design and construction. Mortgage and real estate brokers see it is important to develop tools and skills to work with homeowners interested in "green homes". These groups educate customers about 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, and trade and consumer groups are effective ways to encourage, certify, and recognize green building efforts.

"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

Hub Last Updated: 08/22/2003

The P2Rx Topic Hub Project was developed by:
The Residential Construction Topic Hub was developed by:
Peaks to Prairies
Peaks to Prairies
Contact Laura Estes (Peaks)
406-994-3451 or laurae@montana.edu