Eco-friendly home designs are one bright spot in today’s struggling real estate economy. As homeowners look to buy new, green-constructed homes, real estate builders are doing everything they can to lower the cost of living with energy and environmentally efficient designs.
According to a new report by NPR, green construction accounts for almost one third of all U.S. construction since 2005 (based on industry statistics from McGraw-Hill Construction). One of the main motivations for progress in eco-friendly home designs is due to the success of the private U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which started in 1993.
The USGBC is responsible for creating the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which dominates the commercial real estate sector as one of the strictest energy efficiency classifications in the nation. While the LEED certification started out as just a marketing pitch, construction companies realized its potential as a major selling point, as well as a cost saving measure for homebuyers. Even the University of Michigan did the math, and they agree that LEED is worth the investment as they plan to seek certification on all future building projects worth more than $10 million.
How to Achieve LEED Certification
LEED certification works by awarding points for factors like air quality, water conservation, and energy efficiency based on the design of homes and office buildings. Some of the ways buildings and homes gain high LEED marks include using green materials for flooring, paint and windows, and by installing equipment like dual-flush toilets and Energy Star appliances, which use less electricity compared to older appliances.
The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that an LEED certified green building can cost up to two percent more in upfront costs and, as LEED rises in popularity, many eco-friendly building materials are beginning to fall below standard construction costs of an average non-LEED home.
In 2009, the number of homes receiving LEED certification tripled compared to 2008 with more than 3,000 new buildings and homes. As more than 155,000 architects, contractors and consultants passed a USGBC test to become a LEED accredited professional or green associate, everyone in the developer community expects this trend to continue to lead the economic reform to the real estate market in the future.