NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Trends in the greening of housing

Energy Star-rated appliances are among the features surveyed homebuyers said they are looking for in a home. [AP FILE PHOTO]
Energy Star-rated appliances are among the features surveyed homebuyers said they are looking for in a home. [AP FILE PHOTO]

WASHINGTON — Energy efficiency is a primary driver in homebuyer preferences, according to research from the National Association of Home Builders presented during the recent International Builders' Show, held virtually.

Last summer, the NAHB surveyed more than 3,000 homebuyers, both recent and prospective, on the types of features they prefer to have in their homes, including eco-friendly components and designs. Its starts with Energy Star, the program of the Environmental Protection Agency Department of Energy that promotes energy efficiency.

Top features included:

• Energy Star-rated windows and appliances.

• Efficient lighting that uses less energy than traditional bulbs.

• Energy Star rating for the whole house.

"There are a wide range of green features that buyers feel are desirable," noted Paul Emrath, vice president of surveys and housing policy research for the homebuilders' trade group. "Energy efficiency, though, tops the list of what they most want."

The majority of survey respondents prefer to go green when provided the option, such as incorporating passive solar design (60%) and durable materials (66%) into their homes. Buyers are also willing to invest in features that help lower their utility bills, with the average buyer willing to pay as much as $9,292 more upfront for a home to save $1,000 annually on utility costs.

Buyers are generally willing to spend more on green certifications, as well, including more than $2,000 upfront for a home certified to an above-code standard for health and wellness-features that have becoming increasingly important in the wake of COVID-19.

"We're doing a lot more in our homes now," said Brandon Bryant, founder of Red Tree Builders, a green home building company in Asheville, North Carolina. "So in turn our homes need to do a lot more for us."

Examples of features that incorporate health and wellness include zone heating, purified air appliances such as UVC fans, indoor air quality sensors and a connection to the outdoors to help residents live comfortably and safely in their homes.

Buyers may not realize that many of these features also are inherently energy efficient and meet a number of additional housing and lifestyle desires.

"Education is key," Bryant said. "We've got to teach people how to live in green homes, how these homes operate and even before we build to let them know what we could do because a lot of times we could do so much more for their life."

Additional home buyer preferences and details are included in NAHB's upcoming report, "What Home Buyers Really Want" (2021 edition).