Transforming the Market for Green Homes

Amy Dryden
Build It Green works to expand the adoption of green building practices and to grow the market for green homes.

Continual change is something we’ve come to expect in the building industry, and something Build It Green has always embraced. The past two years have brought particularly fast-moving changes and transitions for California builders, contractors, policymakers, and even homeowners. We’ve seen a long-awaited rebound following the housing crash, updated state and local policies and codes to meet aggressive goals, new energy efficiency programs and incentives, and ever advancing green building practices and technologies.

At Build It Green (BIG), a CA-based nonprofit, we focus on the opportunities these changes bring. Our mission is to expand the adoption of green building practices and to grow the market for green homes. Our ongoing success toward these goals lies in our ability to help professionals do well by doing good—making green practices profitable and beneficial for everyone.

Over the past two years, our work has focused on four strategic challenges that we identified as keys to expanding the market for green building:

  1. Training and empowering professionals to adopt green building practices and then promote them to build their businesses.
  2. Stimulating consumer demand for green homes and our GreenPoint Rated certification.
  3. Incentivizing existing home energy efficiency upgrades and simplifying the upgrade process.
  4. Incentivizing the real estate industry to promote green.

Transformation Through Training

In 2012 and 2013, Build It Green empowered more than 1,700 professionals through dozens of green building trainings, including builders, raters and consultants, architects, contractors, and real estate professionals.

In 2014, BIG re-focused its education strategy on larger events like our Healthy Homes Conference in May and our forthcoming California Water Wise Homes Conference in November. These conferences bring together leading industry experts to share the latest research and practices with building professionals on key issues.

Net zero energy homes are also a major topic of interest among building professionals, as they look to the State of California’s 2020 goal for all new residential construction to be NZE. In fall 204, BIG partnered with the Net Zero Coalition for a four-part webinar series on emerging practices to meet NZE.

GreenPoint Rated Certification

In 2013, GreenPoint Rated emerged as the most trusted green home certification system in California, for proof that a home is healthy, efficient, and green. We surpassed 21,000 homes certified, with 17,000 more in the pipeline. The success of the program is due in large part to the commitment of forward-thinking builders and developers, who appreciate that GreenPoint Rated is accessible, affordable, and compatible with CALGreen. Builders recognize that an independent third-party green home certification can boost their sales and customer satisfaction. GreenPoint Rated equally addresses new homes and existing home and includes calculations for greenhouse gas emissions attributed to green building practices to demonstrate the benefits.

In support of Build It Green’s mission, GreenPoint Rated continues to develop standards to support the growth of the industry to meet state and national goals. In addition, Build It Green has developed a standard and tool for net zero energy and low carbon homes for homebuilders and developers to demonstrate their high performing homes.

Simplifying Energy Upgrades

Retrofitting California’s existing residential homes is a key strategy to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. To help achieve this, BIG implements the Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade program in the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) territory. The key to success is empowering contractors with education and training (on everything from building science and safety testing to sales and marketing) and simplifying the program to make it work with their business models. In 2012-2013, this network of contractors completed 5,703 home energy retrofits, which saved nearly 13.5 million kWh of electricity.

In 2014, BIG continues to implement this program, and has now also partnered with CaliforniaFIRST, the nation’s largest Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program. We’ll work with contractors to help them offer this financing opportunity to their homeowner clients. We believe PACE is a game changer and can transform the market for green home upgrades.

Training Real Estate Agents, Educating Homebuyers

In Southern California over the past year and a half, BIG has pioneered one of the nation’s most innovative programs to spur energy upgrades among homebuyers. The program, funded by The Energy Network, trains real estate agents to achieve the National Association of REALTORS’ (NAR) Green Designation certification, which helps them educate their homebuyer clients on green building benefits and energy upgrade opportunities through rebate and financing programs.

Real estate agents serve as key influencers to new homebuyers, and often serve as gatekeepers to other home and building professionals, from electricians to remodeling contractors and home performance contractors. Agents who have achieved the Green Certification can now assist homeowners with upgrades that will save them money and increase the comfort and health of their homes—and lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. So far in 2014, BIG has trained and certified more than 360 real estate professionals.

In recognition of BIG’s national leadership in the green real estate industry, NAR’s Green REsource Council awarded us its 2014 EverGreen Award.

In addition to real estate agents, 44 appraisers have been trained to assess the value of a home’s green features, from solar to insulation. These ongoing efforts are transforming the marketplace into one where both homebuyers and home industry professionals recognize the value of green features and upgrades.

Amy Dryden
Senior Technical Manager at Build It Green