Customers Care About Green Building: 3 Practices To Implement Today

By: on April 19, 2018

Sustainable construction, aka “green building,” isn’t a fad—it’s the future of the industry. In 2014, the global market surpassed $260 billion. By 2022, the global green building materials market is expected to reach $364.6 billion.

Perhaps even more telling is the percentage of U.S. firms who expect the majority of their projects to be green certified: 39 percent in 2018, compared to 24 percent in 2015. And the primary driver of green building is client demand.

We surveyed consumers and found that 71 percent say a firm’s use of green building materials and practices would impact their decision to hire that firm over another.

Small construction firms can’t afford to ignore this consumer demand. Investing time and resources upfront to ensure your firm is set up to support green building practices will help you win more customers and yield higher returns over the life of your company.

In this article, we’ll highlight three sustainable construction practices that consumers want to see and that you can start implementing today.

1. Pursuing LEED Certification

What is LEED?

LEED stands for “leadership in energy and environmental design.” It is the industry standard for green building rating and certification. LEED provides a framework for sustainable practices on all building, community and home projects.

There are four levels of LEED certification, each requiring a number of “credits” in certain categories, including: materials and resources, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere and indoor environmental quality.

The rating levels are:

  • Certified: 40 – 49 points earned
  • Silver: 50 – 59 points earned
  • Gold: 60 – 70 points earned
  • Platinum: 80+ points earned

What this means is that your projects don’t have to be all or nothing. You can assess your resources and business goals, select a rating system for your project that fits your current capabilities and then choose the right tools to achieve that rating. As your sustainable practices grow, you can pursue a higher rating.

Why is it important?

As of October 2017, over 65,000 U.S. projects were LEED registered. This number has doubled since 2010, when there were roughly 32,000 LEED-registered projects.

We asked consumers, and 80 percent say that LEED certification is somewhat to very important for their build or renovation project. Interest is highest among millennials, ages 18-35.

Consumer Preference for LEED Certification: Total Sample
Consumer Preference for LEED Certification: Ages 18 - 35
Consumer Preference for LEED Certification: Ages 36+

Obviously, client satisfaction plays a large role in the success of your firm. So matching their interest in LEED certified projects should be a high-priority goal. Brush up on your knowledge of requirements for LEED certification, and equip contractors with this information.

You don’t want to order the wrong materials for a project, or forget to document the chain of ownership for a materials shipment, and miss out on LEED credits that you, and your customer, expected the project to achieve.

Where can I go to learn more?

You can access each rating system and find additional information about policies and procedures from the U.S. Green Building Council website. LEED certification fees can be found here.

2. Using Green Building Materials

What are green building materials?

Green building materials are environmentally friendly, energy efficient, durable, improve indoor air quality and help reduce waste. Both green materials and practices promote conservation and sustainability.

“Environmentally-friendly” or “eco-friendly” is kind of a catch-all term meaning that materials check one or more boxes on the following: are biodegradable, free of toxins, made from renewable sources, made from recycled content/materials, are sustainably grown or locally harvested.

These materials fall into several product categories, including:

  • Electrical
  • Thermal and moisture protection
  • Building automation systems
  • Finishes
  • Waste management
  • Mechanical
  • Flooring
  • Furnishings

Examples of green building materials in these categories include solar panels, energy-efficient windows, HVAC systems that reduce energy costs and plumbing that reduces water use.

Why is it important?

According to Dodge Data & Analytics SmartMarket Report, the number one deterrent against green building is higher upfront costs.

However, if you’re open with clients about the higher costs but also the long-term benefits they can expect from using green building materials, evidence suggests that it’s an investment consumers are willing to make.

In fact, 72 percent of consumers we surveyed say they would be willing to pay more upfront for energy efficient and eco-friendly materials if it saves them money in the long run on utility bills.

Consumer Willingness to Pay More Upfront For Green Building Materials
data: 72 percent of consumers willing to Pay More Upfront For Green Building Materials

Again, using green building materials isn’t an all or nothing practice. You don’t have to implement every transformative material on every job—wool bricks, recycled steel and triple-glazed windows are likely not going to be a feasible investment for every client.

But you can and you should educate your team on the benefits of using green building materials so they have this information in their toolbox when discussing the higher costs of green materials when quoting a job.

Just a few proven benefits include:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Higher value at point of sale
  • Better indoor air quality, which has been shown to improve productivity and performance

According to Dodge Data & Analytics SmartMarket Report, 33 percent of global respondents recouped the additional cost of a new green building in five years or less. The median payback period was eight years.

Where can I go to learn more?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists several components of green building, including a list of environmentally preferable building materials and specifications.

You can also find information about LEED certification requirements related to materials here. For market stats and information about the U.S. demand for green building materials, go here.

3. Knowing What Green Building Incentives Are Available For Owners

What are green building incentives?

There are a variety of incentives available to homeowners and businesses who invest in green building. These include financial incentives such as tax-credits, grants and loans, but also encompass practices such as expedited review and permitting processes. There are programs available at the national, state and local levels.

It’s worth noting that federal tax incentives change frequently and can expire, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with laws and programs in your area. Below are a few examples of current, or recent, incentive programs:

  • Duke Energy Progress (primarily servicing the Carolinas) offers whole-house and equipment incentives for green building and development, offering up to $9,000 for builders who meet or surpass 2012 HERO codes and up to $725 for specific equipment (e.g., water heaters and HVAC systems).
  • The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) offers financial assistance for green building to consumers, construction firms, government entities and nonprofits.
  • Federal tax credits for energy efficiency. Credits for builders and tax deductions for commercial buildings were recently renewed for 2017.

Why is it important?

This is an excellent way to counter, or soften the blow, of higher upfront costs when discussing green building options with homeowners. Be sure your team is educated about these options when reviewing costs with clients.

Twenty-eight percent of consumers say that a contractor’s knowledge of incentives applicable to their project would demonstrate their competence, potentially winning them the job. Interest surrounding incentives available for green building is highest among millennials, ages 18-35.

Where can I go to learn more?

Review the EPA’s list of funding opportunities here. Review USGBC’s list of green building incentives here.

How To Get Started Today

Don’t forget that consumers care and want green building, so you can use our green building practices to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Here are steps you can take today to implement these practices at your firm:

  • Become a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Register for LEED updates to be sent to you, and sign up to receive news about federal and state-level green building incentives. This will help you stay on top of procedural changes and industry news.
  • Get involved in your community. You can find information about local leadership, education and volunteer opportunities through a USGBC network. But also involve yourself in the larger, national construction community by attending conferences.
  • Be active on social media. The internet remains the most relied upon source of information about green building news and trends. So, connect with your peers and industry leaders on social and participate in the discussion. Follow me on Twitter at @EOLoughlin5 for our latest reports and industry findings.

To learn about the tools available to help your construction firm implement green building practices, head over to our buyer’s guide to read reviews for leading solutions.

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