Supply House Times

Green Homes Perceived As Affordable To Live In But Expensive To Build

November 22, 2010

Green homes offer a wide variety of benefits from reducing carbon footprints to saving money on utility bills to even improving the health of children. However, a recent Whirlpool Corp. and Habitat for Humanity survey, conducted by the NAHB Research Center, polled home builders, as well as consumers, and found many believe there’s a disconnect between living in a green home and purchasing one. Yet, the majority of respondents (64 percent) indicated that savings from green home features were sometimes worth the added costs and efforts. This finding was consistent across all income level groups for both renters and homeowners.

It’s a particularly difficult position for the majority of homeowners in the United States. The consumer survey, fielded in August 2010 by the NAHB Research Center to gauge perceptions of affordable and green housing, found that the majority of high- (67 percent), upper middle- (65 percent) and middle- (59 percent) income respondents, as well as nearly half of low-income respondents (48 percent), indicated they believe a completely green home would be affordable to live in or maintain. Yet only high-income respondents were more likely to indicate that a completely green home would be affordable to purchase (71 percent).

“The health benefits, low utility costs and other factors make green homes ideal for all homeowners,” said Tom Halford, general manager, contract sales and marketing, Whirlpool Corp. “However, it takes a united front of manufacturers, builders and organizations to help builders and consumers understand that building green can be affordable. There’s a need to bridge the perception gap between green-building and affordability, so that builders and families understand that options exist to improve their footprint in the long-term, while saving money and resources in the short-term.”

The builder survey, fielded July-August 2010 to members of the Research Center’s Online Builder Panel, found that 87 percent believe green homes are affordable for middle-income families to live in, while 30 percent felt green homes were too expensive for the segment to purchase or build. For low-income families, 70 percent of home builders believe green homes are affordable to live in, and nearly 60 percent of builders thought green homes were too expensive for low-income families to purchase or build.

“Under Habitat’s nonprofit construction model, Habitat affiliates across the United States are incorporating sustainable materials and energy-efficient products in Habitat homes, as this is both a responsible building practice and it improves the affordability of homes for Habitat partner homeowners,” said Larry Gluth, senior vice president of U.S. and Canada for Habitat for Humanity International. “The challenge is to help people understand that building green doesn’t mean it can’t be affordable, too.”

These findings are the first in a series of results from the Whirlpool Corp./Habitat for Humanity builder and consumer surveys. For more information on affordable housing, visit www.habitat.org or www.whirlpool.com/habitat.  

Study methodology: The builder portion of the study surveyed 304 respondents and was conducted from July 23 - Aug. 4, 2010, using an online format. Members of the NAHB Research Center Online Builder Panel were invited to take the survey and respondents were required to be an active homebuilder or general contractor. The consumer portion surveyed 1,092 homeowners from Aug. 23-25, 2010, using an online format. Consumers nationwide were invited to take the survey through e-mail invitations.