Thinking Green? Experts Say Start Small, Don’t Over Promise
Builders, remodelers and other industry professionals considering green building should start small, manage the expectations of potential customers and thoroughly educate themselves on this growing segment of the industry, a panel of green building experts told listeners during an hour-long NAHB audio seminar earlier this month.
“Things have grown rapidly in the last few years and with the new green building standard coming out, it’s going to be more and more widespread,” said Matt Belcher, president of Belcher Homes, in St. Louis and a nationally-known expert and consultant in green building, “Materials prices have gone down and are more accessible. Most suppliers and sales staff are now being trained to know these products.”
While Belcher talked of opportunities, David Jaffe, NAHB staff vice president for construction and liability research, cautioned listeners to avoid liability claims by managing consumer expectations. Builders must be careful with contract language, definitions and descriptions of green capabilities. Builders, he said, will have to be able to discern between what products can actually do and what they claim they can do.
“Your success as green building professionals may depend on your ability to avoid green building claims and liability,” said Jaffe, while noting the litigation that surrounded synthetic stucco and mold not too long ago.
“In the interest of managing expectations, I should point out that this is an emerging field for attorneys and risk management professionals as well, and we do not have all of the answers,” Jaffe cautioned. “In some ways we are looking into that proverbial crystal ball.”
Belcher noted that consumers are learning more about green building through resources like the Internet and are better educated about green building than in the past. However, he also said that consumers are seeking advocates who can educate them further and stressed that builders should be those advocates.
The third panelist, Don Ferrier, CGB, president of Ferrier Custom Homes and Ferrier Builders in Ft. Worth, Texas, said consumer demand for green is strong given current market conditions ― primarily because potential home buyers are more educated about building.
He noted that green building is not just about energy and resource efficiency and indoor air quality, it is also about sustainability.
Green building is no fad, Ferrier said. “It will be a standard of building.”
And it is making inroads in the marketplace. Ferrier said that green building has helped him differentiate himself from the competition and that his company had its second-best year last year. He expects this year to be his best yet.
Industry professionals interested in learning more about green building can visit the NAHB National Green Building Program (nahbgreen.org) and download the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines for more information.
“The information is out there,” said Belcher. “As a builder who’s looking to do this, the more education you have the better decisions you can make as far as your business goes.”
The audio seminar, “Green Building Is Good Business,” was held June 11 and was sponsored by NAHB’s Business Management Department, the NAHB National Green Building Program and The NAHB University of Housing.
A recording of the seminar will be available by July 1 for purchase at www.nahb.org/gobuildgreen.
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