Residential Construction: Background and OverviewPrint Friendly Page
The 2002 construction statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that residential construction represents approximately 49% of the value of building construction in America, or over $336 billion. In the United States, there are:
Home construction and long-term operation require a tremendous amount of resources. With the average square footage of homes doubling from the 1940s and 1950s to 1999, more resources are used to build and operate them.
People feel the pressures of limited land, air, and water, pollution, liability and health insurance costs, energy shortages and costs, waste management tensions, and habitat loss. The ideal of pollution prevention(P2) is to use all resources in the most efficient manner and to eliminate waste and pollution before it is produced. During the past several years, the residential construction industry has recognized a need to incorporate P2 practices into daily activities and has begun to achieve these changes through green building, which is also known as resource-efficient construction, or sustainable design techniques.
Green homes strive to reduce adverse affects of traditional building techniques through sustainable building practices. Sustainability, as defined by the United Nations Environmental Program Document, is meeting the needs of people today without destroying the resources that will be needed by people in the future.
Sustainably built homes:
These goals are best met through an integrated or whole system approach where all aspects of construction are considered together. To prioritize goals, the Environmental Building News offers a priority list for sustainable building. It suggests ways homeowners can get the most bang for the buck while building a more comfortable and affordable home than would otherwise be possible.
Builders can play a major role in providing homebuyers opportunities to be more active in protecting the environment and preserving resources. Pollution prevention can also benefit them directly. Home buyers recognize that long-term maintenance and operation of their home can be a financial drain. They also want their home to be a reflection of their lifestyle and desires.
Trends in Green Building
Gallup poll surveys show that a majority of citizens embrace environmental protection, even if it risks economic growth. Individuals and communities are looking for ways to actively take part in the protection of resources and habitats. They are finding that their homes provide an avenue to demonstrate efficient resource use and environmental protection. According to direct surveys and market research, the vast majority of homebuyers are willing to pay extra for features that improve quality, durability and the health of the house. Source: Professional Builder Magazine, September 2000.
Consumer preferences and
changing demographics are already driving changes in the way new homes are built.
According to the Meyers Group, the largest residential real estate information
research company in the U.S., the "old way" of development is being
pushed aside by "new strategies" as shown in the following table.
These new strategies embrace green building practices and correlate to smaller, more comfortable homes that provide savings in utility bills and maintenance costs.
The building industry is focusing on ways to build homes that preserve environmental quality, enhance communities, and conserve resources. A whole system approach to home building promotes the development of partnerships as many interests, (i.e. planning, architecture, construction, affordability, health, realty, codes and standards, energy, water protection, wildlife, transportation, waste and utility infrastructures), are combined into one home. These varying interest groups are finding that homes can be built in an affordable manner and still maintain environmental integrity. Examples of resource-efficient home construction are found throughout the nation and are becoming more common.
Home builders associations offer technical assistance and information for resource-efficient design and construction. Mortgage and real estate brokers see it is important to develop tools and skills to work with homeowners interested in green homes. These groups educate customers about the benefits of resource-efficient homes. Local, state, and federal entities are also interested in developing better communities and protecting resources. Partnerships between government agencies, and trade and consumer groups are effective ways to encourage, certify, and recognize green building efforts.