Don't fall for greenwashing about your new home

| by Tony Richardson
Don't fall for greenwashing about your new home

As a professional in the construction and real estate industry since 1977, the last 27 years in Southwest Florida, I have seen a great deal of growth in the housing industry.

Builders built to their capabilities, smaller less expensive homes, larger semi custom or very expensive custom homes.  A buyer had a budget, saw what he wanted in a specific home, could afford that particular square footage and amenities and purchased a home. He saw what he wanted and got it. The point is, you could easily see the difference in value for the price.

Today, in some situations that is not the case concerning claims about energy efficiency in a new home. Since practically all the energy efficient components integrated into building a high performance home are hidden in the walls or behind the walls, you have to rely on the builder or salesperson to honestly represent their energy efficiency claims for that home, particularly in the absence of a third party certification.

Unfortunately, I am seeing more and more builders specifically using ICF blocks, walls, no other components and claiming energy costs will be cut by fifty percent or more.  Making an unsubstantiated environmental or efficiency claim is "Greenwashing."

Make no mistake; I am a proponent of using ICF blocks due to their inherent qualities of tightness, strength, particularly the inherent safety factor of concrete walls in Florida, and greater insulating value. But a scientifically built home is a total system of many parts, scientifically integrated components, made to create a total energy efficient system, not just the walls.

The only method I know of proving the energy efficiency is through modeling for an intended energy efficiency goal before construction begins, testing throughout the construction process culminating with a HERS Rating at the end of construction to substantiate you have reached your initial goal. I have talked to builders on their job sites recently here in Southwest Florida who have no concern for the truth as to energy efficiency. They simply make claims of great energy efficiency with no proof of testing or third party certification. That's Greenwashing!

I am simply reflecting, “musing,” on what I see and do not know how to stop the misrepresentations. A builder can be educated in the new superior products, methods, and techniques for integrating energy efficient components in to a home, they can be certified or accredited though numerous trade associations or schools, but unfortunately honesty is a character trait that generally cannot be taught to an adult, period, no matter the profession.

We can only continue to do our best to educate our customers and the buying public about the ‘science’ of building a scientifically built, high performance or net zero energy home. At the least, teach them to vet the builder’s credentials before beginning a project and secondly, ask the builder or sales person for the scientific methods used to achieve their results. At the least, a HERS Rating is an excellent indicator of their truthfulness, better still, a third party certification such as LEED, Energy Star or the Florida Green Building Coalition.

Buyers beware!  If the builder or salesperson make claims and can’t prove those claims, walk away as they are Greenwashing their product.  


Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED, Cost of Ownership, Energy Audits, Going Green, Insulated Concrete Forms - ICF



Tony Richardson
Having spent over thirty-five years in the new home building, real estate industry has afforded Tony Richardson the opportunity to provide new as well as used homes to hundreds of families from Michigan to Florida. Although he has designed, developed, and marketed his own line of passive solar green houses as a licensed Residential Contractor and launched three major gated communities in SW Florida as a RE Broker, the most exciting opportunities are on the horizon in the Scientific Building industry. Tony believes we have just scratched the surface of the potential to provide healthy, safe, energy efficient, quiet and sustainable dwellings to the new home buyer in the United States. View Tony Richardson's profile on LinkedIn

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