Representatives from Kohler Co., Marvin Windows and Doors, and Whirlpool Corp. talked about innovations that can lower homeowners' water and energy bills and also contribute to better indoor air quality.
"The industry is being transformed," says Mike Luzier, CEO for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center. Luzier moderated the press conference. Even as green home builders find relative success in a struggling housing market, it won't be long before sustainable building practices become the industry standard, he adds.
The NAHB is providing education and training as well as home certification services to help prepare home builders and remodelers to capitalize on this trend. NAHBGreen, the association's green building program, is expanding every month.
Energy efficiency is still the biggest driver, manufacturers said, but demand is also growing for water-efficient fixtures and appliances, as well as windows and doors that contribute to improved indoor air quality, the speakers said.
Only one percent of the Earth's water is available for drinking, washing and other uses—97 percent is salt water and the remainder is part of the polar ice caps, points out Omer "Butch" Gaudette, director of trade relations for Whirlpool Corp. "In the near future, water efficiency will be just as important as energy efficiency is today."
"Water efficiency is not just important in water-starved areas," like the arid Southwest, agrees Shane Judd, senior product manager for water conservation at Kohler Co. Increasingly, metropolitan areas where water supplies can't keep up with sharp population increases are also looking for solutions to manage water use.
Right now, there are 100 million toilets in use that each consume 3.5 gallons every time they are flushed. Switching to water-efficient models would have "a tremendous impact not only on water bills, but also for water conservation," Judd says.
Advances in technology have now allowed Marvin Windows and Doors to increase the size of its casement windows while maintaining their energy-efficient qualities, thus allowing home designs that take advantage of "daylighting" or natural lighting, so homeowners don't need to turn on their electric lights as often, says Brett Boyum, director of marketing for the Minnesota-based company.
And for Marvin and other industry leaders at the forefront of green, building sustainably is "a solid business practice. A sustainable product is a quality product, so a green product is a product that will last," Boyum says.
"Consumers and builders are starting to recognize the long-term benefit of green products. If you're not building green, you're not building, " especially in the current downturn, Gaudette says.
The National Association of Home Builders is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing more than 200,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, multi-family construction, property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and other aspects of residential and light commercial construction. NAHB is affiliated with more than 800 state and local home builders associations around the country. NAHB's builder members will construct about 80 percent of the new housing units for 2009. For more information, visit www.nahb.org.