At the surface, there appeared to be a dramatic shift in residential construction trends following the last year plus of pandemic related restrictions. With the home also becoming the office and social hub for many people, consumers looked towards leaving cramped cities and apartment housing in search of more space and homes tailored to their new needs. In tandem, energy use and costs rose dramatically, causing builders to rethink methods and materials for making homes adaptable and sustainable for the long-term.
The need for sustainable construction has been an ongoing movement; the pandemic only further highlighted the changing landscape of homebuilding. During the last decade, builders have initiated best practices to reduce the carbon footprint of homes. The focal shift from cost-efficient to energy-efficient homes can be linked to a few factors, including a shift in consumer preference as younger generations entered the market. In fact in 2021, 82% of millennials were first-time homebuyers, more than any other age group. Increasing building regulations played a factor as well, including those focused on diversifying energy and increasing sustainability.
In addition, rising costs of traditional building materials have further encouraged construction companies to put their best financial foot forward when building for sustainability. Demand for homes that reflect the mindset of today’s eco-conscious society has opened the door for homebuilders to become leaders in energy resiliency. By acknowledging the factors transforming residential construction, builders and contractors can implement a plan catered to greener building and technology, empowering homeowners to live sustainably long after they move-in.
Eco-conscious buyers transforming homebuilding
At first, the stereotypical American dream included a home with a white-picket fence and an ample amount of square-footage. Builders acknowledged this preference by designing large homes with the most cost-efficient materials and features. In today’s more environmentally focused society, homeowners have shifted their desires to quality over quantity. With climate change and rising utility costs at the forefront of most buyers’ thoughts, builders continue to adjust to reflect the homeowner’s prioritization of energy resiliency. A growing practice, especially encouraged by millennials, is the implementation of built-in systems that help maintain energy use and home value. These connected devices can be used in lieu of traditional management systems, allowing for monitoring and control over how much energy appliances in the home use on a day-to-day basis.
Momentum of sustainability regulations
Environmental pressures have also paved the way for an increase of governmental climate pledges, affecting how construction companies conduct business. While Green Building Standards have existed for years to encourage the development of sustainable communities, recent regulations are encouraging homebuilders to prioritize efficiency and resiliency. In states such as California (and soon-to-be Massachusetts), solar mandates are already in motion, requiring builders to install solar panels on all residential homes up to three stories high. Mandates such as California’s Assembly Bill 178 provide both financial and environmental benefits, as homes with solar panels are more resilient to power outages and can save homeowners thousands of dollars over time.
Rising costs of homes and building materials
Regulations and shifting consumer tastes have translated to higher home prices, leading to inflation of building material prices. Of the latest, shortages with lumber have led to a skyrocketing 130% cost surge. If material prices continue to climb as expected to, it will no longer be feasible to build homes without sustainable technology. Traditional building methods will be viewed negatively, with consumers quickly realizing that the price to both build and maintain the home are much higher than they expected. By engaging with a modern approach, builders and contractors can use sustainably sourced materials, such as composite roofing, insulated concrete framing, and hemp insulation. Looking towards the future, builders can also equip the home with systems utilized after move-in, like energy efficient HVAC systems and battery powered generators.
A more sustainable future
Moving beyond sustainable materials and implementing technology that will allow homeowners to control their energy use, and therefore their impact on the environment, is a great step in empowering buyers to live sustainably. Many companies have already adjusted to the eb and flow of the residential construction landscape, especially as eco-conscious practices have become the baseline for many home buyers. By embracing these sustainably focused changes, construction companies can add long lasting value to the home, positively impacting the green building standard for years to come.
By: Rich Korthauer, vice president, Final Distribution Business at Schneider Electric.