These days, the remodeling industry is abuzz with talk of the "green" revolution. To be sure, there is much cynicism surrounding the movement - some respondents to this month's survey dismissed the trend as "hype" - but many industry leaders have embraced green remodeling as the way of the future, not simply a passing fad.
Most remodelers seem to be taking a cautious but active approach to incorporating sustainable building practices into their business. Jobsite recycling has become increasingly common, with 73% of respondents reporting that they either always or frequently recycle metal. Significantly fewer respondents said they recycle other materials such as glass, wood, and plastics, but more than half of remodelers surveyed say that they at least "sometimes" take part in the practice. More advanced green building practices, though, are still relatively rare. For example, nearly 70% of remodelers reported never doing blower door testing to determine a home's air leakage, and just 3% claim to regularly perform the tests.
When it comes to product installations, EnergyStar products have been embraced by both remodelers and clients. A whopping 87% of respondents said they frequently or always install EnergyStar windows, and more than half reported regularly installing EnergyStar furnaces, boilers, and air conditioners. A majority of remodelers are also installing low-flow toilets in clients' homes.
Unsurprisingly, the numbers drop significantly for installations of more advanced green products (74% of respondents say they never install solar water heaters). But when it comes to using "green" insulation - a practice that remodelers can undertake as standard operating procedure without a client request - most respondents have not taken the opportunity to be proactive. More than 20% reported never using green insulation, and the majority of remodelers use it only sometimes or rarely.
But remodelers are not solely to blame for the relatively slow adoption of green building practices. Half of respondents said that there is too much confusion over which products are truly green, and that when it comes to the bottom line, clients just aren't willing to pay for it. Another 41% admitted that they're just not yet knowledgeable enough about green building to institute the practices - a challenge more easily overcome as industry standards and green certification programs are established.
What is the biggest obstacle the remodeling industry faces in moving toward greener practices?
"[Poor] availability of [green] products and lack of control of whom and what can be called green. There is a lot of abuse of the term 'green,' and [there are] many contractors who provide poorquality work but still put the green label on it." -Bruce Haikola, Haikola Custom Construction, Austin, Texas
"Getting people to understand the benefits of building green versus the cost. And educating very small contractors on building and selling green." -Brian Dunlap, P.T. Childs Construction, Burt, Mich.
"The long-term benefits (besides the environment) have yet to be documented and realized. And it's hard to refer to past customers because they have yet to fully achieve the benefits." -Michael Willis, Jim Willis & Sons Builders, Penfield, N.Y.
What has been your biggest success in integrating green practices into your company?
"Insulation details where we don't need the customers' permission. It is just Standard Operating Procedure." -Alan Hanbury Jr., House of Hanbury Builders, Newington, Conn.
"We do a great deal of recycling, and the guys understand and embrace that. Homeowners generally won't volunteer the extra money for 'green' work, so we build it in quietly where we can." -Jason Gilleland, High View Contracting, Boyce, Va.
"The deconstruction of a 3,500 square-foot home saved 6 tons of waste from the dump and the client received $117,000 in tax credits for 'donating' the materials to a non-profit organization." -Jeff Talmadge, Talmadge Construction, Aptos, Calif.
"Showing how the overall design of the building will do more to be energy efficient than the marketing hype of some so-called 'green products.'" -J. Roger Brown Jr., J. Roger Brown Jr. Architect, New Orleans