Reader Panel: What Does Green Mean to Your Company?

Most remodelers identify their companies as 'moderately green.' Find out more about what that means.

In a recent survey, Remodeling Reader Panelists were asked if they considered their businesses to be green. Details and analysis of their responses is shared in the following slides. To become a member of the Reader Panel, register here.

Q1. Do you consider yourself or your company to be a green remodeler? With so many iterations of the word "green" in the current building industry vocabulary (think "sustainable," "renewable," "eco-friendly," etc.), many remodeling companies and their clients are putting the concept front-and-center in their project plans. Some business owners bill their companies as "green remodeling" firms, while others take a more subtle approach by using sensible building science practices and green materials in their projects, without overtly making green claims. With so many approaches to maintaining a green business message, Remodeling wanted to find out just how green these companies believe themselves to be. We asked members of the Remodeling Reader Panel to rate themselves or their companies from "not at all green," to "expert in green remodeling." The unsurprising results put the vast majority (54%) of companies in the "moderately green" category, with nearly a third (29%) rating themselves as "slightly green." Less than 10% of remodelers claim expert knowledge of green remodeling, while a surprising 6% reject the green label altogether. N: 189

Q2. On a scale of 1 to 5, please specify how often you perform these green remodeling activities, with 5 meaning you perform the activity on every project. A range of building science practices and product selections can allow companies to make green claims. Reader Panelists were offered 18 green remodeling activities and rated them on a scale of 1 to 5 regarding how often they practiced that activity. All but one of the top five practices ("make sure HVAC ducts are sealed") were product-driven, possibly underlining the idea that remodeling clients are keen on reducing their utility bills by installing products that boost their home's energy efficiency. Other highly rated product-driven activities included using products with recycled content (3.53), and using low-VOC materials (3.52). Building science-related practices also came in at this moderate-to-high rating. Maing sure buildings are air tight (3.53) and provinding mechancial or passive ventilation to indoor spaces (3.5) were the most commonly used practices. One practice that can tell a lot about a home's energy efficiency, testing building performance using a blower door, was the second-lowest rated activity at just 2.04. The least frequently practiced activity was to work only on homes near mass transportation, which may be impractical for remodelers outside of large metro areas with mass transit systems. N: 189

Q3. How often are homeowners in your area asking about green remodeling? According to Reader Panelists' responses to this question, remodelers themselves may have to be the driving force behind green remodeling. Nearly half of respondents (43%) say their clients never (13%) or rarely (30%) ask about green remodeling. On the other side of the chart, 56% of remodelers say their clients sometimes (38%) or frequently (18%) ask about green remodeling. With tax credits available for many energy-efficient home improvement upgrades through 2010, and programs pending for Energy Star appliance rebates, remodelers may see the "sometimes" number decrease in favor of "frequently." N: 189

Q4. What aspects of green remodeling do homeowners ask about? Not surprisingly, many of the same green remodeling activities remodelers say they're performing (see Question 2) are the same ones they say clients are asking for. Nearly four out of five remodelers (79%) say their clients are requesting energy-efficient appliances, while a full 75% want high levels of insulation. These practices ranked No. 2 and No. 1, respectively, in Question 2. These were followed by requests for installing water-conserving fixtures (67%) and energy-efficient light fixtures (63%), which came in at No. 3 and No. 5 respectively in Question 2. Homeowner requests for recycled, low-VOC, and reused or salvaged materials further illustrate the point that homeowners will ask specifically for green products, but may be less educated or less aware of other construction-related practices that could increase their home's efficiency. According to respondents, requests for ensuring that HVAC ducts are sealed are infrequent (23%), followed by even rarer requests for mechanical or passive indoor ventilation (19%), alternative heating and cooling methods (10%), and blower door tests (5%). N: 165

Q5. From your experience, how much more would you say a green remodeling project costs compared to a "regular" remodeling project? One questoin remodeling clients are sure to ask is "how much does green remodeling cost?" While some green materials may be more expensive than their standard counterparts, the lowered utility costs that often accompany these projects can add more value to the price tag in the long run. Nearly half of Reader Panel respondents (48%) report that green remodeling usually costs 11% to 25% more than standard remodeling, while 21% say the price is only 1% to 10% higher. Five percent of respondents said they can perform a green remodel for the same price as standard, while 1% said green remodeling is actually cheaper. On the high side of the scale, slighly more than one-quarter (27%) of respondents said green remodeling is more than 26% more expensive than standard, with 3% saying green remodeling is more than twice as expensive as a standard remodeling project.

Q6. From your experience, how much more are clients willing to pay for green remodeling? While half of remodelers say green remodeling costs 11% to 25% more than standard, only 20% of clients are willing to pay that premium, according to the Reader Panel. Respondents say clients are more willing to pay in the range of 1% to 10% more, while nearly a third (29%) expect green remodeling to cost the same as standard remodeling, and 5% expect it to cost less.

Q7. Which professional green designations do you or your company have? While more than 60% of repondents consider themselves or their companies to be at least moderately green remodelers (see Question 1), far fewer find it necessary to solidify that label with a professional grene designation. More than 4 out of 5 Reader Panel respondents (81%) say they have no green certifications at all. Those that do are accredited through NARI, NAHB, LEED, BPI, and other green certification programs, and some have multiple designations across these categories. The lack of green accreditation does not seem to make-or-break remodeling sales. When asked if, based on client feedback, green certifications won or lost jobs for their company, only 2% of respondents said they know their company was hired because of green designations. A full 66% noted that green certifications have not affected their bids one way or the other, and zero respondents said their bids were rejected due to a lack of green designations. A third of respondents (32%) said they did not know if their certifications or lack thereof affected their bids. N: 189

Q8. How much would you pay to earn a green certification? Perhaps one reason so few remodelers are earning green certifications is the cost. Two-thirds (64%) of respondents said they're willing to pay $250 or less for a green certification, while another 19% would pay up to $500. Only 17% of remodelers are willing to pay more than $500 for a certification, which is the approximate cost range for NARI and NAHB green certifications (about $550 for members). Of course, certification costs aren't just about application and graduation fees. Expenses can climb as remodelers spend time away from the office in order to study for and travel to exams. N: 189

Q9. Which green certifications or ratings have you or your company ever received for any of your remodeling projects? Slightly more remodelers have taken the time to have thier projects, rather than thier staff, certified as green. While 76% of respondents have not received green certifications on their projects, 22% have taken the time to have a project Energy Star or HERS rated, while 5% have earned LEED for Homes certifications. Another 4% of remodelers have looked to other national, state, or local green programs for project certification. N: 189

Q10. When doing a green remodeling project, is it better for a remodeled house to be certified green, or to be remodeled by professionals with green certifications? Despite the fact that so few remodelers have earned green certifications for themselves or their projects, Reader Panelists weighed in on how each certification affects the green-ness of a home. The majority of respondents, 40% say it's better for the house to be certified green, while only 12% feel it's better for the remodeler to be certified. The extremes of the scale were split, with 16% of remodelers suggesting that that both the house and the remodeler should be certified, while 17% said it doesn't matter one way or another.

Q11. Would it benefit remodelers and homeowners to have a national green remodeling standard? Throughout the building industry, one challenge faced by manufacturers, construction professionals, and consumers alike is that "green" can mean something different to everyone. Rather than having a single green product standard for the entire industry, individuals at all levels must sift through requirements for several different programs. In the face of such confusion, Reader Panelists overwhelmingly reported that it would benefit both remodelers and homeowners if a national standard was implemented. The percentages were simliar when respondents were asked if a national standard should include third-party certification to confirm the green practices. More than half (57%) said yes, third-party certification should be included. One-quarter (23%) disagreed.

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