If you think green building and remodeling practices are a fad, try to remember what it was like when cellphones were first introduced. I recall a lot of people saying they were too expensive and nothing more than a fad for yuppies.
And yet, just a few short years later, everyone I know owns a cellphone. In fact, many of us don't even have landlines in our homes anymore.
Energy-efficient furnaces, water heaters, windows and insulation — some of the basic elements of green building practices — are no more a fad than cellphones. They are in fact the future of remodeling and, in many instances, the present. Early adopters, such as Renewal Construction Inc., in Decatur, Ga., have based their business model on it and are enjoying great success. Renewal, which has been in business just five years and is projected to hit $2.7 million in revenue in 2006, targets an upper-middle income, well-educated, professional consumer who lives within a 5-mile radius of its office.
Renewal was named 2005 Renovator of the Year by EarthCraft House, a voluntary green building program run by Southface Energy Institute in cooperation with the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association. Renewal founder and CEO Peter Michelson, and president David Michelson, his brother, have found clients more interested than ever in energy-efficient, conservation-minded materials and systems for their homes. Being an EarthCraft contractor, in fact, has become a key point of differentiation for Renewal that sets it apart from competitors.
"We don't have to sell people on it," says Peter, a former educator. "Soaring energy prices and people's utility bills sell the program. Our involvement with EarthCraft is one of the benefits you get when you choose Renewal. We can make your house more economical in the long run, more energy-efficient, and greener and healthier for you as well."
While consumers are less of an obstacle in a move to greener pastures, there are still many architects, designers and, yes, contractors that remain uneducated, or just plain stubborn, about adopting green building practices.
The Michelsons met with an architect recently, and when they said they were going to "seal up" the house with Icynene, he was flabbergasted.
"His comment to Peter was, 'We went through all this energy-efficient stuff back in the '70s. It's irrelevant. It's just another fad.'" recalls David.
He couldn't have been more wrong. Green building is here to stay.