Green Grows in Popularity, but Challenges Persist, Research Shows

More remodelers and consumers are buying into the sustainability trend than in past years, but there’s also still a healthy amount of skepticism about “green” remodeling. That’s according to our third Professional Remodeler survey on green remodeling challenges and opportunities.

February 28, 2010

More remodelers and consumers are buying into the sustainability trend than in past years, but there’s also still a healthy amount of skepticism about “green” remodeling.

That’s according to our third Professional Remodeler survey on green remodeling challenges and opportunities. We’ve surveyed remodelers in 2007, 2008 and most recently in December 2009 and January 2010.

Most remodelers believe that environmental goals are more important to their clients today than they were five years ago: 72 percent agree with that, although only 16 percent say they are “much more important.”

Remodelers’ own attitudes have also changed over the last few years. In our most recent survey, 48 percent of remodelers said that green features help them sell projects. That’s up from 2007, when barely a third of remodelers said that green improved their sales. 

There are still significant challenges to implementing green remodeling, according to most respondents, but remodelers see fewer roadblocks to sustainability than they did in the past.

The top challenge, according to 31 percent of remodelers, is that homeowners are not willing to pay a premium for green features. A quarter of all remodelers said that the additional costs of green are the top challenge. In fact, 78 percent said that the No. 1 challenge was either the increased costs, lack of consumer demand and the unwillingness of homeowners to pay more for green.

Thirty percent of remodelers said that homeowners are not willing to pay any premium at all and only 15 percent said they would pay more than an additional 5 percent to get green features.

Still, that means 70 percent of remodelers said their clients would pay at least a little more for green remodeling — a drastic increase from the 22 percent who said that in 2007.

Almost every respondent — 95 percent — said it costs more to incorporate green features into the average remodeling project. That’s actually higher than the 91 percent who agreed in 2007, although remodelers say that increased cost is lower than it was just a few years ago. At that time, 73 percent of remodelers said it added more than 5 percent to the price of the average project, compared with 41 percent in our most recent study.

Other issues cited by remodelers as the top barrier to green remodeling:

  • Insufficient return on investment (10 percent)
  • Too complicated (5 percent)
  • Availability of green materials/systems (3 percent)
  • Reliability of vendors (2 percent)
  • Performance of green materials/systems (2 percent)

Remodelers are implementing a wide variety of green remodeling features and practices in their projects (see chart opposite page). More than 90 percent of remodelers reported installing energy-efficient windows and appliances, high-efficiency HVAC and enhanced insulation in at least some of their projects. Those four areas were also the top ones in 2008. Most remodelers’ use of all of the products and practices we asked about are virtually unchanged since 2008, with few exceptions.

While remodelers’ green practices are basically unchanged over the last few years, one area that has changed drastically is how green should be defined.

More than 90 percent of remodelers (up from 79 percent in 2007 and 75 percent in 2008) agree that someone needs to set standards that define green, but there is still widespread disagreement over who that someone should be.

“That requires a convoluted response as government is unable, while others in the past have proved to be biased in one way or another,” said one remodeler. And another: “No one has the expertise without being biased by their own ax to grind.”

Since we first asked the question, the opinions have shifted from favoring the government to third-party organizations.

 

 

We asked remodelers to identify the biggest challenges or difficulties in green remodeling projects. Here’s some of what you had to say:

“Convincing customers that it is for the best and will give them a better living environment”

“Not enough knowledge of products and availability of products”

“Low consumer demand, not willing to pay extra”

“'Green washing’ from manufacturers; a lot of people blowing a lot of smoke with no substance”

“Everyone wants green until they see the cost. Finding the balance between green and budget is difficult on some projects.”

“Going green is so overused no one knows what it means anymore.”

“Finding truly knowledgeable people to instruct us as to green methods”

“Most clients are not tolerant of the methods required to address green remodeling processes. They don’t understand the additional cost or time that may be involved.”

“This is an artificial industry. Manufacturers, politicians and industry leaders are the ones driving it, not end users.”

“Government rebates are very difficult to sell/explain to the client.”

“Many clients are not interested in 'green’ products or systems, unless the savings far outweigh the initial costs. Some clients even look at the term green as a gimmick to try to force them to needlessly pay higher costs for construction.”

“High cost with no local availability and lack of ease of installation”

“All clients want it until they discover the cost is higher for better materials, energy-efficient bulbs and a better-sealed installation of components.”

“Consumer ignorance and quite frankly, a lack of knowledge on my part”

“We are quoting green … we just aren’t closing green due to the additional cost.”

“Actually defining green”

“In our area, most of the customers think as we do: that the green craze is a fraud.”

“The overuse of the word 'green’ from people who truly do not understand it”

“Lack of education on the part of local officials”

“Customers are simply not impressed by the phrase 'green’. It simply has no value for them in their minds.”

 

351 remodelers completed the survey via e-mail in December 2009 and January 2010. Participants were chosen from a random sample of subscribers to Professional Remodeler magazine.

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