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Going Green?

"Green building" is undeniably hot right now. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the green segment of the construction industry is expected to climb from 2 percent of all housing starts in 2005 to between 5 and 10 percent in 2010. If these numbers are any indication, the practices advocated by green enthusiasts are well on their way to becoming mainstream. House with roof-integrated photovoltaics.

Spurred by the recent increase in energy prices, a growing number of consumers are turning to building technologies that save energy while also cutting down on environmental pollutants. Green houses include building practices that make minimal disturbances to the land they are built on; make efficient use of materials, water, and energy; and promote healthy indoor air quality.

Examples of green building technologies and practices include:

  • Low or No-VOC Paints: While many paints contain high-levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that diminish air quality and may be detrimental to the health of those who breath them, alternatives are now available that release little or no VOC pollutants. These latex-based paints are durable, cost the same as paints that contain VOCs, are high quality, and do not contaminate a home's air supply.
  • Cement substitutes: According to Environmental Building News, the annual US production of cement creates as much greenhouse case as the operation of 22 million compact cars. But by-products of other energy processes exist that can be efficiently used to create environmentally friendly alternatives to cement. Fly ash, slag, silica fume, and rice hull ash are gaining popularity among builders due to their strength, durability and low-toxicity.
  • Plumbing Manifolds: Manifold plumbing systems are control centers for hot and cold water that feed flexible supply lines to individual plumbing fixtures. Easy to install, they also reduce heat loss and provide steady water pressure and faster hot water delivery. Bamboo flooring
  • Bamboo Flooring: A plentiful natural resource, bamboo is gaining popularity among many builders due to its durability and attractiveness. Because bamboo grows very quickly, it is a more easily renewable resource than hardwood. Although all bamboo flooring used in the US is imported from the Pacific Rim, it can be readily delivered to US job sites within a few days.
  • Rainwater harvesting: Water is a valuable commodity. Collecting and reusing rainwater for landscape irrigation saves money and reduces the demand on the water supply.

Seeing Green

Although you currently may not align yourself with the green building movement, chances are high that as a PATH Partner, you regularly use many materials and practices associated with the trend. If so, now is a great time to capitalize on your role as an industry innovator to attract new business opportunities.

Being Green

First, a little self-assessment is in order. Ask yourself, how green am I? There are many shades of green, each with their own motivations and levels of commitment. Are you interested in:

  • Building homes that make the best use of energy resources?
  • Durability?
  • Producing less material waste?
  • The broader environmentally based philosophies that green building relates to?

Take a look at the technologies that you regularly feature in your building projects. Do any of them align with any of the principles of green building described above? If so, consider highlighting the green aspects of your current practices in your marketing and advertising efforts. If customers appreciate these benefits, then you can start using additional products that provide similar benefits.

Selling Green

After you evaluate your answers to those questions, you can craft your own marketing message accordingly. "Green" means different things to different people. For the "deep green" homebuyer it means investing in a home constructed from recycled materials that uses solar energy. For others, a shaded lot or lower than average energy bills is as green as they need to be. Bear in mind these differences as you decide how to position your business. On the whole, certain "green" attributes appeal to homeowners more than others.

Also, by matching a problem to a solution you can promote your services without having to drastically change them. For example in your marketing language you can ask customers if they're concerned about a certain issue (indoor air quality, for example), and then illustrate how you address it (whole house ventilation and low-VOC paint). Keep in mind that you can always introduce the benefits of your green building practices gradually, and if customers respond well to them, emphasize them some more.

Yet one caveat pertains: Be careful that when selling your services as green, your walk reflects your talk. Only promote yourself as a green builder if you can back that claim up solid evidence that your homes live up to their claims.

Above all, remember the PATH marketing mantra: sell the benefits!

Content updated on 8/7/2006

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