Green Remodeling Hoped to Assist in Industry Rebound

Mary Butler

Home improvement isn't what it used to be, but for the green building industry, that's actually good news.

Instead of adding gourmet kitchens and redoing master bathrooms, remodelers are focusing on reducing homes' carbon footprints--and how energy savings can slash monthly bills, according to a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies.

It may be some time before the remodeling industry completely rebounds, given the breakneck speed at which it grew between 1995 and 2007, when more than $327 billion was spent on home improvements, according to the study. In 2007, for instance, every homeowner spent $1,160 more than he or she did in 2003.

Green Remodeling Growth

Green remodeling is named as one of three growth areas hoped to bring the industry out of the downturn.

Falling housing values have prompted people to fix up the homes they have rather than move. The soft market has also shifted what people value in a home. Moving away from the traditional kitchen remodels to bathroom updgrades, many homeowners have started investing their money into energy efficiency. According to the JCHS study, "consumers have recently shown increasing interest in quality and durability issues, environmental performance, and safety and disaster mitigation products."

Granite countertops are giving way to improved insulation and garage remodels are being replaced by the addition of solar panels or replacement windows.

Such changes could have a big impact.

Old Homes are Energy Hogs

Existing homes account for 22 percent of the nation's energy use, with homes built before 1970 responsible for about 40 percent of residential energy use. Heating and air conditioning account for almost half of residential energy consumption. In face of rising energy prices, cutting back on energy use has become a national issue as lawmakers continue to address how to solve the problem.

For old house remodelers, this comes as no surprise as they know new windows, doors, and good insulation can signficantly reduce bills. As more attention is turned to the issue of upgrading energy efficiency in homes, green remodelers should take heart knowing their investments should pay off in the long run.

The Remodeling Market in Transition • Jun 23, 2009 • http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/publications/remodeling/remodeling2009/index.htm • Joint Center for Housing Studies

About the Author
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.

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