Sustainable Home Market is Getting Stronger, Lack of Sustainable Remodeling Remains a Problem

Published: Mon 13 Jun 2016
A blog entry by Carlee Quintas

Contributed by:

Carlee Quintas
Marketing and Branding
Direct Energy

Carlee Quintas's Blog

Experts around the world are commenting on changing trends in the housing industry, noting that “every week a new city of 1.5 million people will have to be built over the coming decades to meet this demand, and that by 2030, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in mega-cities.”

Nevertheless, while energy-consciousness is on the rise, it seems that some trends simply die hard. New data is showing that Baby Boomers in particular are passing on some of these new trends, including the space-saving and carbon footprint-reducing Tiny House fad. In fact, many are retiring into larger homes, with reports showing that 30% of Boomers are upsizing after leaving their jobs, while 49% are deciding to keep the same amount of space.

Many Boomers view their late stages of life as their last chance to live “how they want to,” including finally living in the home of their dreams. They want open, inviting spaces for their families when visiting, and the foreign popularity of large-family homes is becoming more appealing to Western seniors as well. Nevertheless, the sustainable home market is getting stronger, and though Boomers (among others) might be building bigger, they’re starting to build more green as well.

Technology is aiding home-buyers of all ages, and a new report is showing that new Internet of Things (IoT) tech in conjunction with home automation can save a residential home up to 10% on energy costs and carbon emissions. These new integrated “green” systems are selling points for new homes, and Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennial home buyers alike who are concerned with living in more environmentally friendly abodes are flocking to them.

Unfortunately, what many fail to realize is that building new homes with automated systems and energy savings techniques doesn’t account for the home left behind. Many of the standard homes on the market are old, with leaks that permit unwanted flow of both hot and cool air. Instead of building a new home, the most enthusiastic of energy conservationists will recognize that retrofitting a home to be more energy efficient is better for the world and everybody else in it. Inefficient housing is in fact contributing to and causing energy poverty, a condition defined by spending more than 10% of income on energy-related expenses.

Building a new home might seem more appealing to Boomers, but Gen X’ers and Millennials might want to think twice before buying a new smart home. Retrofitting or remodeling is generally much cheaper than building a brand new house, and will start paying for itself much sooner rather than later. Fortunately, a small but growing number of the older generation is beginning to downsize and rent more often than buy in later life. Tim Gagnon, an accounting professor at D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University, mentions that, in the case of snowbirds, this can often be because they are renting in multiple places.

For those that aren’t looking to build or remodel, perhaps because they’re renting Boomers, there are plenty of other ways to reduce energy consumption, including proper thermostat programming and monitoring appliance waste where it occurs. If you think that your house is wasting energy, don’t hesitate to get yourself a home energy audit. This is the first step in determining how much you’re wasting and how much you can save.

Visit energy.gov for more information on home energy audits and assessments.