reenworks members and guests recently visited Meritage Homes in South Carolina. We had 30 people attend from various organizations such as universities, NGOs, for-profit businesses and even from our partners at USGBC, Sustain Charlotte and Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful.
The visit’s purpose was to show how Meritage builds into its homes (pun intended) sustainability practices. The presenter, CR Herro, Vice President — Energy Efficiency and Sustainability joined Meritage in 2009. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science at Arizona State University in Physical and Life Science, Masters in Environmental Policy from Governors State, and Doctorate in Environmental Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology. Paul Berardi, a member of Greenworks, arranged the visit.
We learned where the largest waste occurs in homes (heating; refrigeration; appliances, lighting) — especially phantom electricity use like leaving on your computer and not controlling heating and cooling times); what we can do about waste (change technologies; build better homes using environmentally friendly materials); and how to consider post-sale behaviors (teaching home owners sustainable practices; using legislative incentives in mortgages for home-owners to care for the environment).
An interesting fact from a 2013 survey by the National Home Builders Association was that females are the critical decision makers in family home buying. This makes home buying an interesting cultural event. The importance of this information is that we can discover other cultural artifacts that may be used to influence sustainability practices. For example, how can we get home buyers to realize that when they buy a house in a location they are taking on responsibility for the sustainability of that location?
Home builders have a large opportunity to influence individual behavior. They can build communities with a sustainability lens. This lens leads to analyzing every aspect of building and the home ownership experience — including living in the community after purchase. Home builders are finally realizing that sustainability practices are good business. For example, homeowners who are sensitive to their energy bills are evaluating home builders on their practices and how those practices influence post-sale energy bills. Home builders also can educate homeowners. The daunting language of CFLs; KwH; etc. confuse people. So home builders have an opportunity — they can make an impact!
Food for thought: The most sustainable idea about buying homes is not to buy. Do you think we can create a culture where people are willing to adopt new behaviors to create better environmental outcomes? Are we willing to downsize your home, live more communally, and purchase based on dual outcomes of personal interest and environmental outcomes?
by Daniel S. Fogel, Wake Forest University, for GreenWorks Blog