What is Green Real Estate?
Green Real Estate can include residential and commericial buildings as well as land management and land development strategies. We will focus here on residential, single family homes.
There are "green" alternatives to most building features. "Green" implies energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainability and health benefits. Research by the Shelton Group, the leading US advertising agenchy which researches and motivates America's sustainable choices, demonstrates that most lay persons who are enthusiastic about green building options are capable of specifically identifying only one green feature. That feature is solar panels. Since solar panels are not cost effective without a well insulated and sealed house, it is clear that the average person needs professional guidance in this sector of the Real Estate Market. There are many misunderstandings in this field that deserve clarification and there is the ever present danger of Green Washing which entails the intention to deceive the public that a feature is "green" when it is not. So lets look at some basic information.
A “Green Built Home” is one that has been rated by a third party green building program. No other entity or professional is qualified to label a home “green”. If any other entity or person chooses to do so they are taking a risk at being held liable. However, in the "real world" such claims are common place. Many Realtors label their listings "green" even if the home can only boast of a few green features. A collection of features does not assure that all the systems in the home are designed to work in concert to achieve the desired results such as saving energy.
The Austin Energy Green Building program offers climate specific green building guidelines and professional expertise. The cost of going through this program, whether the home is located in the Austin Energy providership zone or in the extended rating area around Austin, is a cost effective choice. LEED for Homes is a national program which enjoys a lot of brand recognition and costs considerably more. The Energy Star program has value outside of Austin in our surrounding counties, where, generally, no building codes are enforced, except for a septic permit. Energy Star offers a lower bar than either AEGB or LEED.
The Green MLS offers a field for identifying listings that have been rated by any of the popular Green Building Programs utilized in our area. This field is called “Green Rating Program”. The level of each program’s rating varies considerably and the year rated matters enormously. For example a house rated as Five Stars by Austin Energy Green Building 10 years ago could be equivalent to a house built below today’s standards for code within the City of Austin. Time Matters! These details are no longer accessible via searchable fields.
The only way to access this information is through the document entitled “Energy, Environment and Sustainability Attachment”.
Click Here to view the EES Attachment
This document, properly filled out, also outlines the features of a Green Rated house as well as a house not rated at all. There can be many great green features in a house that has not been rated and houses that have been rated may use a variety of strategies to achieve their rating. If you are looking for a particular feature or system the EES offers an opportunity for you to discover these particulars.
Do keep in mind, however, that a Green Building rating offers a systems approach to Green Building which means that all the features were selected to work in harmony and support each other resulting in a holistic approach. Without such a program guiding the choices of the professionals involved, it is possible that one system can cancel out or undermine another system's benefits. Green Building is a team sport and Green Building programs offer education and support to the various professionals: architects, general contractors, HVAC contractors, engineers, etc. to function as a team resulting in a better built home which operates as intended.
Resources for Realtors® on the Green MLS and Green Real Estate include information on the Austin Board of Realtors website as well as the MCE approved class, “Green MLS: The Key to Unlocking the Green Home Market” written and taught by Miki Cook of Austin Energy Green Building who rates homes undergoing the AEGB program.
Our site includes a wealth of information and resources for Green Buyers, Green Sellers, Green Builders, Green Real Estate Education for Realtors, Indoor Air Quality, ReGreening Existing Homes and The Team including both the core Hill Country Green Team and the professionals that have earned our trust, and without whom we could not get the job done.