Green Building News

Green Building News July 18, 2010

Homes Sizes and Lots Continue to Decrease with Growing Preference for Low Maintenance Property Improvements

The prolonged economic downturn in the housing market, coupled with growing concerns about rising utility costs has resulted in greater interest in smaller homes and lot sizes. There have also been some broader lifestyle changes with U.S. households eschewing upscale amenities, opting instead to invest in more low maintenance projects, particularly for property improvements. Accessibility within the home continues to be a concern, especially for an aging population, and there is an increasing demand for more flexible design and informal space within homes. Business conditions for residential architects are beginning to indicate improving conditions with the first quarterly increase in billings since mid-2007. These findings are from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey that focused specifically on overall home layout and use in the first quarter of 2010.

“We continue to move away from the ‘McMansion’ chapter of residential design, with more demand for practicality throughout the home,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “And with that there has been a drop off in the popularity of upscale property enhancements such as formal landscaping, decorative water features, tennis courts and gazebos.”

Overall home layout and size trends

Residential elements (% of respondents that reported increases) 2010 2009
In-home accessibility 60% 63%
Open space layout 56% 50%
Access into / out of home 49% 49%
Informal space 48% 45%
Finished basement / attic 36% 32%
Single-floor plan 40% 34%
Lot size 2% 2%

“There has been a steady decline in both the square footage and volume in home design in recent years,” added Baker. “The preference instead seems to be for more flexible, open and informal layouts that allow for both ease movement and fostering a space more conducive to family living.”

Outdoor living and landscaping trends 2010 2009
Low maintenance landscaping 63% 67%
Outdoor living space 56% 60%
Rainwater catchment 55% n/a
Blended indoor / outdoor living 48% 51%
Exterior / security lighting 33% 33%
Outdoor amenities 23% 22%

 Housing market business conditions    

AIA Home Design Survey Index for Q1 2010 (any score above 50 is positive)

  • Billings: 50
  • Inquiries for new projects: 62

Baker continued, “These are the first encouraging signs in over two years that an economic recovery for the beleaguered housing market is near. The home improvement market, including both additions and structural alterations as well as remodeling projects, continues to be the healthiest sector of the market.”

Specific residential segments (index score computed as percent of respondents reporting improving minus percent reporting weakening conditions)

  • Kitchen and bath remodeling: 41
  • Additions / alterations: 37
  • First-time buyer / affordable home market: -11
  • Move-up home market: -23
  • Custom / luxury home market: -27
  • Townhouse / condo market: -39
  • Second / vacation home market: -57

 The AIA Home Design Trend Survey is conducted quarterly with a panel of 500 architecture firms that concentrate their practice in the residential sector.


New Certified Homes Command 18 Percent Price Premium in 2009-2010

While fewer new homes were built in the past year in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area than in the previous year, the market share of third party certified homes increased. Twenty three percent of all newly constructed homes in the Portland metropolitan area sold between May 1, 2009 and April 30, 2010 received a third party certification. This finding is based upon data reported by the Portland area RMLS to Earth Advantage Institute.

The term “certified home” refers to homes that received an Earth Advantage, Energy Star, or LEED for Homes designation, or a combined Earth Advantage/Energy Star designation. Certification and sales information is reported by participating real estate brokers to RMLS. The Portland metropolitan area region includes Multnomah, Clackamas, Columbia, Washington and Yamhill Counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington.

This finding continues a three year trend in which the market share of certified homes in the Portland region has increased. Please see Table One below for detail.

Table One - Certified Homes in Portland Metropolitan Area, 2009-2010

  Number of certified new homes sold Market share among all new homes Price premium
May 1, 2007 to April 30, 2008 833 14% 21%
May 1, 2008 to April 30, 2009 674 17% 12%
May 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010 403 23% 18%

Data provided by RMLS and compiled by EAI. Percentages rounded to nearest whole number.

Homes with a third party certification sold for more than their non-certified counterparts, both in the new home and existing home markets. New homes in the six county Portland region sold for 18 percent more, while existing homes with a certification sold for 23 percent more.

Table Two - Average price premiums for certified homes, 2009-2010

New homes 18%
Existing homes 23%

Data provided by RMLS and compiled by EAI. Percentages rounded to nearest whole number.

“As energy efficiency and healthier homes gain more attention, builders and homeowners increasingly place value on home certification,” said Sean Penrith, executive director, Earth Advantage Institute. “It is very encouraging to see the market share of certified homes continue to rise over the past three years despite the difficulties in residential markets.”

RMLS reports sales data by county. Table Three below provides more detailed information on the range of price premiums observed in different parts of the Portland metropolitan area. Clark County, WA was the one area in the metropolitan region where newly constructed certified homes did not sell for more. However, certified existing homes in Clark County continued the trend. As a group, existing homes with a sustainable certification in Clark County sold for an average of $278,400 versus $234,100 for homes without such a certification, or 16 percent more.

Table Three – Average Sales Price Among All Homes and Price Premium for Certified Homes

New Homes

  Clackamas Multnomah Washington Yamhill Clark County WA
Non certified $326,300 $266,000 $315,100 $271,100 $264,500
Certified home $391,500 $310,100 $332,300 $325,100 $252,600
Price premium


14% 5% 17% -5%

Existing Homes

Non certified $328,000 $282,400 $274,000 $221,800 $234,100
Certified home $365,000 $416,800 $388,300 $308,000 $278,400
Price premium


32% 29% 28% 16%

The Portland area RMLS first began collecting information about home certification in the spring of 2007. It is the first RMLS in the country to do so.


EPA Launches National Water Conservation Campaign

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) WaterSense program is kicking off its national “We’re for Water” campaign to encourage Americans to make simple choices that save water. The program, in collaboration with its partner, American Water, will spread the word about saving water by traveling cross-country, stopping at national landmarks and educating consumers about WaterSense labeled products. WaterSense products use about 20 percent less water than standard models.

“Whether by replacing an old, inefficient plumbing fixture with a WaterSense labeled product or adopting more water-efficient behaviors, together we can help save water for future generations,” said Peter Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. "WaterSense offers consumers simple tips that can help the environment and keep money in their pockets."

Consumers can start saving water today with three simple steps: check, twist and replace.

  1. Check toilets for silent leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank; if the color shows up in the bowl indicating a leak, fixing it may be as simple as replacing the toilet’s flapper.
  2. Twist on a WaterSense labeled bathroom faucet aerator to use 30 percent less water without a noticeable difference in flow.
  3. Replace a showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model that uses less water and energy, but still has all the power of a water-hogging model.


2011 EnergyValue Housing Award Application Deadline Extended

The NAHB Research Center announces a deadline extension for the 2011 EnergyValue Housing Award New Home application, now due July 30, 2010. This was done to accommodate renovations described in the Existing Home competition as: projects that include additions larger than 75 percent of the existing building or dwelling unit's conditioned floor area – which are considered new construction and should be submitted in the appropriate EVHA New Home category.

The extension also provides additional time for New Home builders to complete applications for their projects, so those contractors who missed the original June 30 deadline still have time to enter the competition!

Applications for the 2011 EnergyValue Housing Award New and Existing Home competitions are being accepted electronically until Friday, July 30, 2010. Hard copies of the applications must arrive at the NAHB Research Center no later than August 2, 2010.