Ethical Meets Profitable: Selling Sustainable Housing
We all know sustainability is necessary, but it’s also expensive. Until the cost of eco-friendly materials comes down and the demand for sustainable homes comes up, we won’t see a shift to a greener property market. The good news? Both of those things are already happening.
Sustainable housing is quickly growing in popularity. Community gardens, composting, renewable energy and electric cars are fast becoming a way of life, and there is an increasing expectation for the real estate industry to commit to a greener future. While agents don’t dictate how homes are built, they do need to keep their fingers on the pulse of the housing market and respond accordingly. For example, armed with the knowledge that young first home buyers believe in the importance of sustainability, any passive design details or recycled building materials need to be pitched as major selling points.
building sustainable housing
Studies have shown that the global construction sector contributes almost 6 billion CO2 emissions a year – representing 23% of global economics activity. Heavier reliance on heating, cooling and lighting also amplifies our carbon footprint in totally avoidable ways. Following passive design principles like maximising ventilation and sun exposure results in naturally cooler summers, warmer winters and more natural light. By reducing the need for heating, air-conditioning and artificial lighting, overall carbon emissions shrink dramatically.
In the building stage, using reused, recycled and locally sourced materials will all reduce a property’s impact on the environment. Steel, for example, is generally less sustainable than timber. Due to the massive CO2 emissions involved in its production, concrete isn’t an ideal material, but concrete slabs have a high thermal mass meaning they hold heat and passively warm a home well after the sun has set.
Why sustainability won’t always be costly
Homes that cost more to design and build also cost more to buy. In a market already considered unaffordable by many, measures that further push prices skyward are quickly dismissed. But that won’t be the case forever. A 2015 study by Nielsen titled The Sustainability Imperative found 66% of global respondents were willing to pay more for factors such as sustainability and commitment to social values. Meanwhile, sustainable materials, which used to be more expensive due to a lack of supply, have become much more affordable. “Green building materials, mechanical systems, and furnishings have become more widely available, and their prices have dropped considerably,” says Harvard Business Review.
Why demand for sustainability will only keep rising
As affordability increases, sustainable housing will become a major focus for buyers, especially as the sustainability-conscious millennials enter the housing market en masse. With the succeeding generation, Gen Z, just as concerned (if not more so) about the environment, the future of housing will likely be heavily driven by sustainability. A transition to more sustainable housing can’t be done solely by designers, builders, sellers, buyers or real estate agents, but rather through a collaborative effort by all.
A study of young first home buyers and tenants found 49% of respondents would be more likely to buy or rent an “eco-conscious” home. Features that were particularly appealing included double/triple glazed windows, designs that maximise natural light and solar panels. Unfortunately, those chasing sustainability are reluctant to pay for it. Only 24% of respondents are willing to spend extra for environmentally friendly features. Of those, however, 22% would be willing to pay up to 30% extra, representing a small demographic who are definitely ready to break the bank for the sake of the environment.
So while sustainable features are unlikely to significantly raise prices, there’s still an ethical motivation behind including them in the sales pitch. Passive design isn’t on every buyer’s radar, but bringing it to the fore in property discussion is a catalyst for positive, sustainable change in the housing industry. Additionally, acting on the knowledge that practically every second buyer finds sustainability appealing is enough to warrant marketing accordingly. After all, if half of all buyers wanted blue interior walls, we’d all be buying fresh tins of cobalt before going to market.