Alternative Going Mainstream

“Going green” has been little more than a catchphrase for years. True, alternative energy sources and efficient methods of development have been available, but the premise has been more of a novelty than the norm. Are we finally seeing a change?

The green movement traces its roots to the 1970s when, realizing the days of cheap energy were limited, we saw the development of energy-efficient homes with features like solar panels and better insulation and windows. President Jimmy Carter even put solar panels on the roof of the White House in 1979.

Then the 1980s came and we momentarily forgot about the whole green thing. Reagan tore down Carter’s solar panels and an era of excess ensued. Out came McMansions, SUVs and the death of the electric car. Fast forward to today: Gas and heating oil prices are spiking and energy efficiency is back in vogue.

We’re currently inundated with articles and tv shows showcasing green building methods and features. But the reality of fully going green is often stymied by high implementation costs, development regulations that don’t encourage green building and buyers who are uneducated in the benefits of energy efficiency or are simply more interested in savings that are within shorter reach.

The mindset has been that building green means higher production costs that are passed on to the consumer. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “If a builder is experienced, a green home can be produced at comparable cost to one that is not,” notes John Barrows, president of P3 Building Group and partner with Performance Path Solutions in Wainscott.

The use of green building standards such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or Energy Star are becoming ubiquitous and more often required in new development. On Long Island, which Barrows touts as a national leader in green building, towns like Brookhaven and Babylon have adopted codes that promote energy efficiency.

Buyers are now willing to pay up to 25 percent more for green homes, too, according to the environmental website Appraisers can also factor in the efficiency of a home and estimate the savings of green features in order to raise the expected value of a home. In other words, demand is growing and home prices will finally rise, at least if they’re green.

conor bly

Conor Bly has been writing about Long Island for the past 14 years covering, well, pretty much everything, from automobiles to zoning regulations. When not writing, much of his time is occupied by looking for that elusive perfect house.