Environmentally conscious building is no longer the exception, it's the rule.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) says that by 2018, green homes could represent 40 percent of the overall housing market in the United States, and that 84 percent of all home construction will include sustainable features.
"(It's) becoming more mainstream due to rapidly improving building energy codes, newer and better green materials and fixtures coming onto the marketplace, and an overall increase in awareness in what it takes to build a green home," says Asa Foss, director of USGBC's Residential Technical Solutions.
While morality incentivizes many people, so does profit. Studies show that green residences bring more cash at sale, and green building materials are big business for manufacturers.
For those who want to build a home to the highest green specifications, the USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program remains the gold standard.
What is LEED?
Created in 1998, the LEED rating system helps builders and property owners use resources more efficiently. Rather than setting rigid guidelines, the standards utilize numerous core tracks, such as water and energy efficiency, air quality, daylight visibility and the use of recycled construction materials.
The LEED scorecard tallies points in seven categories, and the total decides a structure's overall rating.
LEED's newest residential version — LEED v4 for Homes — requires the installation of the latest Energy Star products and takes resource sustainability to a new level.
"We are much more focused on measurable energy and water savings, and approaches that are proven to improve indoor air quality," Foss says.
The LEED program essentially views each home as a living organism.
"Modern buildings are a collection of systems working together to help the building perform, and just like the human body, if any of these systems are not working well together, the building as a whole suffers," Foss says. "LEED v4 represents the most innovative approach to integrating these systems to ensure optimal standards in human health and environmental sustainability."
The future of green building
Going green has never been easier, or cheaper, as products constantly improve and drop in price. Solar power, which sets new installation records with each passing year, is the textbook example.
"Solar panels are now becoming much less expensive as panel manufacturers are increasing their scale, and the installers are better versed at navigating local codes, which is increasing market access for consumers," Foss says.
Residential LEED registration and certification costs $525 for non-USGBC members, $375 for members.
The USGBC hopes to get further analysis on LEED's effect on home pricing.
"While there currently are numerous studies that demonstrate that green homes have a higher value, I think we will start to see energy and water efficiency having a more significant impact on the sale price of a home," Foss says.
Brent Glasgow is a reporter for Angie's List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.