Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Cost of Building Green/Active House USA

The Active House in Webster Groves has received a great deal of press in recent weeks. It has been covered in the Post-Dispatch, Time Magazine and on local TV. An open house at the site drew 2,000 visitors! So there is definite interest and curiosity about what the home has to offer.

photo by: Laurie Skrivan
Still, there are many misconceptions about the cost of building a project like this. Skepticism is fine, if accompanied by an open mind willing to look at the performance metrics that will come out next year.

The Time Magazine piece reads: "The Smiths’ home cost roughly $500,000 to build. That’s more than double the average listing price of homes for sale in the same area code, according to" Maybe the author meant zip code and not area code. Either way it is not specific enough to provide truly useful information. The owner would not get a loan if this project did not appraise on par with similar homes in the immediate surrounding area. It is not hard to find that there are plenty of homes near this one that cost as much or more - but they will have considerably higher utility bills.

One of the concepts behind a 'green mortgage' is that a buyer can have a slightly more expensive house because his operating expenses will be less. The monthly expenditures will be the same or less in the green home if one accounts for a slightly higher construction cost and a lower operating cost. This is part of the big picture, long term, holistic thinking that needs to be a part of the decision making processes.

Building a home with the principles that under-gird LEED, Active House, Passive House and other comprehensive green building standards is a guided way to insure energy efficiency, comfort, durability and environmental responsibility. The Active House in Webster is one example of how it can be done in context of neighborhood price parameters and architectural styles.

Here is the video from the KSDK piece: