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[greenyes] Market Acceptance of Green Buildings
 NEW YORK TIMES - 11/14/03

Aiming to Be the Next Big Amenity

AS the horizon turned to a deep pink outside the floor-to-ceiling windows of
their serene living room, the Cantone family looked out over the Hudson
River and pondered the meaning of living "green."
Robin Cantone was enthusiastic about the air filtration in their apartment
at the Solaire, which opened in Battery Park City in May to great fanfare,
billed as the country's first high-rise residential "green building." She
pointed out the energy-saving washer and dryer and the kitchen cabinets,
made without the usual formaldehyde.
Her husband, Robert, talked about living for less. Though the apartment has
three bedrooms and three bathrooms, its electricity requirements are about
the same as for the smaller apartment they used to rent in Chelsea.
But Michael, 15, shrugged. Was there really a difference between this
building and nongreen buildings? "No, not really," he said. His younger
sister, Caroline, 11, chimed in. "I don't really see a difference, either,"
she said.
And that pretty much sums up public ambiguity about life on the green
frontier. At a time when up to 20 percent of new homes in some markets are
being built with environmentally friendly features like double-pane windows,
carpet made from recycled plastic, sophisticated air-ventilation systems and
nontoxic paints, many Americans still aren't sure just what they're getting
when they buy green.
Their ambivalence comes at a turning point for the industry. After years of
trial runs and custom-built prototypes, the green movement is facing its
toughest test of all: Will consumers buy, and will they pay the same kind of
premium as they do for marble floors and en suite bathrooms?
While environmentalists and engineers have long thought that green design
made good sense, developers and real estate brokers are wondering if it is
the best way to sell homes to buyers enamored of tangible perks. "We find
that to be a huge challenge, because a lot of customers are focused on
amenities that they can touch and feel," said Chuck Lemmond, vice president
for purchasing at Newmark Homes, based in Austin, Tex. The company, which
expects to install high-efficiency heating and air-conditioning systems and
low-volatility paints in 600 houses this year, is competing with builders
who trim costs by focusing on looks, not energy consumption. Customers are
generally unwilling to pay a premium for green features, Mr. Lemmond said,
adding that he hoped that in the long run the company's reputation for green
building would spur buyers to choose Newmark homes.
"We find that if our features, location and price are relatively equal to
the competition," he said, then the green features can "set us apart enough
to help a discriminating buyer make a good decision."

Shrewd Eye for the Wash Cycle

CARROLL LANCASTER, a 74-year-old Texan with the drawl to prove it, is all
for saving Mother Earth. So when he and his wife, Catherine, built their
retirement home a few years ago near Zephyr, Tex., they bought a
front-loading washing machine, which uses less water and energy than a
regular model; installed compact fluorescent lighting, which consumes less
electricity than incandescent lamps; designed a two-foot roof overhang,
which provides shade in the sizzling summers; and paid for a heating and
air-conditioning unit so energy efficient that their utility company gave
them a rebate.
Yet there was a limit to Mr. Lancaster's environmental friendliness. In his
research, he learned that one way to consume less electricity was to use
double-paned windows sealed with argon gas. But he discovered that his
savings would be so small that it would take 10 to 20 years to justify the
purchase. "I didn't think I would live that long," said Mr. Lancaster, who
decided to use plastic double-paned windows - without the argon.
In the past few years, the popularity of green buildings has expanded beyond
die-hard do-gooders.
Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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