As the nation's home builders embrace green building in growing numbers, industry research indicates that even the most aggressive efficiency goals for new homes won't make a dent in overall energy consumption. Instead, remodeling and retrofitting the nation's older homes is by far the more efficient solution, industry experts said at a recent press conference The home building industry can combat the potential effects of global climate change by providing additional training to its members and by encouraging homeowners to alter some of their habits - and make energy-efficient improvements to their homes.
Federal energy officials estimate that Americans consume about 21 percent of the energy produced each year to operate and maintain their homes: for heating, cooling and electrical appliances, from stoves and refrigerators to televisions, computers and hair dryers. "By just making thoughtful choices, we can reduce that impact," said Ray Tonjes, chair of the NAHB Green Building Subcommittee and a green homebuilder in Austin, Texas. "Energy efficiency is absolutely key to our nation's continued security and to our economy. Additionally, we know that building with energy conservation in mind is practical and profitable. My industry has stepped up to the plate to prevent the effects of global warming - but we call it responding to market demand," he said. The greatest energy savings can be achieved by making changes to existing housing, which is less energy efficient than today's new homes. "We obviously can't solve the problem by tearing down all our inefficient housing stock and replacing it with new. We need to make some significant improvements to our existing homes," Tonjes said.
Further, the study demonstrated that pending $10,000 retrofitting a 1960s home could save 8.5 tons of carbon, a cost of $588 to $1,176 per ton depending on tax credits and incentives. On the other hand, increasing the energy efficiency of a new home 35 percent over current state requirements would cost about $5,000 and would reduce emissions by 1.1 tons at a cost of $4,545 per ton.