New homes getting bigger, greener

Buried underneath a story about a Generation Y home was some interesting information about the new homes of 2011: they are getting bigger and greener.

“Homes are getting bigger,” said Rose Quint, the NAHB’s assistant vice president for survey research. She said the average home completed in 2011 had 2,522 square feet, up from 2,381 the year before. “On average, new homes have more square footage and are getting more expensive,” Quint said.

It’s a seeming anomaly, considering the economy. But the key to the size resurgence lies in who built new homes last year: The economy favored those with wherewithal and who were moving up the housing food chain…

And about that environmental awareness that’s supposed to be at the heart of consumer demand these days (I heard variations on the phrase “green is the new granite countertop” no less than five times in three days here): It depends on who’s asking the questions, apparently.

McGraw-Hill Construction, a trade publisher and researcher, released a survey during the conference that painted the green share of residential construction as booming, having increased from 2 percent in 2005 to 17 percent in 2011. Further, it should reach 29 to 38 percent of the market by 2017, representing $87 billion to $214 billion in business, the report said. Driving this demand, McGraw-Hill said, is consumers’ desire to reduce their energy bills…

Grail Research, a Cambridge, Mass., firm that studies green-related issues, contends green may be less of a revolution than an evolution, if even that. The researchers found that the number of consumers with preferences for green products is decreasing as the recession continues, and that significant numbers of green consumers have switched back to conventional products.

These might be viewed as competing trends but I have argued that I think these could actually go together: Americans want space as well as greener (and perhaps greener as normal) features.

The new figures about housing size from 2011 are fascinating because the downward trend in recent years has been hailed by many as a sign that Americans have gotten their spending under control, lowered their expectations, and are moving away from sprawl and McMansions. But the 2011 figures suggest that there are still people who want (and can pay for) large houses. I’ve suggested before that housing sizes will go up when the economy improves and perhaps this is some evidence for that.

I wonder if we can reconcile different reports about consumers and green products by suggesting that green is simply becoming more normal. It is one thing to add the latest or expensive green features such as solar panels or rainwater retrieval systems. It is another thing for all new homes to have very insulated windows or an efficient furnace, improving features that all homes have to have anyway. What this would mean is that it would be more difficult to market a home as green and ask a premium price as opposed to having some expected or more basic green features. The phrase “green is the new granite countertop” fits with this idea: if you want your home to sell, you will need to have some basic green features.

2 thoughts on “New homes getting bigger, greener

  1. Pingback: Australians love the suburbs | Legally Sociable

  2. Pingback: Size of new Canadian homes has dropped 400 square feet since peak | Legally Sociable

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