When Cathy Lawton started selling homes in Fairfield County in 1985, green house equated more to plants growing in a glass structure than an energy-efficient dwelling.
But now, homebuyers want to limit their household expenses and are increasingly demanding the home they purchase features technology such as solar panels, geothermal energy and energy-efficient windows and insulation.
Features like geothermal and photovoltaic solar arrays might add several thousand dollars to the price of a house, but that doesn't seem to faze many homebuyers who see the long-term value, according to Lawton, an agent with Kelly Associates Real Estate in Darien.
"Interest is increasing, and certainly it's a nice additional feature. Location is still a big concern, but style and `green' can go hand-in-hand. That's what buyers are realizing."
Lawton recently represented Sam and Anthea Nickerson in the sale of their Darien home, which won a platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council -- the highest possible.
The Nickersons bought the house in 2006 and incorporated extensive energy improvements into an expansion of the 1920s-era building.
"We did a deep energy retrofit and were able to get LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) certification," Sam Nickerson said. "Clearly, energy efficiency was a huge part of it. We doubled the size of the house and reduced energy expenditures by 80 percent. We thought it was a great investment."
The project involved installation of solar-array photovoltaic and solar-thermal panels, energy-efficient windows and insulation, energy-recovery ventilators, paints with nonvolatile compounds and environmentally friendly building materials.
"It was a yearlong project. It was a gut renovation, but it didn't take any longer than a normal renovation project," said Nickerson, who lives in Massachusetts with his family. The buyer was unavailable for comment.
`Over the top'
The reconstruction and expansion of the more than 3,000-square-foot house was designed by Elizabeth DiSalvo, principal architect in Trillium Architects in Ridgefield and a member of the Connecticut Green Building Council Board of Directors.
Interest has increased in building and buying energy-efficient homes, she said.
"There are people who want to save money and think it's cool, and there are others who just want the greenest home possible," said DiSalvo, who helped organize a tour of energy-efficient homes across the state hosted by the Connecticut Green Building Council during two weekends last month. Read Full Article
They ranged from a house where completing energy retrofits was done by the owner, according to DiSalvo, to new homes that are "over the top" in energy efficiency.
Among the homes on the tour were several in Fairfield County.
"Right before the recession in 2008, people started asking for it (energy-efficient homes), and then the recession threw it off," DiSalvo said. "As soon as the recession ended, people were totally into it."
There is a different philosophy among the professionals who design and build energy-efficient homes, compared with those who construct homes using more conventional strategies, she said.
"We try to assess the resale value with clients," DiSalvo said, adding the Connecticut Green Building Council wants to educate real estate agents about the benefits of energy-efficient properties and the technology involved.
"Our council is starting to green the MLS (Multiple Listing Service)," she said. "The MLS is starting to recognize energy efficiency. Every house we do has solar panels and a version of geothermal."
Some level of green is being incorporated in most home construction, according to Katherine Pancak, professor of finance and real estate at the University of Connecticut.
"There is a growing interest in homebuyers that want to buy a green home," she said. "Reasons vary, including wanting an home that is healthier, has lower utility and maintenance costs, and leaves less of a carbon footprint on the environment. While the perception is green homes are expensive to build, the U.S. Green Building Council reports energy-efficient green homes can be built for the same cost or less than conventional homes. The USGBC reports just under 50 percent of new construction homes they certify are in the affordable housing sector, indicating green technology is being incorporated at all housing levels."