A Quick Guide to Green Trends

By Erik Fowler

Erik Fowler

Erik Fowler

Over the next several months, REALTOR® Magazine’s Styled, Staged & Sold blog and I are excited to be covering green home trends. Check back with us, as this is one in a series of articles to help you make sense of the green landscape as a real estate professional.

Many of you may even consider the new NAR GREEN designation, the only sustainable property designation recognized by the National Association of Realtors®. Topics we will cover over the next few months are:

1) The Big Picture – Defining “Green”
2) Green Homes and Real Estate
3) Who are Green Buyers and Sellers?
4) Listing and Selling Green – Important Issues to Consider
5) Green Certifications  – Making Sense of Rating Systems
6) Greening your Real Estate Practice


Did you know? According to several studies including the U.S. Department of Energy, homes and buildings account for 40-50 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and at least 20-40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

In addition, construction of homes and other buildings use more than 30 percent of all raw materials and produce at least 30 percent of waste generation in the U.S. each year. Wow!

Committed followers of green subscribe to sustainable growth principles which reject “false choices” of economic growth versus environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Proponents believe these goals can and should occur simultaneously.

The study and goal of sustainable growth is a topic which I encourage you to research. As it pertains to green homes and development, sustainability focuses on the concept of “smart” growth — growth without compromising the well being of future generations and their ability to satisfy their needs and desire for happiness.

All stakeholders—such as planners, developers, builders and owners—must consider the “triple bottom line” of prosperity (profit), people (community) and their planet (environment). We all share one big home after all—our planet Earth.

More and more people believe that greening our homes, buildings, schools and neighborhoods will have a lasting and positive impact on our environment, our health and our communities.

“Green” means different things to different people, and it’s a good idea to avoid generalizations and stick to specifics, such as noting specific features (substantiated) and third-party green rating systems, especially in the practice of real estate.

“Greenwashing” is the term used to describe erroneous or exaggerated claims about green, such as stating a home is green simply because of one or two green features.

The practice of green, therefore, should examine the entire building lifecycle and its impact – the design, construction, operation/maintenance or removal.

Consider this when you consider green:

  • How does the construction or remodel of a home preserve air, water and soil quality?
  • How does a home prevent waste of resources and damage to the environment?
  • How can a new home development create a harmonious community and healthy lifestyle?
  • Finally, and most importantly, how do you and your home currently conserve energy, water and materials?

These ideas will be discussed further as we tackle Green Homes and Real Estate in the next article. I promise less theory and more practice, so stay tuned!

Helpful Web Resources:


  • Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming (Hawken)
  • The Philosophy of Sustainable Design (McLennan)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erik Fowler is a practitioner with Greenwood King Properties in Houston, Texas, with 10 years of residential real estate experience. He is a national member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a board member of the Houston Chapter, an instructor for NAR GREEN, and a certified Eco-Broker.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. kria lacher

    I am so glad that NAR finally got a green cert for Realtors!!! Now we just need a green MLS policy, which I would be happy to assist with.

    In the way that I look at “green” issues around housing is that it is a complicated matter and can not be made into a black and white way of looking at things. There are so many different components to what makes something “green” or not.

    In our business, it is more of a question of compared to what. An older 1920’s home can be considerably greener than another 1920’s home. This is the reason I started to green MLS systems in the first place!

    Good blog!

  2. I’ve been involved in the green movement before it was even called green, but still happy to see the “Green Certification” for realtors. In fact as an Assoc. Broker I would offer free Energy Audits instead of home inspections for my clients. I feel it is a great way for buyers and sellers to show just how efficient there homes are and what it really costs to run. I have since earned my cert. for HERS- a home energy rater and auditor. My wife and I have taken our green knowledge even further and have opened our own company that provides renewable energy. We call ourselves “EarthWindandSolarEnergy.com” ,and as the name implies we specialize in geothermal, wind turbines, and solar energy. Great time to do this since the real estate market is so slow, but more importantly we feel it is our way of being a part of the solution to save our planet and bring affordable renewable energy to the people.
    I think it would be great information to determine just how much of a return on investment a home seller would get for their investment. I’m positive that they would get much more back than their original investment. Let’s here from the associations and lets get a detailed study going.

  3. I am looking forward to reading your subsequent articles on green real estate. Hopefully it will include statistics comparing home values of green and non-green homes.

    There are so many choices homeowners and communities can make to support a healthier indoor and outdoor environment. Denver is becoming much more “green minded”. We have city recycling (without sorting), composting and a variety of “green” home product stores.

    It really would be fantastic to see a green rating on the MLS system.

  4. June Gardner

    I have eagerly been awaiting the availability of the Core “green” course online through NAR. In the meantime, I have enrolled in the online elective course and have became EcoBroker Certified The EcoBroker coursework was incredibly interesting and informative albeit presenting some utilization challenges for those of us who live and work in urban areas with housing stock whose site orientation and street layouts have been set for well over 100 years. ( DC Metro area ). I have yet to have a buyer seek out “green” houses or even ask about a house’s eco-friendly features or capabilities. So far, any discussions in that realm have been at my initiation. I do remain hopeful however…..

  5. Thanks Erik for the Green blog post. Having just completed the EcoBroker, and Live Green, Live Smart Certified Professional, I just may take the NAR course as well. So far the two are different in scope and equally valuable to me as a Realtor in the field.

    I think the point is that we all have to start somewhere and becoming conscious is the beginning. As Maya Angelou says “when you know better, you do better”. It’s something that once you know about it you can’t go back. I became a trainer for Live Green Live Smart because I am everyman and just know that if I can make changes anyone can. I believe the difference is US…everyone of us making small changes that lead to awareness and bigger changes and what a huge impact that will make.

    And, it’s not too soon for big changes. Just one light bulb, just one less can in the landfill, everything makes an impact. And, for most of us we can easily make it more than one. SO, I’m excited and pleased to be involved at a time when making a difference is so important and so welcomed. This recession we are coming out of hopefully soon has reminded us that along with being more careful where we spend our money, we have been wasting without consideration for consequences. I think it’s all been for good and hope we don’t forget the message as prospertiy returns.

    I would rather my prosperity be in the earth and health of the planet. And it’s easier than you think to make a difference. THANKS for the nudge.

  6. Lauren R Gould

    What a title for a book – BLESSED UNREST… irresponsible, I would say.

    Maybe some folks didn’t see it coming, but I’ve been personally involved since 1972 as have many others with and before me. Oh well, some overnight successes take longer than others. At least it’s here now, embraced quite generally, although many are still kicking and screaming against it.

    Kudos to NAR for the Green REaltor course/designation.

    We need more than USGBC and LEED. It’s time to acknowledge GREEN GLOBE too and others championing the cause!

  7. Lamartine Station

    It seems that people are quick to minimize the impact and effects of going green. Although an understanding of green technology, implications, and impact are important; dont minimize the larger context. First of all, we are not where we need to be. Damage to the environment has been done and it takes immediate sustained action to stop the death of our planet. Germany is a model for the rigorous standards they apply to protecting the planet. It’s not a forced mandate system because people have internalized the need to do the right things today for preservation tomorrow. Although we are headed in the right direction, let’s all come together and speed up this ship. In addition, we have to ensure that energy dollars trickle down to the people and communities that need it most. Historically, money has bypassed this demographic.

  8. Kria Lacher is really GREEN. I saw her presentation at the EcoBroker Convention in Denver last summer. Kria has done a lot of work “greening” her MLS and has been helping a lot of us to do the same. It is great to have her! I believe The Greenest Building is one that is Already Built. (I can’t remember who coined that phrase.) Even if you build the most energy efficient house possible, it take more energy to build one than it does to “green” an existing house. As realtors, we have the opportunity to help our clients save energy, cut utility bill costs, be more comfortable in their homes (getting rid of drafts, cold rooms), improve air quality and improve the VALUE of their homes by making them “greener.” I love being GREEN!

  9. Lisa Alexander

    Great the realtors are finally on board….overdue…I’m a Certified EcoBroker, member of USGBC and a LEED AP as well as NAR of course…I’m also a wrtier whose been writing green articles for years and am concerned with your articles which are just a page out of the USGBC’s web-site and I don’t feel you are giving credited to them it appears you came up with much of this on your own…Triple bottom line is a power point on USGBC…you list the five tenants of green building in another article that is the 5 categories of LEED certification…etc.. etc…none of this is orignal and could be considered copyright infringement.

  10. PROMOTE to sell faster! HOW GREEN IS YOUR HOME? Builders are looking for favorable property for green rehabs. Realtors do the verification and make more money.
    If you would like a test and green score for your existing home. Or find out just how far from green your house is. Go to http://www.gapscore.com to see which shade of green your in, yellow, blue, light green, dark green.
    Use the score to prove the greener traits in the design and function of your home.

    Question: “Two homes are for sale. Both have the same price, but one has a high GAPScore. Which home sells faster?”