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Green Affordable Homes on the Rise

Melrose Commons 5, in the South Bronx, is Blue Sea Development's second affordable housing project to seek LEED for Homes certification. The first, Morissania Homes in a nearby South Bronx neighborhood, was certified LEED-Silver in October 2007.


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Homebuyers and home owners across the United States, and at all income levels, are increasingly thinking green when buying or renovating homes, a new study by McGraw-Hill Construction and the U.S. Green Building Council has found.

A preliminary sampling of the survey results was released July 24, 2008, at the site of Melrose Commons 5, an affordable housing project under construction in the South Bronx, N.Y.

Melrose Commons 5 is being built by Blue Sea Development, the same company that built the LEED-Silver Morrisania Homes affordable housing development nearby. Melrose Commons 5 is also being built with LEED for Homes certification in mind. (Download an artist's rendering and watch time-lapse construction footage of Melrose Commons 5.)

Calling the survey's results "really wonderful news," USGBC Senior Vice President Michelle Moore said the sign of growing consumer interest in affordable, accessible green homes across all demographics and income levels bodes well for the future.


"The benefits of green homes are accessible to all," Moore said.

In fact, because of their ability to save residents money on utility bills and their potential to help reduce health problems like asthma, green homes in many ways are best-suited to those making less than an area's median income.

"We at the heart and soul of this community need this more than anyone understands," said Nos Quedamos Executive Director Yolanda Gonzalez. Dr. Elizabeth Garland of Mount Sinai School of Medicine said she will lead a study of how living at Melrose Commons 5 affects residents' asthma rates, believed to be the first time such a study has been conducted at green-certified housing.

Robert Ivy, McGraw-Hill's vice president and editorial director, said the data show green homes as a bright spot in a tough housing market.

"Green homes are a shining area of growth in new housing construction," he said. "The housing market is literally, statistically, on the verge of a tipping point."

During December 2007 and January 2008, researchers gathered 97,526 survey responses from the 360,000 survey requests sent to randomly selected households. Of those respondents, 52,267 had remodeled their homes in 2007 and 22,901 had used "green" products in their renovations. Some 269 had purchased a "green" home – defined in the survey as having been built with at least one key environmental concern addressed and at least one of a list of green practices put to use–between 2005 and 2007.

Among the survey's key findings:

  • Going green was the top reason cited for home renovations, with 42 percent of respondents saying environmental benefits such as energy savings and healthier air were their main reason for home improvements. That's more than other common reasons for remodeling, including increased comfort (34 percent) and improved appearance (24 percent).
  • More than half (56 percent) of those surveyed who had bought green homes earn less than $75,000 per year; 29 percent earn less than $50,000.
  • Overall, lower-income buyers said they found tax credits and government programs, indoor air quality benefits and green certifications to be the most important incentives to buying green homes.
  • The struggling housing market has made 70 percent of respondents more or much more inclined to buy a green home over a conventional home.
  • The median price of green homes in the survey was $239,000; 30 percent of the green homes cost less than $200,000.
  • 52 percent of green homes cost "about the same" as a comparable non-green home, and 20 percent cost less.
  • Green homeowners are overwhelmingly happier with their new homes than with their previous non-green homes: 87 percent were either more or much more satisfied with their green homes. They were most satisfied with the improved energy efficiency, health and indoor air improvements, and overall home quality.

Namiana Filion, a teacher at a Brooklyn public high school, moved into a green home at Morrisania Homes nine months ago, she said at the July 24 survey preview event. "It has been a wonderful experience for myself and my family," she said. "It has been a good thing not only for the environment, but for my pocket."

She said she, her husband and her daughter have seen measurable savings on their monthly energy bills, and they feel more comfortable breathing air that is healthier.


New York Secretary of State Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion emphasized the importance of elected officials to lead by example. Cortes-Vazquez touted New York's "Greening the Mansion" efforts at the governor's mansion in Albany as one such effort, and Moore praised New York City and the state for being among the nation's leading advocates for green homebuilding.

"We all win in the end," Carrion said.


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Green Affordable Homes on the Rise:  Created on August 6th, 2008.  Last Modified on January 20th, 2010


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About The U.S. Green Building Council

The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green homes and buildings. LEED gives home and building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their homes' or buildings’ performance. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. The Green Home Guide is a resource created by the U.S. Green Building Council.



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