Sustainability | Ecotrope

Martha Stewart presents: The (optional) high-volume green housing market

Ecotrope | Jan. 12, 2011 3:06 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:42 p.m.

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The new Martha Stewart GreenHouse concept home produces more energy than it consumes. It comes equipped with rooftop solar panels, a kitchen compost bin, a rainwater collection system and an electric car plug-in station. All optional, of course.

The new Martha Stewart GreenHouse concept home produces more energy than it consumes. It comes equipped with rooftop solar panels, a kitchen compost bin, a rainwater collection system and an electric car plug-in station. All optional, of course.

Well, well. Look who’s adding a touch of green to mainstream home-building.

The Wall Street Journal reports Martha Stewart has teamed up with KB Home to offer mass-market homes with eco-friendly features, including environmentally responsible building materials, rooftop solar panels, kitchen composting bins, a rainwater collection system, and even an electric car charging station. All optional, of course.

Martha Stewart’s green concept home was unveiled Tuesday in Windermere, Florida. It is labeled “net-zero” – generating more energy than it uses – and it is designed for high-volume builders (though it still cost $70,000 more to produce than conventional KB homes).

Other home-builders haven’t gotten any traction on green features in new homes, WSJ reports, in part because most buyers don’t know how to value super-insulation and super-efficiency as they would granite counter tops and a master bath. But in time, KB leaders say, and with the right promotion from bigger builders, they could learn.

A KB exec says it’s cheaper to build a green home from scratch than to retrofit an older home. I can hear the debate playing out already … what’s the carbon footprint of a new, green home vs. an old, renovated home with the same features? (Keeping an older car, I just learned, can be eco-friendlier than buying a new hybrid because up to 40 percent of a vehicle’s carbon emissions come from the manufacturing process.)

One thing we know, thanks to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, is that smaller homes have fewer environmental impacts over their life span. Though the DEQ study did find that green building practices and energy efficiency can reduce the carbon footprint of a larger home. I would think where you’re building these new homes would make a difference, too. If you’re paving over green space to build a green subdivision … that may be a lighter shade of green than re-purposing developed land.

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