Realty Check

Al Gore And Norway: Thanks For My Green Home Story


I’d like to thank the folks in Norway for choosing to announce Al Gore’s Nobel Prize win today, as opposed to say next Friday or last Friday. For months now, I’ve been pitching a story on the Solar Decathlon, a competition going on now on the National Mall that happens every two years and brings students from universities in the U.S. and Canada together to show off the best and brightest in green building.

My bosses all thought it was an “ok” story, sure, worth a hit or two during the business day, but not all that much, despite the fact that green building is a skyrocketing industry on which product-makers and builders alike are focusing money and manpower. So when the Gore news came out, suddenly green was good today. It's getting on TV.

Since I’ve covered the Decathlon before, I was not surprised to see the funky pods lining the paths from the Washington Monument to the Capitol, but what I find most telling about this year’s competition is a new category: market viability. These kids get to build all the fun stuff and show us how it works, but they also have to prove that this stuff is viable to sell in the mainstream housing market. The team leader from the University of Missouri-Rolla said this, to him, is the most exciting aspect of the competition this year, because it makes it all real.

"Green" Houses Are Hot

Up until a few years ago, green building was just .02% of the new homebuilding market, about $2 billion, according to the National Association of Home Builders, which by the way is a Decathlon sponsor. Just two years later, today, it is 3-5% of the market, which many not sound like much, but given the time, it is. Also, builders expect green products and homes to generate $60 billion by 2010, just three years from now.

If you’re in DC over the weekend, go take a look. It’s really fascinating, mostly because it’s all basic stuff you and I can do in our homes, whether we’re building anew or retro-fitting. I hate to get on my soap box and be "Gore-y," but green building and green products are more mainstream than ever now and getting more so. Your home leaves a bigger carbon footprint than your car, because it runs all day every day. That’s a fact. Whether it’s a light bulb or a low-flow toilet, every little bit helps.

Oh, and if I could take my environmentalist hat off and put my CNBC hat back on for a moment, green is big business. For all you venture capitalists out there, this stuff pays off. People buy it, companies invest in it, corporations and homeowners alike build on it. So should you.

Questions?  Comments?