Leading the Field

Sometimes it takes years for an idea to make its way from the trendy coasts to the heartland, which can be to our advantage here in Iowa. For example, Iowa has avoided the volatility of the housing market over the past few years, remaining relatively steady throughout the recent downturn. But Iowa is on the leading edge of a movement that can dramatically affect the home construction business.

Promoting Green Homes

According to several studies in recent years, green home building practices are expected to increase as much as 38% by 2016. And to help industry professionals promote these practices, Des Moines was one of only 30 real estate markets in the country offering “green fields” in its multiple listing service (MLS) when these fields were first launched.

The Center on Sustainable Communities (COSC) says, “In 2011, COSC assisted Des Moines Area Association of Realtors (DMAAR) and a committee of local real estate agents to develop Iowa’s first ‘Green MLS.’ DMAAR’s residential real estate listings have new searchable fields that include ways to identify a home’s energy-efficiency features and ratings and sustainability certifications.”

“This has been a multiyear process,” explains Lynnae Hentzen, cofounder of Iowa’s COSC and a member of its board of directors. “We worked closely with DMAAR’s Green Committee to identify those fields that have the most effect on a home’s energy efficiency and sustainability. It’s an on-going process, where the hope is that additional fields will be added to the MLS as the market demands.”

There are six specific fields available in the Des Moines MLS “Energy Certifications and Features” section: Energy Star Certification, HERS Rating, LEED for Homes Certification, NAHB/NGBS Certification, Solar Energy System, and Geothermal HVAC System. The listing also offers an additional field where realtors can list other green features not covered in those standard categories.

“We believe these features will become the standard for all real estate listings over the next several years,” says Hentzen. “More home buyers are recognizing the value of green building practices, which typically increase the value of a home by nearly 10%.”

In fact, national surveys indicate that the growth in residential green building has been driven by those consumers who believe green homes have higher quality and will save them money in the long run.

“Green MLS fields help sellers convey the value of their home and help buyers find the sustainable features they seek,” Hentzen says.

Sharing the Knowledge

To help industry professionals use the new MLS system as effectively as possible, the COSC partnered with the Iowa Association of Realtors for its second Green MLS Training workshop in November 2013.

“We are planning on hosting a third program in late 2014,” Hentzen adds. “It’s been so successful, we’ve been asked to offer the workshops in several other cities in the state this year, too.”

Led by nationally recognized green building expert Marc Richmond, the workshops cover everything from green building basics to in-depth sessions on issues such as solar and geothermal options, green building certifications, and how to market green homes.

Richmond, based in Austin, Texas, has been in the construction industry since the late ’80s, working with government agencies, nonprofits, and private firms to develop green building educational programs to help professionals implement green building effectively. He has been a key partner in COSC’s efforts to promote the Green MLS program in Des Moines.

Hentzen says, “COSC has been partnering with Marc since our inception in 2005, having him lead professional and consumer workshops on various topics related to sustainability and green building. For the last two years, we’ve brought him to Des Moines specifically to educate the community on the MLS features and to promote green building and sustainability with home buyers.”

Though the annual Green MLS workshops are organized in partnership with the local real estate community, Hentzen emphasizes that the classes are open to others in the industry as well. “With his experience in the construction industry and his knowledge of green building practices, Marc can provide a full spectrum of green building information for everyone from architects and builders to inspectors, subcontractors, lenders, and appraisers,” she says.

In addition to the Green MLS Training seminars, which are currently held just once a year, COSC offers a variety of other workshops and educational opportunities related to green home building and sustainable practices. Learn more about the training programs—and how to promote green building practices—at iCOSC.com.