Greenwashing is the new method using which many people are being scammed in real estate. Most people these days are eco-friendly and want to buy or rent a property which is eco-friendly. Home shoppers need to be on guard when they see real estate marked as ‘energy saving’ or eco-friendly when actually they are not. Unscrupulous real estate agents and companies are taking advantage of the fact that people are willing to pay a premium for homes which seemingly save on utility bills and claim to reduce their carbon footprint.
What exactly is ‘greenwashing’?
Greenwashing is the term that has been coined to explain the false use of the ‘green’ concept. Buildings are being touted as being ‘green’ and the concept is being used as a sales gimmick rather than being the actual thing. If you are looking for a home, you can no longer afford to take the word of sales agents at face value. You have to look closely at the claims – a few LED lights and energy saving appliances do not make a ‘green’ home. Many people fall for the ‘greenwashing’ and end up investing in a home that is actually not eco-friendly according to government standards.
Why is it happening?
One of the reasons for ‘greenwashing’ is that many real estate agents are ignorant about green standards. For example, a home built in 1959 had a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating of zero. This is just not possible, but the estate agent gave it a zero as he/she did not know about HERS at all. (A lower HERS rating is better). An older home cannot have a zero energy rating as older homes were not built according to the green rules that are in existence now.
At other times, builders put in standard features, but market the property as being green. Sometimes, you may come across a real estate company marketing its properties as green, but it’s most hyped up – minimum code HVAC systems, insulation values which did not exceed building code standards, Energy Star gadgets, digital thermostats and so on, which are actually commonplace and any homeowner can install on their own later on. The latest buzzwords such as ‘high efficiency’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ are being thrown about, and homeowners have to verify all these claims or else they will end up as victims of ‘greenwashing’.
How do you assess that a building is green?
Some of the things to look for when you are shopping for a green home are:
The site planning
You have to check whether the site is environment-friendly or not. The construction of the home/building has to involve the least number of trees being destroyed and manages a good e-water runoff system.
Apart from the standard energy efficient appliances, the home must have high performing HVAC, insulation, lighting etc.
A home that is truly green will have exceptional indoor air quality. These homes use advanced air exchange and filtration systems.
Non-toxic construction materials
Recycled construction materials
The best green homes are those that are made out of recycled materials, consuming just enough material which is required, with very little construction waste. The waste from construction is sent to recycling facilities to be recycled and reused.
Water conservation efficiency
Water conservation should be a part of a green home, which includes water conserving shower fixtures, faucets, and toilets, as well as reuse of wastewater.
Easy to maintain
Green homes should also be easy to operate and manage. The house should be just what you’re looking for, due to the perfect combination of green features and products.
Greenwashing – a major concern in China
China has a huge number of consumers who are looking for green homes. The Chinese real estate segment is cashing in on this by ‘greenwashing’ their customers. They promise a lot of green features but are delivering fake ‘eco-cities’. Chinese consumers thus have to be alert to the scams when they are shopping for homes.
Greenwashing is not limited to just one or two countries but is now a global concern. Genuine green construction companies, governments, and NGOs should take the initiative to educate people about the features of green homes, so that they are not taken in by false claims.