Nutrition Labels as Universal Home Labels


We’re very much intrigued by the white paper released yesterday by Michelle Kaufmann Companies.  Officially entitled "Nutrition Labels for Homes: A Way for Homebuyers to Make More Ecological, Economical Decisions," the white paper presents the case for a universal label for homes.  Note that last sentence, though.  This isn’t a label for just green homes, it’s a label for all homes.  It’s a universal label to educate people on a home’s sustainability (or unsustainability) profile.  Every home gets a label — you can imagine the power this gives buyers and green home sellers. 

Mklotus label


You can also imagine how powerless it makes non-green home sellers.  There will likely be some push back from some homeowners, but only from the ones that have the most to lose (i.e., those that own energy hogs, inefficient McMansions, sprawling monster homes and the like). 

Those that invest in sustainable home improvements will likely fetch a return on their investment, though, so these labels could be an impetus to a thorough and enormous market transformation.   

The UK has a version of nutrition labels called the Energy Performance Certificate.  Over there, all large buildings in the UK will be required to display their EPCs in a prominent location.  The EPC is different from the version discussed in this white paper, though, because it provides an estimate of the potential for improvement based on installing certain upgrades.  But the general idea and concept is the same. 

What do you think about home nutrition labels or sustainability labels?  How would you popularize them?  How do you make sure the information in each sustainability label is consistent, label to label?  How do you get homeowners to support them?  Any thoughts?

[+] White Paper: Nutrition Labels for Homes [pdf]
[+] White Paper: Nutrition Labels for Homes [mk blog]

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  • Jack

    It’s a pretty unique idea, I think it could definitely be useful

  • Jake

    It’s simply brilliant.
    It cuts out all the greewash, murky, gobbledy gook of trying to figure out where all the dozens of complex decisions and combinations of “efficiency” get you.

  • elaine

    thx preston. not a new idea, but glad that MKD published this…

    i know that a couple years ago, the department of energy was looking into an “energy performance index” for buildings (similar to the UK index) that could be similar to the MPH on a car (each building would be required to have their “index” label).

    USGBC also has been pushing the “nutrition label” idea for buildings for the past 3 years, using a standardized system – their analogy is typically presented as the label on a box of animal crackers.

    in addition, the folks in alameda county, ca are about to begin a pilot program with the MLS listings that indicate the overall “green” performance of homes that are listed for sale… another initiative to help transform the residential market.

    • Chad Ludeman

      Elaine made most of my comment for me. Another thing that may really help is for these types of stats to be included in MLS listings of all homes for sale. There are a few MLS companies that are already listing if a home is Energy Star rated or LEED certified.

      If Realtors and consumers start to demand that their home is Energy Star, LEED or lives up to some other similar standard, then developers will have no choice but to comply sooner or later.

      Publishing standards like MKD is suggesting could just be the ticket the industry needs to push everyone to the next level in responsible (aka green) building. Envision the standard being implemented and green builders homes start selling like hotcakes, while standard builders see their market share diminish. How long do you think it would take them to respond accordingly with better products?

      Better yet, get the financial institutions involved and offer better rates and loan products for projects that meet a certain level or green or energy efficient rating. We are hearing rumblings of this already with the tightened market…

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