Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Marketing of Green Buildings

Past - Present - Future

Green Buildings, which are energy-efficient and which make use of renewable resources like solar energy becoming increasingly popular in Western Europe. One of the reasons for the growing acceptance and diffusion of green buildings is their marketing by innovative construction companies – aside from legal requirements, political support, rising oil prices, and ongoing discussion about climate change. What does the successful marketing of green buildings look like? What are the critical factors?

In the past the marketing of green buildings suffered from “green marketing myopia”: As the energy-efficient houses were still in an experimental stage, they were outright expensive, and difficult to obtain. The main arguments in favour of them were based on ethics (“taking care of future generations”), ecology, and energy savings. Since the turn of the century the marketing of green buildings has advanced a lot in Western European countries. Innovative construction companies are succeeding with new marketing concepts, by putting the four “Cs” into action (customer solution, customer cost, communication, and convenience).

Photo courtesy of Active Suncube

Take, for example, 81Fünf Holzbau founded 1996 in Germany. It is a fast growing company focussing on energy-efficient wooden houses. Depending on the price-sensitivity and environmental consciousness of their target groups they offer three different kinds of solutions: “Value added” energy-efficient houses offering “more for less”, eco-houses with very high levels of energy efficiency, and “effi climate houses” which meet the highest standards for passive houses. The prefabricated wooden elements allow for high quality offered at low cost in the planning and building process. The latest innovation, the “effi climate houses” is offered in co-operation with Landessparkasse (LBS), the largest building society in Germany with millions of customers. In communications the high-quality levels and comfort on offer, the healthy indoor environment created by using natural woods, energy savings and security from future oil price rises are all emphasised, creating “motive alliances” by aligning ecology with conventional decision criteria. The interactive online toolkit “Energy Comfort House” allows potential customer to create their own passive house and easily calculate the life cycle cost and savings as compared to conventional houses.

Although there is a renaissance of wooden houses (due to the naturalness factor, the inexpensive price, and the high quality of wooden house fabrication), it is still a relatively small market segment. The majority of Western European houses are concrete based. Active Suncube is a young and dynamic construction company focussing entirely on passive houses built out of concrete as a cube. The company is convinced that this be the new standard by 2020. By entering this growing market at an early stage they are seeking a first mover advantage. The company provides customer solutions by: offering modern, aesthetically pleasing houses, extensive consulting, and financial services (taking lifecycle costs of the buildings into account). The name of the company has positive connotations like “active” and “sun”. One of the slogans on their webpage is “the new lust for living” showing a beautiful woman exposed by (sun) light. In communications new media like Youtube videos are used to reach out to potential customers.
In the future it is safe to assume that green buildings will show further grow, eventually setting the standards for new buildings. In addition to that, old buildings are being required to increase their energy-efficiency. There is a growing market segment for ecological modernization within the Western European construction market. A new frontier will be buildings as a key to delivering decentralised energy systems, as they become highly energy-efficient and able to make use of renewable energies.

The post is based on a speech given by Frank for the Canada Green Building Council – Greater Toronto Chapter and the Institute for Research in Innovation and Sustainability at York University on November 19, 2009 in Toronto.

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