Greenspiration Home Explores the Question in an Interview with Builders of Both Sexes
By Trish Holder
Could a male dominated construction industry be holding back the green building movement? I’ve wondered about this a lot lately, so I decided to confront a couple of builders (one male, one female) with some research as well as some of my own observations of the home construction industry.
Nicole Goolsby of Rion Homes in Cornelius, NC and Clark Wilson of Clark Wilson Builders, Inc. in Austin Texas were willing to indulge my questions. Both are experienced green builders and have worked within the home construction/real estate industry for multiple decades. Their answers shed some much-needed light on a subject I believe builders and homeowners struggle with: cross gender communication.
Trish: Let’s start with a little bit of research. A December 2010 study found men half as likely to buy into the environmentally friendly green movement as women. Now since men own about 90% of construction companies in America, I’m thinking this does not bode well for the green building industry. What do you think?
Nicole: Men may own 90% of the companies but more and more women are a part of the team, which includes sales, marketing, design, materials specifications and construction. That’s making a difference. Additionally, I see a trend not only with custom builders but production companies and remodelers to put at least some focus on energy efficiency. Collectively men may not be as motivated by the “save the planet” mantra but saving energy and lowering the bills are just common sense.
Clark: The research is not surprising if the question was posed as “green movement”. We found that consumers were and are skeptical of the generic green movement costs. It looks like by the research men are even more so. Owners of construction companies are driven by the market to produce what the customer is willing to pay for.
Trish: Let me bring up another little factoid from the NAHB: Women directly purchase or have controlling influence in the purchase of 91% of all new homes. So women (who are twice as likely to want green products) are dependent upon men (who largely don’t buy into green) to build their homes. Are the odds are stacked against a woman getting the green home of her dreams?
Nicole: Women definitely have more influence when it comes to purchasing or remodeling a home. But the guys are beginning to get that. Whether it is green features or current kitchen and bath trends, savvy builders will strive to provide a product that appeals to women. The key to getting what you want is to educate yourself as a buyer on what real green is and not be afraid to educate your builder. Most builders I know love this industry because of the opportunity to learn something everyday — how to build better, more efficient homes, new materials and new construction techniques, etc. They may not “buy into” green but they do want to sell that next project. Women can and will dictate what gets built with the power of the purse.
Clark: The odds of a customer getting a green home of their dreams is 100% if they are ready to pay the up front cost to build it to whatever specifications they desire. Most projects begin with a budget in mind and the planning stage is an exercise in what we leave in and what we take out to balance the budget.
Trish: I suppose it all comes down to how attentive male builders are to their female target market. I have reason to be pessimistic. Just the other day, a builder told me flat out, “Builders don’t like to talk to women.” Can’t say I liked what he had to say, but I give him props for saying it to my face….
Nicole: I suspect that builder meant that men didn’t like to listen to women. Men and women communicate differently. When it comes to homes, I find women have a lot of questions. Men tend make decisions quickly, so a male builder may feel that a woman who asks a lot of questions is challenging him. He may see this as an indication that she’s going to change her mind a lot. But that is not the case. Women want to make informed decisions and have a better understanding of the construction process. A builder must listen to their client carefully to identify what really matters most to a client. He may find out that it’s not necessarily that she wants to “save the planet” but wants a healthy home for her child with allergies.
Clark: In the previous question you pointed out that women control over 90% of the home purchases. I suspect the builder you mentioned will be in another occupation soon. Maybe handing out towels in the locker room to a pro football team.