I just completed a year long (well, it took ME a year) program leading to certification under the ECOBroker program. The primary goal of ECOBroker is to train real estate professionals about residential energy efficiency and home environmental issues (e.g. indoor air quality) so that we can can then provide knowledgeable advice to our clients.
Unfortunately, it appears that I'm all dressed up but have no place to go. Despite consumer interest in hybrid cars, synfuels and such; commitment to residential energy efficiency appears to be hovering at the lip service stage. Nationally, 80% of home buyers claim that energy efficiency is a major factor in their choice of a home but precious few are converting their concerns to cash. To this point, about the only movement I've seen in the Mountain Home market is the inclusion of tankless water heaters in a few new homes.
Not a lot of builders can be accused of being early adopters of energy efficient construction either - at the moment I know of only one local contractor that builds to Idaho Energy Star standards. Granted, there is a bit of the chicken or the egg thing going on here. Builders don't promote these programs because buyers haven't shown a lot of interest in paying for them (even though most of these features have short pay back times). Buyers don't ask about them because builders aren't promoting them. I guess this is one of those areas where I need to pull on my ECOBroker cape on and leap into action.
I think another reason for the current disinterest is that all things environmental are being hyped to the point where the public thinks that it's just another passing fancy (this process is known as "greenwash", a close relative of "hogwash"). Only time and ever increasing energy bills will resolve this concern.
To be fair, the current reluctance to incorporate energy efficiency and reduce the impact of homes on the environment isn't limited to Mountain Home or even Idaho and there are a few examples of progress. The City of Mountain Home, ever-interested in conserving water, recently imposed a building permit requirement that all new homes will include underground sprinkler systems and at least some drought resistant landscaping. The trade-off, of course, is housing affordability.
Oh well - it's a start