Already in its pilot stages, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ for Homes is set to officially launch this coming summer, causing industry insiders who watched LEED transform the contract market to speculate that residential lighting as we know it will soon look very different.
“If you look at the commercial world, there isn’t a lot out there anymore that’s incandescent,” says Mike Virag, Director of Showroom Sales for Acuity Brands’ Lithonia Lighting. “And it hasn’t been that long [since LEED launched commercially in August 1998]. Hopefully, we’ll see that translate into the residential world.”
According to Emily Mitchell, the USGBC’s LEED for Homes Assistant Program Manager, 3,100 single- and multifamily units are already seeking certification in the LEED for Homes pilot. “[That number] has certainly exceeded expectations,” Mitchell says.
What’s more, the project’s regional program administrators report minimal marketing efforts on their part. Builders, desperate to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, are seeking out LEED on their own.
With demand set to increase from both builders and consumers (USGBC has plans to promote green building via a consumer Web site, as well), showrooms need to prepare both their staff and their sales floor now.
“A few showrooms have an okay selection [of energy-efficient products], but not one that would drive people toward the [Energy Star] product line,” says Rob Zeek, a custom home builder with Home Innovations in Houston. “If showrooms had more, people would be all over it.”
Fortunately, the chances to prepare ahead of the wave are ever-increasing. Lithonia will launch an American Lighting Assn.-affiliated training campaign this summer to make sure showrooms are well-versed not only in the myriad energy-efficient, decorative options available to them, but also in the category’s technological aspects and applications.
Ample opportunities also exist for proactive dealers to go beyond manufacturer-based education as they prepare for the green boom ahead. Karen Wolf, Principal of lighting sales rep agency The Wolf Group, says she plans to approach agencies like USGBC and GreenBuilder.com to train—and connect—her client showrooms and local builders.
This sort of cooperation is key, Lithonia’s Virag says. His company is working with Energy Star to develop joint dealer education programs and synergies, as well.
“The utilities have the money to spend, and they’re trying to figure out how [and where] to do it,” he says. “They can help train [dealers]. The last thing you want is a builder asking for [green products] and showrooms steering them away because they’re scared of it. Once showrooms understand energy efficiency and aren’t afraid of it, there will be more acceptance.”
Home Innovations’ Zeek agrees. “Showrooms need to start preparing now,” he says. “It’s the wave of the future; everything’s too expensive with energy [prices the way they are] right now. Showrooms just need to go that direction and push it.”