Are home buyers interested in eco-efficiency? – Yes and no.
While they may be interested in the concept of eco-efficiency, the majority are not steered by it. At most, environmental values only seriously influence a marginal group of green-minded people and, in the end, only a few of those are willing to choose their home based mainly on its eco-efficiency. Similarly, only a few of these are willing to pay more for it. Time and again, consumer surveys reveal the cold truth: the ecological approach is only an additional bonus on top of more important criteria (location, price, quality of life, and status).
Environmental catastrophes and the individual are a world apart
For more than 40 years, research institutes and environmental organisations have been warning us that economic systems will be hit by an impending environmental catastrophe caused by climate change and the excess consumption of natural resources, all fuelled by the simultaneous growth of the population and the economy. My personal fight to save the world has been going on for more than 20 years. My insights into the field come from working with issues such as environmental education, public-sector and corporate environmental programmes, national and international energy and climate policy and environmental business development. After thousands of encounters, I have come to agree with a number of psychological surveys: these problems remain too remote and distant from the everyday life of people to make them change their patterns of behaviour.
Time will run out
In my opinion, mitigating a hazardous climate change as rapidly as would be necessary is no longer possible in the current democratic market economy system. I believe that the rise in oil prices will catch society unawares and that by the time we agree on the necessary measures, environmental problems will have got out of hand.
It is natural for people to seek to promote their well-being and that of those around them. It is human nature to take action only when your own well-being is threatened. When things go this far, the strong will win and the weak will lose. That is the way of nature.
It all comes down to money
Future home buyers will probably be increasingly steered by economic worries, living costs, and the location of the home. How can you access services? How can you get to work (if you are lucky enough to have kept your job) without spending all your money on petrol? Funding for energy-efficient construction and energy renovation projects may also become more scarce.
Our expensive legacy
A controlled change would require strong action by politicians and the public sector to disconnect economy from fossil fuels right now. In addition, the existing housing stock should be renovated to satisfy very high energy efficiency criteria within 15 years at most. However, urgent crises such as the debt crisis, the financial crisis and the ageing crisis always take precedence over contingent preparations. But if you are interested in finding out what kind of a world we are leaving to our children, I recommend you read Storms of my Grandchildren by James Hansen.