2016 Green Building Survey
Sustainable markets – they’re still there. Is anyone paying attention?
The market for “green” building products and services in the plumbing segment is still healthy, but the fast-growing wild days of yore may be fading in favor of a more mature market with less volatility.
Compared to 2015 and 2013 survey results, various segments in the “green” plumbing markets have racked up a few points of increase or dropped a few percentage points here or there since the previous survey, and there are quite a few interesting tidbits in the data. But there’s nothing game-changing about this year’s results: Contractors are still recommending and installing solar thermal and green plumbing products, while consumers’ desire to upgrade their homes and businesses to more water-efficient products is slightly increasing, probably as a result of increasing awareness of regional drought conditions and conservation concerns.
On the solar thermal front, the list of products most likely to be selected for solar thermal projects has shuffled around a little. Last year we noted a drop in the likelihood a contractor would specify a tankless water heater as a backup. Some 67% of respondents in 2013’s survey said tankless water heaters would be chosen for a backup, while only 59% of respondents indicated so in 2015. That’s picked back up in 2016, with 83% of respondents saying they would recommend a tankless water heater for a backup to a solar thermal system.
Again topping the list for the most likely product to be selected for a solar thermal project was circulating pumps, with 89% of this year’s respondents saying they’d spec them. That’s up from 85% percent last year and the 78% reported in 2013. Previously mentioned tankless water heaters (83%) passed solar storage tanks as the No. 2 most-selected product type in solar thermal installations, while Controls rounded out the top three, with 78% of this year’s crop of respondents saying they were likely to be selected during 2015-16 for solar thermal plumbing projects
Other products likely to be selected for solar thermal projects undertaken during the time period covered by the results include Tempering Valves, with 78% of 2016 respondents stating they’d call for them, Solar Storage Tanks, (72%), Solar Collectors (72%), and Heat Exchangers (67%).
This year, 28% of respondents said customer requests for solar thermal plumbing products has increased over the past 12 months that’s down slightly from 32% in 2015 and 11% in 2013. This year, 81% of respondents said they expect requests for solar thermal plumbing products to increase over the next five years, up from 74 percent in 2015 and nearly on pace with the 87% in 2013 who were expecting increased product requests.
Products that are specified recommended, purchased and/or installed by this year’s group of respondents is again very similar to those reported in the last two surveys. Interesting to note in this year’s results is fewer respondents – 70% in 2016 — indicating they would specify, recommend, purchase and/or install tankless water heaters compared to results from 2015 (82%) or 2013 (79%).
This year’s No. 1 in “green” plumbing products likely to be recommended by survey respondents were water-saving faucets/showerheads, with 85% noting them. This percentage is virtually unchanged over the course of the three surveys. Following closely behind was water saving urinals/toilets, with 77%of respondents noting them in 2016, compared to 85% for 2015.
Following on the list of products likely to be specified for a “green” project was Recirculating Pumps (75%), Energy-conserving/High-efficiency water heaters (72%) and the previously mentioned tankless water heaters (70% in 2016).
On average, the survey reveals customers request “green” products about one-third of the time. The majority (45%) expect such requests to increase over the next five years compared to the 41% saying the same in last year’s survey. About half of this year’s respondents (51%) said requests have stayed the same over the past year, down slightly from last year’s tally of 56%.
This year’s results reveal toilets, boilers and showerheads are the top three products with the highest percentage share of energy conserving/high efficiency models sold. For example, this year’s respondents said 83% of their toilet sales were of the energy conserving/high efficiency variety during the past year, compared to 85% in 2015 and 75% in 2013. Meanwhile boilers, of which 82% of this year’s respondents sales were conserving, posted a significant gain from 77% last year and 67% in 2013.
While the percentage of sales in energy conserving/high efficiency models of some of the listed products have increased since 2013 or 2015, water heaters sold now are still less likely to be energy conserving/high efficiency models (58%) than reported in 2013.
The Color of Money
The same as last year is the fact the majority of respondents to this year’s survey said the profit margin on “green” plumbing products is the same as that for standard products. Only shifting was the percentage: this year it was 70%; in 2015 it was 74% and it was 67% in 2013.
Within all types of work, residential or commercial, new construction or replacement/retrofit, the average percentage of green plumbing products sold during 2016 remained fairly stable compared to previous years. 2016 respondents said an average of 56% of total projects include some aspect that’s considered “green” or environmentally sustainable, down slightly from 60% reported last year.
As reported last year, many respondents think manufacturers need to offer more advertising, especially direct-to-consumer, that center on the benefits of “green” products in an effort to help sell “green” plumbing products. Respondents to this year’s survey often commented manufacturers need to do a better job of explaining to consumers what is and what isn’t a “green” plumbing product. Also noted often by this year’s crop of respondents is a desire for lower prices on “green” products. Other comments included, “Make all products ‘green and get away from the old non-green products,” and “…the efficiency of the green product needs to satisfy the consumer in performance and not just on what it is made of.”
When it comes to training, 26% of this year’s respondents said they had participated in some type of “green” plumbing training during the previous 12 months. The most cited source of training cited by this year’s crop is once again trade magazines (86%). Additionally, 40% of 2016 respondents said they plan to attend training during the next 12 months, down slightly from last year (47%).
Other types of training preferred by this year’s respondents were webinars (71%), online education (71%), workshops (62%), conferences/live events (57%), and virtual trade shows (29%). About a third of 2016 respondents reported being familiar with the USGBS’s Leadership in Environmental Design rating system, up slightly from 27% last year. The percentage of companies with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-accredited professional in the office has increased slightly over last year, with 19% of this year’s respondents reported having a LEED professional on staff. Only 13% of this year’s respondents report plans for future LEED accreditation.
The typical respondent for the 2016 edition of the survey is male (95%), between 60 and 69 years old (32%) with between 31 and 40 years of industry experience (30%.) The typical respondent carries the title of owner/partner (44%) and 90% report they have influence over the purchase of “green” plumbing products, while just less than a third influence solar thermal plumbing product purchases.
These folks work at plumbing (88%) or pipes/valves/fittings (73%) companies with five or fewer employees (44%). The company where the typical respondent works posts annual revenues between $1,000,001 and $10 million doing remodeling/renovation (69%) or service and repair (68%) work.
2016 respondents were located in the West primarily (71%), but other answers came in from the South (20%), Midwest (3%) and the Northeast (5%).
Taken was a systematic, random Nth name sample from the list of active, qualified Reeves Journal print, digital and eNewsletter subscribers with the job titles within owner/partner, president/officer, manager or supervisor who currently specify, recommend, purchase and/or install “green” plumbing and/or solar thermal plumbing products.
The survey was conducted online Mar. 3-Apr. 5, 2016. There were 59 usable completes. Three $100 American Express gift cards were given to randomly selected participants by way of incentive.