All a builder need do is visit Southface, a 20-year old organization dedicated to more environmentally-friendly building practices. For a long time they had a demonstration project on Moreland Avenue, in a poor area of town. Then the area redeveloped and they were chased out -- they now have offices on Pine Street near the Civic Center. But do you think that any of the new homes going up in its old haunt are environmentally discrete? Nope.
Southface specializes in creating designs that actually look normal for their neighborhoods, like these. They also provide consulting services to both residential and commercial builders. You can get a lot of information just looking at their solar road map. You don't have to spend a lot of money, and the result (like the example above) looks just like any other house.
Think they're getting a rash of calls? Think again.
The reason for this is simple. There's no real business model for it.
Real estate is about three things, and energy use is not on the list. Those three things are location, location, and location. Once a location is set, a builder's incentive is to build as much livable space as he can, for as little money as he can, and flip the result as quickly as he can.
Viable business models only exist in the area of retro-fitting already-built homes for solar and lower energy use, unless you are willing to mandate that builders use such technologies, and the industry is ready to scream Communist at the first sign of that.
So you're left with retrofits. And that's going to cost money. The best way to encourage the spending of that money is with some sort of incentive. But the 2006 Georgia Energy plan has no such incentives.
Georgia Solar, which promotes solar solutions in the state of Georgia (the picture is from their Web site), is a small non-profit which meets at Southface. The so-called Solar Energy Directory of Georgia carries just 11 listings, and Georgia Solar is the most prominent.
The best incentive for making real progress in this area is price, a high price for energy, with the assurance it won't go down. But that's just a tax on growth unless there is an industry that can solve problems and cut the tax (or eliminate it) for savvy consumers.
That is the present situation in one state. What's it like in yours?