The last thing home builders should want is a reputation for turning out substandard houses loaded with the cheapest materials they can find. Sure, the company might make money for a while, but in the end, the negative word-of-mouth will spread faster than you can say "class action lawsuit," and everyone knows where that could lead.

Conscientious builders, instead, try to turn a profit but looks for ways to make houses more energy-efficient, more durable, more attractive, and cheaper to operate. Simply put: They look for ways to make houses better.

There are different ways to build a better house, of course. Using tried-and-true techniques that work should be the first option. But because building scientists and manufacturers have learned much in the last 25 years, there are a variety of ways builders can improve their products.

Last year, BUILDER Online wrote about 10 ways to improve the perceived value of homes in "10 Things You Must Put in Your Next House." This list recommended items such as inexpensive butcher block countertops, but it also included products that could be deemed “green” such as dual-flush toilets and tankless water heaters. “Is it me or were 9 of the 10 of these green-oriented products?” one reader commented. “Maybe the title should have been ‘Go Green in 2009.’”

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You can call these products green if you like, but that’s not our intent. People mistakenly associate products that improve performance or save money with the green movement. In the old days, it was merely called Yankee thrift, good building practices, or simply common sense. Sometimes a better product is not about green; it’s simply about being, well, better.

Having said that, we’ve compiled another list of products. It does contain products that will help homeowners lower their energy bills, but it also consists of offerings that will last longer and perform better than conventional choices.

As is the case with many high-performing products, some of these will have a higher initial cost, but they save money in labor, maintenance, energy, or replacement. Use one or use them all if your budget allows. Feel free to call them green if you like. But regardless of what you call them, any of these products will improve your houses and your reputation with your buyers in the New Year and beyond.

Nigel Maynard is senior editor, products, at BUILDER magazine.