One hundred and forty years ago Thomas Edison created the light bulb—an ingenious invention that set off a revolution. Yet, as Fred Maxik, CTO of Lighting Science explains, today we are still mimicking Edison’s design that was based on the sockets and lines in New York City 140 years ago.

This rather ancient design is based on using large amounts of switch gear and cabling, which we are still using in order to replicate his design. In his session at the Builder Sustainability Forum, Maxik encouraged the audience to revolutionize to meet today’s demands and to reduce the amount of waste. He talks about Edison’s design as outdated and that the design thinking needs to shift to other light sources, transition materials that remove VOCs from the equation and reduce the amount of waste.

In this compelling session that you can listen to here, Maxik was joined by other leaders in the field of sustainability, including Jaclyn Toole, Director, Sustainability and Green Building, NAHB; Magali Delmas, Professor of Management, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA; and Jillian Pritchard Cooke, Founder, Wellness Within Your Walls.

The evolution of a new light bulb that meets or exceeds standards will take consumer demand to drive product development. Delmas and Cooke shared insight on what is driving consumers to want sustainable products in their lives. Delmas thinks that there is huge potential for creating and selling green products, but such products need to hit the right motivators. Through her studies at UCLA, she found the motivators were social pressure and health. Surprisingly enough, most consumers were not motivated by price.

She cautions builders that they need to be realistic about what drives human behavior because consumers can’t be virtuous on their own. If they have the option of a house that is net zero and another across the street that displays no energy efficiency yet is $10,000s less, they will purchase the lower price.

Consumers respond to terms much different than the language builders are using.
NAHB 2015 Perceptions & Preferences: What Green Means to Home Buyers Report Consumers respond to terms much different than the language builders are using.

Cooke further encouraged the builder audience to look at the interior of the home when considering net zero because of the amount of toxins that enter the home after it’s built. She contends that in order to do that consumers need simplified information, better safety data sheets, more transparency in labeling, more accountability, responsibly schedule toxins during construction, and technology advancements for VOC detection.

And, when and if that can all be delivered, what will consumers embrace? Toole shared results from the NAHB 2015 Perceptions & Preferences: What Green Means to Home Buyers Report, that surveyed 3,000 consumers. The terms that they gravitate to and that we are using in the industry are not the same–take a look at these pie graphs.

Consumers understand comfort (83%) and don’t understand livability. Contradictory to Delmas’s findings, they understand lower utility bills (64%) over reduced energy use (36%). And they embrace the term energy efficient (76%) over high efficiency (24%).

So, the century-old question remains, how do we put this all together to build a better light bulb?