The Latest

Green building trends

Grate1_4Here are the latest happenings in green building (as observed at the International Builder’s Show in Orlando, Fla.):

• The National Association of Home Builders is trying to play catch-up with the green building movement (architects have long pushed green building) and has launched its own green building rating system to compete with the more stringent LEED rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council. As one NAHB member said, “The train has left the station and we hope to be in front of it.” I’m not sure that’s a good analogy, but I know what he’s trying to say.

• The definition of green building is more and more being distilled into three concepts: 1) energy efficiency, 2) indoor air quality, and 3) sustainable and recycled materials.

• There is growing awareness that consumers and builders alike may have to take baby steps toward green building and might have to reach for “the low-hanging fruit.” The more-attainable, least-controversial green features include: incandescent bulbs rather than compact fluorescents, tightly insulated walls, use Energy Star-rated windows and appliances, non-toxic paints, hard floor surfaces instead of carpeting, and dual-flush toilets.

• The use of panelized walls (constructed in a factory and shipped to the site to be constructed and insulated) and SIPS (structurally insulated panes, also made in a factory, but which include the insulation) is growing in the building industry. These two methods of building create less waste and can result in superior construction, according to some builders.

• The availability of green products (non-toxic paints, for instance) is vastly better than it was 10 or even five years ago, which makes it easier for builders to use them.

And finally, many builders who have been on the cutting edge of the green building movement are reporting that even in a terrible housing market, they are swamped with work. One builder, Don Ferrier of Dallas, said his custom home-building firm had never had more than four green homes in the works, and now it has 12.

Eventually, it seems, green building will become the norm and non-green building the aberration.

“The era of bricks and sticks and put it up fast is over,” said NAHB vice president Bob Jones at a press conference. “People are watching.”

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