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.”

4 Comments on Green building trends

  1. john

    “The train has left the station and we hope to be in front of it.” well I hope they get out of the way then, But when are we going to talk about the millions of existing home and how to make them more energy efficient! Their is a lot of emboyed

  2. Steve Mattison

    This is a great blog and getting the information out to the public is the first big step in the baby steps we need to take as Americans learning to live in and care for our country at the same time. The future of our children will be construction of “green” builings instead of the antiquated ones we are used to. Keep on feeding us the info, the more we learn the more we will demand environmentally friendly products in our lives!
    Here in the Ozarks we are starting to build green homes and have a few ICF homes in production as well as other methods being used by builders. Spread the word, green is the way to build.

  3. sheila

    I agree with Judith Webb, and want to add to that “rainwater collection” as part of the “greywater” systems (which are almost impossible to permit and install in the LA area, btw). If your roof is properly situated, on even a modest house, one inch of rain will result in 1,000 gallons of fresh water we are currently letting erode topsoil and poison stormdrain runoff.
    As part of Energy Efficiency, passive solar design is the cheapest, most energy efficient, and under-utilized tool in our “crackerbox McMansion” building systems, and should be at the top of the list for all building codes. And Energy Efficiency (which has caused increased consumption) should be replaced with “Net Zero” building — a home should never use more energy than it produces. Residential PV, solar thermal and wind, combined with good design (which usually means no more 6,000 square foot monstrosities) will cover almost any SFR’s needs, and utility/water bills should be based on LOT SIZE, steeply tiering upwards after a modest baseline.
    I find it deeply distressing, yet not surprising that the NAHB, noted governmental bribe-payers (oh, sorry, “powerful lobbyists who stop paying off our elected officials when they don’t get what they want in the economic stimulus bill”), are trying to water down LEED, which is already only a starting point. Time to kick them to the curb and stop allowing industry to own our government.
    Time to start paying the TRUE costs of excess and waste, instead of externalizing (socializing) them onto the rest of us in the form of pollution, garbage, depleted clean water, global warming and total ecosystem destruction (like what is happening in our beautiful desert areas with all the solar and wind farms killing wilderness to feed the insatiable utility hogs). If you wanna have and heat and power and hydrate 6,500 square feet, you gotta either generate your own, or pay dearly, because that’s how capitalism, when not “gamed,” works.

  4. Judith Webb

    Under green building definitions, please please don’t forget water. Here in Atlanta (and equally in other parts ot the drought belt) — flushing drinking water down the toilet is crazy. Green building practice also has a LOT to do with low-flow faucents, dual-flush toilets, tankless water heaters, gray water systems, and — at the community level — storm water management. Air, soil, water. This is what sustains us, and they are interdependently, inextricably part and parcel of the built environment’s definition of GREEN.