Green and Suburban Homes

Builders strive to make green building more mainstream.

| September/October 1999

You don't have to use rammed earth or straw bale construction to have a green home—even standard-frame suburban homes can be built with the environment in mind. Peter Yost, director of Resource and Environmental Analysis at the National Association of Home­builders Re­search Center, describes his organization as “on the cutting edge of mainstream.”

“Most people think of alternative building methods when you mention green building, but we’re working on encouraging green building practices in the mainstream building industry. Even a small improvement from large production builders can mean big overall resource savings, because most homes are still built using traditional methods.”

Green builder programs that provide guidelines and ­ratings systems are springing up around the country as ­consumer awareness increases. This makes it easier for ­homeowners, even those of modest income, to own ­responsibly constructed homes.

The Green Builder Program of Colorado (GBPC) is the largest in the country and has set an example that many other programs are following. As a partnership between the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Denver, Public Service Company of Colorado, Energy Rated Homes of Colorado —the E-Star Home Energy Rating Program—and the Governor’s Office of Energy Conservation, the GBPC awards a “Built Green” label based on a checklist rating system. To qualify their homes, builders must fulfill criteria in several major categories such as indoor air quality and materials use. Consumer education is a big piece of this effort, because the program’s managers know that only market demand will encourage more builders to join the program.

Green-builder-style programs also are active in places like Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; New Mexico; and the Washington, D.C. area. These programs go by different names and their standards vary a bit, depending on regional considerations like climate, but they have provided good incentives for both large and small contractors to adopt green building practices.

For his clients, Bill Reed of Global Environmental Options in Washington, D.C., emphasizes “good design” rather than “green building” because he wants them to know they are receiving the best results for the lowest price, period. One thing they learn is that green building provides both economy and longevity, often just as important to homebuyers as energy efficiency and non-toxic materials. nNH


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