Newcomer Magazine


Posted August 22, 2007

Understanding the Green Initiatives

The stewardship of the environment is moving to the forefront of the way we are going to live and maybe even the way we will think. The conservation movement is here to stay, and has even received a nickname, "Green" No longer on the fringe as radical political environmentalism, nor derided as "weird", the Green movement is becoming mainstream, as we cope with an expanding population amidst a dwindling supply of resources.

Green is also moving to the mainstream, i.e., becoming "normal", spearheaded from a most unlikely source, the homebuilding industry. Manufacturers, developers and builders have begun working in tandem to impact our most personal environment - the communities and homes in which we live. It's simple: the materials which surround us as our home, the water we use, the power which propels our conveniences and even the air that we breathe are becoming cleaner and friendlier to our personal and global health, and more valuable to our consciences.

But why are we getting green now? Why, after at least four decades of environmental warnings, would this awareness finally take hold? And why would it be led by the homebuilding industry? Simple, actually. Money. Yes, the underlying catalyst in the Green Movement is the "Greenback". By saving resources and improving our community and home environment, money is being saved and made. But that's not the only reason, it is also comfort for the homeowner, and security for our environment and society.

Consider: a home is expensive to buy and to maintain. Products that are created "Green" save money. Although some are a little more expensive on the front end, most overcome the extra investment in a very short amount of time. Green products tend to save money by being stingy with resources.With rising water and power prices, a system that can cut 10-50% of the resources required become a very attractive proposition. Add to that savings healthier air and materials, and the green movement means healthy homebuilding.

Just listen to Rob Musso, Director of Sales for Superior Walls of North Carolina, "promoting the idea of sustaining the quality of life is never really a hard sell. But for some it's a matter of simple education. Once you find some common ground topics of conversation, the rest is very easy to understand". So, let's get started on understanding.

There are many ways to be Green, regarding a home. The National Association of Home Builders has established the "Green Home Building Guidelines"

1. Lot design, preparation and development
2. Resource Efficiency
3. Energy Efficiency
4.Water Efficiency
5. Environmental quality
6. Operation, maintenance and homeowner education
7. Global impact

Fortunately, the Triangle is home to many local business people who have developed cutting-edge expertise in techniques, products and building. Kevin Nelson is a sales executive with Stock Building Supply, a company well-respected in the homebuilding industry. "The Green Building Initiative is a program that can bring your family a healthier home while greatly reducing your energy costs. While many programs claim to be "green", The GBI program requires verification by a third party certified vendor to ensure you are receiving a 'qualified' home."

So, how does one get a qualified green home? One good way is to ask Bob and Maria Kingery, owners of Southern Energy Management, a company that specializes in verification. "The ultimate goal is to create healthier, more efficient homes." The Kingerys have certified hundreds of homes for the Energy Star program in our area. In fact, their company is the 2007 recipient of the Energy Star Partner of the Year for new Homes. If you are building a new home, they perform a detailed computer analysis of your home to find the most effective ways to maximize energy efficiency, then help choose the best options for your specific home. The Kingerys also can provide guidelines on standards for framing, insulation, electrical, painting and HVAC specifications. Really neat stuff, but it goes even further. Once you are issued the Energy Star certificate, Southern Energy Management can provide a list of contractors fully trained on Energy Star. Homeowners so designated are also qualified for discounts from utility providers, like Progress Energy.

"It all starts with Energy Star", says Kip Guyon, COO of Anderson Homes in Cary. "It's a way to maximize energy efficiency and to use fewer resources before and during construction, resulting in better indoor air quality and reduced maintenance. Green is the color for Health because it is growing.We all have a role to play in making a better future for the environment. reducing energy also can reduce the depletion of natural resources. And, Power companies give discounts to Energy Star homes - generally about 5% - and it saves capital resources to produce energy."

The green movement is stimulating new ideas on water conservation. Centuries-old technology, like the rain barrel and cisterns have re-appeared with modern applications.. Using this basic idea of harvesting the rain, Rex Bost, of Bost Custom Homes, has come up with a unique invention named FREERAIN. It combines water harvesting with our desire for a green lawn (and water-resource responsibility). FREERAIN collects the rain water falling on our home and feeds it to the homes lawn irrigation system. Cool and makes a lot of sense.

Roof and ground water is collected from the gutter system and catch-basins through a series of screens and filters to an underground cistern, where it is stored. This can supply enough water to keep most lawns healthy. A secondary well can be added to protect against extreme dry seasons. The best aspect of FREERAIN is that it pays for itself in 2-4 years.With the demand for potable water increasing and burdening our municipal systems, and runoff water creating a negative environmental impact, this invention can have significant societal benefits. Oh yeah, it can also save money.

Ed Timoney, Project Manager for Newland Communities says, "More than 30% of our nation’s energy is consumed by our buildings and homes. Green building involves responsible development with an environmental conscience to respect and restore the land, water and other resources. It includes preserving resources, building sustainable structures and reducing waste."

"Green is about building with a minimum impact on the Creation, as stewards", says Dan Gretsch, Vice President for Solar H2oT. "Our company is all about solar & thermal, utilizing energy that has already been given to us. Basically, the sun provides heat and it is very efficient to go after it." How? A solar water heater. Get 60%-90% for free, from the sun." Want more? How about a solar panel swimming pool heater, extending the swimming pool season by 3-4 months, or a home heating system solar panel: 50% for free the sun.

Construction products and techniques that are emerging almost make your head swim. Superior Walls can install pre-cast walls that give unprecedented strength, with a continuous layer of R-12.5 insulation bonded directly to the concrete. But the real kicker is that these walls are erected and complete in hours, saving on time and cleanup cost, which is yet another way to respect the environment. We all know about insulation, but look where it has developed. "At Healthy Home Insulation, we use two liquids: 'Icynee', a bio-based, light density insulation, along with a proprietary resin. These two liquids are combined under pressure at the spray nozzle, " says Tu Nguyen, company president. Result? "The liquids expand 100 times in size within 3-seconds and is cured in two minutes. Because it's a liquid at contact, it fills every crack. It is 4-times the efficiency of batte insulation." And, according to Tu, the result is a level of comfort that lets you walk on tile or wood floors that are warm, not cold.

Thought you knew about water? Think it's only about drinking quality? "In our area, about 60% of water is used outside the home." reports Mike Ruck, president of Rainwater Solutions. He continues, "Why use this highly refined water outside when there is a renewable source, rainwater, right here in front of us. Furthermore, lawns respond so much better to rainwater than municipal water." Hmmm. see some logic emerging? How about some more downright common sense: "1 inch of rain on a 1,000 square ft roof is 600 gallons. In the Triangle, we average 3 inches per month, so a 1,000 square ft house has 1,800 gallons a month in free rainwater. Think about a 5,000 square ft house, that would be 9,000 gallons per month, or 108,000 gallons of water per year. That is just ONE house - think about a development or a city. And another very important issue...saving run off from going into streams, buffering the effect on our eco-systems."

"I couldn't breathe!" Michele Meyers says, explaining the motivation for founding MSquared Builders. Suffering from allergies, Meyers began her working career with the government in a way that eventually led her to be a green building leader. She participated in planning building spaces and became aware that buildings could actually be "sick". She also learned that a place like Washington, DC, could make matters worse by trapping the outside pollutants in its swampy atmosphere. Thus, she combined a "healthy" move to the Triangle, with some serious study of building skills and techniques. Now, she is not only building healthy houses, but leading the healthy charge in her Durham HBA. "My home is a wonderful place to live and work and I now have 5 indoor animals. I take a minimum amount of antihistamines in the spring-very low dose, over the counter drugs. So far, 14 years to be exact, no sinus infections. I can breathe much better now and my goal is to help as many people as possible, do the same!"

The Green movement may be even more widespread than you at first thought. Allen Harrington, president of Crescent Communities, is so committed to the benefits of Green, that he has added Sarah Anderson to their Hidden Lake development in Youngsville. Sarah is the Natural Resource Manager for Audubon International, running the Green Leaf Homebuilding Award Program for Crescent Communities. She works with the Crescent development team to identify the flora and fauna, and making sure that enough land is set aside to protect them.

Craig, Morrison, president of Cimarron Homes, and one of the leading builders in Durham, has made the decision to make all his homes green built. Cimarron's Danny Winters, Manager of Purchasing and Estimating, puts it bluntly, "If you're not gettin' green now, you're gonna be left behind." Morrison has certainly decided to not to be behind, but well ahead. He advances this commitment two ways, by "building Green homes that look normal", and by exceeding the scores required for NHB Green Building Initiatives.Winters comments on the scoring system, " There are minimum scores required to achieve the approved level in the eight categories. if you don't score at the least minimum, you get no points at all for those categories. It's is very hard for a production builder like Cimarron, but we exceed the 100 minimum by achieving a score of 138.75 points."

Kip Guyon, COO of Anderson Homes has started a separate home brand for green leadership. "Basically, Anderson Homes involvement in the Green Initiatives is a credit to Dave Servoss, an inaugural member of the DOC HBA green initiative. Building green is a way to maximize energy efficiency and to use fewer resources before and during construction and create better indoor air quality with reduced maintenance.We have established the Vanguard Homes as our upscale brand of completely green homes."

Chatham County is becoming a center of Green development. One of the early leaders of green building is Michael Chandler, president of Chandler Design Build. Years before the rest of us have come to the realization and commitment, Chandler was building green houses and even developed a green community. He says, "Green is the color of a healthy forest. Calling something green implies that it is healthy for the environment including the people who live there. Green is also the symbol for “go” and “safe” Green products are ones that you can be sure will be good for your family and a good investment in the long run."

And the Chatham mantle of Green development is being donned by Newland Community. Ed Timoney is project manager for a massive new all-green community named Briar Chapel. It will consist of 2,400 homes and make a great economic impact on Chatham County. "The extent of green building in the next five years is limitless. Newland’s research supports the 2006 McGraw- Hill Smart Market Report, which indicates the green homes marketplace is at a “tipping point.” By mid- 2007, 64% of all homebuilders surveyed reported that they anticipated to be moderately or heavily involved in green building practices. Driven by core values and what the public demands, interest and adoption is advancing rapidly among professionals in the community."

Think green is just the obvious? Well, guess again, because it is much, much more! Green is also clothing, paint (yes, paint) and many other products. Listen to Craig Morrison of Cimmaron Homes expand on several green products you may not know, "The following range from the most basic recognizable features to some that might not be known to the public.

1. Low flow shower heads that save one half gallon of water per minute of use.
2. Dual flush toilets that save one half gallon of water per flush.
3. Enhanced air filtration system that improves indoor air quality.
4. 'Green Label' carpet that has been labeled by the Carpet and Rug Institute as having less 'off gassing' and less lent. Both having a positive impact on indoor air quality."


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