Sunday, June 27, 2004

'Green' homes starting to flower despite cost

Although still small in number, "green homes are becoming more propular. The initial cost still scares people away but these homes are constructed of recycled products, and are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Rising energy prices have helped to make them more attractive. In 2003, 29,000 green homes were built, compared with a total of only 19,000 between 1990 and 2001.

Jim Hackler is the director of the Earthcraft House Project, one of 26 local green building programs nationwide. The Atlanta organization has helped produce 1,600 green homes in Georgia in the past three years and has plans to expand to Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Hackler attributes the green building growth to an industrywide marketing effort.

"They are working on transforming the concept from being equated to inaccessible renewable homes that are a specialty item into a common technique that is both relevant and affordable," he said.

According to Joan Kelsch, who works with the Arlington County Environmental Planning Department in Virginia, homeowners are now on the pulling end of the green production cycle.

"People are becoming more aware of energy costs, toxins and fresh air flow," Kelsch said. "And just in general, that green building is not only beneficial for the environment, but for your personal environment [health and productivity], and as a result people are demanding more products."

Building green no longer signals digging deep into the wallet as more and more off-the-shelf environmentally friendly materials are becoming available and affordable.

Green designer Sigi Koko, who has offices in Pennsylvania and Virginia, believes that green building is close to becoming a piece of the mainstream residential market. She did some green design work for the Montgomery Park Business Center in Baltimore.

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