Monday, July 04, 2005

Green Homes Are Going Mainstream

A growing number of home builders have decided that homes that use less energy, materials or harmful chemicals are ready to go mainstream. They say "green building" can be good for business as well as the environment, and they hope to persuade builders to create more eco-friendly houses for the masses.

"The idea is to mainstream it -- do simpler things, less exotic things, but do them over and over again to get a big return," said Nick Tennyson, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Durham and Orange Counties.

Green building covers a wide range of techniques, designs and equipment. It includes gutters that collect rainwater from the roof for irrigating plants, concrete and stone floors that absorb the winter sun's rays to keep homes warm, and ventilation that keeps air free of pollen and humidity.

Tennyson's group will spend the coming months promoting green building among its members and drafting green guidelines based on a set published last fall by the National Association of Home Builders. By next year, it hopes to have the Triangle's first certification system that helps consumers weigh the environmental impacts of new homes.

Some production builders are starting to make their homes more environmentally friendly. By next year, all new houses built by Anderson Homes of Raleigh will include insulation and heating and cooling systems that meet tougher energy-efficiency standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program.

Michele Myers, president of M Squared Builders & Designers of Durham, thinks higher energy costs will drive more consumers to consider green building.

"I think the vast majority of them are in some way concerned about the environment," Myers said. "I think what builders are interested in is a middle ground, that they know they can still make a living and put their kids through college."


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