CONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT: Parade of Homes is getting greener

TRAVERSE CITY – This year, the Home Builders Association of Grand Traverse Area will be awarding a builder whose parade home demonstrates the most “green building” principles: resource efficiency, energy efficiency and indoor and outdoor environmental quality. This will be the first “Built Green Award” in the state of Michigan.

The HBA is also planning to create a Green Builder Certification program for builders and developers to be trained and certified as green builders. The program will identify to the public those builders qualified as capable of meeting or exceeding the Built Green program standards. Once finalized it will be the first official “green” program in the state.

What exactly is green building?

In the narrowest sense, it’s concerned with minimizing the environmental impact of construction from site development and material procurement, to the safe disposal of the building at the end of its useful life. In the widest sense, green building is about sustainability, which is essentially the art and science of providing a healthy environment for ourselves and for future generations, while maintaining a viable economy.

Energy efficiency and the use of natural resources are two components of green building. Energy efficiency involves using materials with recycled or recyclable content, minimizing the use of materials that demand high inputs of energy in the course of their production, and the elimination of materials that create unacceptable levels of pollution during either their manufacture or disposal.

Tom Karas, a committee member for the development of the Green Builders Program, says the “movement is gathering steam.” As chairman of the County Resource Recovery Council, he saw that 70 percent of commercial waste generated in the county came from construction or demolition waste.

Thomas Hirsch of Harmony Home Construction has been a builder for over 20 years and a green builder for close to 10. He notes that “mainstream building is very resource intensive.” Hirsch explains that green building has “a lot of aspects to it. It takes a whole different way of thinking about resource use and our impact.”

He recommends we look to nature as our guide when determining what exactly is green. Everyone in the process needs to be educated, from the contractors and subcontractors to the local suppliers and distributors to the homeowners.

What about the expense?

When asked if it’s more expensive to build green, Hirsch responds, “yes and no; it depends on how far you want to go. It does not necessarily cost more, and it pays off in the long run.”

He gives the example of pressure-treated lumber. Mainstream pressure-treated lumber is treated with CCA (which the EPA has rated a hazardous material). A green builder may choose to use lumber treated with ACQ. It looks the same, but is not hazardous. However, ACQ treated lumber has fewer manufacturers and no local suppliers, so shipping it adds to the cost, even though the price of the wood is the same.

It is also important, according to Hirsch, to know what shade of green a product is. For example, concrete, in some circles, is considered a green product because it saves the cutting of trees. But the process of making concrete requires high amounts of energy. The same goes for steel studs. They use reclaimed steel, which is beneficial, but, again, they are energy-intensive to make. Careful material selection is a large part of resource efficiency.

“Yes you can make it as a green builder,” Hirsch says. It’s been a transition over the last 10 years, but he can now declare, “our work is becoming predominantly green.”

For more information about the Green Program, call the HBA at 946.2305.

Max Strickland, GM of Burkholder Construction and a certified American Lung Association Health House Advantage builder and inspector, is instructing a course on green building through NMC Extended Education beginning May 1. For details, call NMC at 995.1700. For more information on having a green home built (or your current home “greened-up”), call Harmony Home Construction at (231) 510.4141. BN