More home builders keen to the green scene
Contact: Erik Martin or Lynn Walsh
Walsh Communications, LLC
More homebuilders keen to the green scene
ASSOCIATIONS LIKE HBAGC, NAHB PUSH FOR SUSTAINABLE HOUSING, GREEN BUILDING PRACTICES
Kermit the Frog once famously sang, “It’s not easy being green.” But for home builders and homeowners alike, green is a color that’s becoming easier to love with each passing year—as evidenced by the growing market for green homes, environmentally conscious building products, recycled materials and energy saving appliances.
Data from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reveal that 2 percent of the residential construction market (an estimated $7.4 billion) was green in 2006. And a recent NAHB survey of home builders shows that between 40 percent and 50 percent of all homes built in 2010 are anticipated to be green and to contain at least three of five green building elements.
Why the increasing push toward green? Because “more consumers and builders are getting educated about green building and the role that homes play in the future of our planet,” said Bill Styczynski, architect and president of Styczynski Walker Associates, an architectural/home building firm headquartered in Willowbrook. “Homeowners are increasingly mindful about rising energy costs and environmental concerns than ever before. And builders are taking a more proactive approach with a forward-thinking goal of doing what’s right for the environment and the buyer.”
And for good reason: According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC—a nonprofit group comprised of more than 9,000 organizations from every sector of the building industry), homes and buildings throughout the United States account for 36 percent of total energy use, 65 percent of electricity consumption, 30 percent of green house gas emissions, 30 percent of raw materials use and 30 percent of waste output.
A recent United Nations report indicated, however, that green building practices could save 20 percent of current global energy consumption and greatly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2010. Those are only two of the big reasons why organizations like the NAHB are establishing voluntary guidelines for green building and associations like the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago (HBAGC) are doing more to inform builder members and the public about the benefits of building green. The HBAGC, in fact, recently launched a Green Building Committee with the purpose of promoting awareness of the issue and educate builders and consumers via seminars and special programs.
“Our group is working hard to expand consciousness among builders about what they can do to help the planet, save energy and benefit their customers,” said Styczynski, the current president of the HBAGC’s Custom Builders Council, which created the Green Building Committee. “Now we’re seeing a burgeoning request from consumers, who are demanding green amenities that can increase residential energy efficiency and make an earth-friendly statement about the homes they want to live in.
“Consequently, more builders want to implement green building into their business and adopt the best known practices,” added Styczynski, whose firm is currently crafting a green demonstration home in Downers Grove in response to increased awareness in green building. The demo home will boast a range of energy efficient amenities and recycled materials and host a number of future green building educational events that builders can attend.
Another example of a proactive builder thinking green is Kerry Dickson, Senior Vice President at Related Midwest, a Chicago-based developer. Dickson defines a green building as a structure that “is designed and built to work in harmony with its surroundings, minimize its environmental impact and promote the well-being, productivity and health of those who use it. Green buildings incorporate practices and systems to use less energy and water, emit less carbon dioxide and minimize waste during construction and over the life of the building. Energy efficient heating and cooling systems monitor and respond to indoor and outdoor conditions and often utilize renewable power.”
Related Midwest’s latest community—340 on the Park, a 62-story high-rise of luxury condominiums near Millennium Park in downtown Chicago—is incorporating a variety of green amenities like low-E tinted glass, aluminum panels, variable speed toilet exhaust systems, a highly reflective, light-colored roof, a rainfall-capture system (which is used to irrigate the landscaping) and various recycled materials. These features will help the project meet or exceed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system established by the USGBC in 2000. LEED promotes the design and construction of high-performance “green” homes and a unified approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas: sustainable site development; water savings; energy efficiency; materials and resources; and indoor environmental quality.
LEED standards, however, aren’t considered as applicable to the typical single-family home builder. To address this lack of green guidelines on behalf of its members, the NAHB is working together with the International Code Council to establish the first and only national residential green building standard that will be certified and accredited by the American National Standards Institute. Their aim is to develop environmentally friendly, energy-efficient and affordable construction techniques that will bring uniformity to sustainable building and push green further into the mainstream.
“The good news is that sensible green building standards like those promoted by the NAHB are being developed. These will lead to greater consistency in quality and increased willingness on the part of builders to voluntarily comply,” said Patrick Coveny, founder of HBAGC’s Green Building Committee and President of Hinsdale-based Arch Construction Management. Coveny’s firm employs a variety of green features in its homes, such as ultra-efficient open and closed cell foam insulation and air-to-air exchangers that circulate fresh air into a tightly sealed residence.
“The emergence of green building lately is thanks in no small part to its voluntary nature,” Coveny said. “Making sustainable building standards elective provides builders the flexibility that is vital for adopting the principles of green design.”
Many experts like Styczynski predict that green building practices will be commonplace as costs come down over time and builders are able to better maximize their efficiencies.
“There was a time when anti-lock brakes and airbags were only included in a handful of cars, and automakers weren’t sure if these features would become widely accepted,” Styczynski said. “But today, the vast majority of new automobiles include these safety items as standard inclusions, and car buyers insist on having them. In the same vein, it is hoped that sustainable housing and green products will become more mainstream, perhaps in as few as five years.” It’s in a builder’s best interest to go green, Coveny said, “because it appeals to the conscience and the wallet of the buyer, who is looking for greater value and efficiency in the new home they purchase. Being more environmentally responsible can also raise a builder’s profile and impress customers.”
Ultimately, Dickson said it’s important for both the local and national housing industry to set a good example and take the initiative to do their part for planet earth.
“As a society, we all need to be more prudent in our use of resources,” said Dickson. “Home builders and buyers alike have an opportunity to step up and rise to the challenge on this issue of sustainability—to be progressive thinkers instead of followers.”
For more information about the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago’s Green Building Council and details on free green building educational seminars for consumers, visit www.hbagc.com.