January 7, 2009

Building Green

Greener homes are on the way. Homeowners are now “building green” more often, as they seek to reduce both their utility bills and carbon footprints—even during this struggling housing market. Green renovation will also continue to grow as more home owners choose to stay in their homes.

Building an environmentally friendly home no longer means sacrificing comfort or paying a lot more. A July 2008 survey found that the national median price of green homes was $239,000. 52 percent of green homes cost "about the same" as comparable non-green homes.

Check out the U.S. Building Council's Green Home Guide website at http://www.greenhomeguide.org/ for extensive green building info, as well as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program guidelines.

EarthCraft Houses — are energy efficient homes that are really catching on in Virginia, most recently in our area. The National Association of Home Builders recently named this program its "Local Green Home Building Program of the Year." “Everyone deserves good indoor air quality,” says EarthCraft’s local technical advisor Steve Tetreault, “and you shouldn’t have to pay a ton of money for it.” Tetreault recently certified our area’s first five EarthCraft homes, all built in Ford’s Colony by A. DeRose & Sons. More are on the drawing board elsewhere.

EarthCraft gives builders a flexible point system. Builders earn points by using mold resistant wallboard, formaldehyde-free cabinets, low-VOC carpet and paint, cork or bamboo flooring, permeable pavement, sealed conditioned crawlspace, and lumber that meets sustainable harvest criteria. If any of these are on your radar screen, visit http://www.ecvirginia.org/

Snap, Crackle, Pop—May come to mind when you see the seven acres plus of new porous parking lot at the Prime Outlet expansion on Richmond Road. What’s being touted as "the largest pervious concrete project in the United States" may remind you of Rice Crispy treats. These parking spots should reduce stormwater runoff into Powhatan Creek by allowing it to infiltrate through the Envira pervious concrete. Is this a successful green compromise between controlled growth advocates and economic growth? Time will tell.
Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) is also a term you'll see more often. It certifies that the wood has been harvested from "well managed" forests according to international standards.

Kudos—To Cooke’s Garden Center and Williamsburg Sentara Hospital for their plans to install the first two “vegetative roofs” in our area later this year. These green roofs, predominantly planted with drought-tolerant sedum plants, can reduce stormwater runoff by retaining up to 80 percent of the rain that falls on them. William & Mary’s biology department is also a partner on the Sentara project.