Call me cynical, but as I read daily articles about people foreclosing on homes they can no longer afford, as I see daily the glut of “For Sale” notices on new construction and older homes, as I hear daily the pros and cons of the latest stimulus package for spurring our economy back on track, I have to wonder:

Is now truly the best time to ask the average consumer/taxpayer to spend extra for the privilege of green construction in our public buildings, schools and now our homes?

Perhaps a better question would be: In the long run, can we afford not to?

In addition to reported savings in operating costs, the savings in natural resources — and the reduction in the carbon footprint — all would indicate the effort to be worthwhile.

Homeward Bound

The latest news to hit the woodworking industry is the approval of a National Green Building Standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). As the first green building rating system approved by ANSI, it is considered by many to be a benchmark for green homes.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center, an ANSI-accredited standards developer, administered the development of the standard. The NAHB worked with the International Code Council (ICC) in assembling builders, architects, product manufacturers, regulators and environmental experts to develop the content for the standard. The National Green Building Standard (ICC 700-2008) defines the green practices that can be incorporated into residential new construction, including single-family homes, apartments and condos, as well as residential remodeling and renovation projects.

In a recent press briefing, Bill Killmer, group EVP for advocacy, NAHB, referred to the standard as “not revolutionary,” but rather an “evolutionary” response by the housing industry to market demand. “This was a consensus-based process the industry felt it needed to take.” ANSI approval, he added, now opens the door for local municipalities to adopt these measures into their current building codes.

According to Dominic Sims, COO of the ICC, the new standard can be used “as an opportunity for builders to educate local leaders” on the building of green homes.

Mike Luzier, NAHB Research Center president, has said the Green Building Standard is significant in a number of ways: it is comprehensive in terms of its application and environmental demands; it is rigorous yet flexible, allowing home builders and buyers to make green choices based on climate, geography, style preferences and budget; and every point for certification must be visually substantiated by an inspector. It is that last item that prohibits existing homes — those not undergoing remodeling — from becoming certified due to the fact that inspection must be verified during the rough end stage.

Although the standard competes with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating tools for residential construction, the recognition each receives is helping to raise awareness for the green movement.

ESP Receives Recognition

A noteworthy sidebar to the Green Building Standard is that the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.’s Environmental Stewardship Program is referenced as the benchmark for cabinets. Launched in 2006, the ESP is a third-party certification and labeling program for kitchen cabinet manufacturers who meet stringent requirements for sustainability. (Information on the program can be found beginning on page 41 of this issue.)

“Green building’s time has come,” said Dick Titus, executive director of the KCMA. “The movement will continue to advance...the need to make progress in this area, to help preserve our future, supports government action, voluntary standards and measurable progress toward a cleaner environment, which is a winning proposition for all.”

In addition to Titus, Associate Editors Wade Vonasek and Matt Warnock interviewed other association leaders and industry executives for their take on the expanding green building industry. (See article here.)

According to figures released by the USGBC, in the last year alone, close to 900 projects have received LEED certification, with another 9,000-plus awaiting accreditation.

“LEED projects initially fueled the demand of [certified] lumber and plywood products in 2008,” said John VavRosky, marketing manager, wood products division, for Potlatch Land and Lumber LLC. “However, we are beginning to see more demand from custom homebuilders and communities that are educated in the value of using certified building materials.”

“In the past 12 months, the green topic has gone from being almost non-existent in our market, to being one of the hottest topics,” said Joe Knobbe, who sits on the board of directors for the Cabinet Makers Assn. “Almost every project we’re working on has some concern of green.

“This is the time to grasp the fact that the market attitude is shifting from ‘cheap and disposable’ to ‘better made, longer-lasting and sustainable,’” said Todd Vogelsinger, director of marketing for Columbia Forest Products. “When dollars are invested in wood products, they will be going toward the choices that satisfy a lot more scrutiny than ever before.”

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