This article was originally published in the March/April 1997 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online March/April 1997


Building Efficient and Green

Mark LaLiberte, conference chair of EEBA, presented achievement awards to conference attendees.
From the cooling climate of Texas to the heating climate of Minnesota, builders met in November to discuss not only the latest approaches to addressing the house as a system, but also how to expand that system to include the environmental effects of building houses. At two conferences, presenters discussed how to communicate the opportunities that current techniques present, both for home buyers, who want more affordable, healthy, comfortable, energy-efficient homes, and for builders, who want new business opportunities. Efficient Builders Meet in Minneapolis The Energy Efficient Building Association (EEBA) conference was held in Minneapolis on November 14-17. Modern building practices were the name of the game there, with sessions covering everything from new foundation construction techniques to photovoltaic roofing materials. Participants shared their experiences dealing with building codes, government promotions, and the public.

Joe Lstiburek of the Building Science Corporation in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, talked about problems with building codes. New techniques, even when tested and proven in the national labs, have met resistance from local code inspectors. In one instance, Lstiburek was working with Shawn Homes in Chicago and had to write a new local code before inspectors would allow them to build nonbearing walls without headers.

Sam Rashkin of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency detailed the Energy Star Builder program. This voluntary program builds homes 30% more efficient than those built according to the Model Energy Code. It offers builders technical assistance with their plans, marketing material aimed at potential home buyers, and special financing options.

Rashkin debunked some of the myths about energy-efficient homes. They don't cost more, since energy savings are greater than the increased mortgage cost associated with energy improvements. Extra building costs do not disqualify home buyers, now that the EPA has established Energy Star financing with PHH, Norwest, and other lenders. These lenders now provide a qualifying ratio stretch, a 1/8-point discount, and discounted closing costs. Also, tight homes don't necessarily have poor indoor air quality, since the air quality is improved by mechanical ventilation. Finally, bigger heating and cooling systems don't work any better than small ones.

Mark LaLiberte, the conference chair and an EEBA board member, stressed the need to speak to homeowners and home buyers in terms they understand. His organization, Sheltersource, trains over 3,500 contractors each year in both building practices and marketing skills.

For information about the EEBA conference, contact Jim Golden, 2950 Metro Dr., Suite 108, Minneapolis, MN 55425. Tel:(612)851-9940; Fax(612)851-9507.

Environment Enters the Discussion The Green Building Conference '96 took place in Austin, Texas, November 8-10. The conference promotes the development of communities that not only are energy efficient but also meet strict environmental standards.

Mary McLeod presented the City of Austin Green Builder program, which has received international recognition. The program requires houses to comply with the 1993 Model Energy Code (see State Energy Codes: An Uphill Battle, p. 39), and has added significant environmental rules controlling waste management, water use, and resource consumption. It has been rating homes since the mid-1980s; last year over 600 houses went through the program. For a home to pass through the program, builders must submit plans for evaluation. Homes are rated on a scale of one to four, four being the most environmentally sustainable. To qualify for a rating, a house must fulfill certain requirements for water use, solid waste created, materials used, and energy efficiency. The program also tries to develop the local economy so it can supply materials for local building.

David Johnston of the City of Boulder, Colorado, has developed a program that emulates Austin's, but in a heating climate. He stressed the need to speak to homeowners in a language they can understand. For example, Boulder's program promotes recycled high density polyethylene carpet to potential buyers by asking, Have you ever seen a pop bottle stained by a Coke? Check out these stain resistant carpets made from recycled pop bottles. Boulder developed partnerships to create a demand for green building. They work not only with builders and utilities, but also with designers, manufacturers, distributors, realtors, and consumers.

An exhibition hall was filled with the latest green building products and techniques, from straw bale walls (see New Pioneering in Straw Bale Building, HE July/Aug '96, p. 27) to advanced framing. The National Association of Home Builders framed two comparison homes in the exhibit hall--one from old-school 16-inch on-center stick framing, the other from 24-inch on-center advanced framing with modern headers, trusses, and two-stud corners.

For more information, contact the Green Building Conference, PO Box 90008, Austin, TX 78709, or Mary McLeod, City of Austin Green Building Program. Tel:(512)499-3541.

--Mark O'Sullivan

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