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Article- Homebuilding Association Pushes Members to Go Green

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Aug. 3rd, 2007 | 10:17 pm

Homebuilding association pushes members to go ‘green’

By Dennis Quick
Senior Staff Writer

It used to be the public perception of an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, ecologically safe home was of an expensive, secluded, 1970s back-to-nature aesthetic monstrosity equipped with huge solar panels and windmills, a structure that hardly looked like a traditional house.

So noted Phillip Ford, executive vice president of the Charleston Trident Home Builders Association, which includes 645 homebuilders and subcontractors.

However, that perception is changing as durable, healthful homes made with environmentally sound building materials are increasingly entering the mainstream. Technology has advanced to the point where such “green” homes are more affordable to build and more pleasing to the eye, Ford said.

Green homebuilding is steadily becoming a nationwide trend. In June, the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Home Builders, which promotes green homebuilding, reported that since the mid-1990s more than 97,000 green homes have been built in the United States, up from 61,000 reported in 2004.

With green, also known as “sustainable,” homebuilding gaining a stronger foothold in the country thanks largely to rising energy costs, the time is right for members of the Charleston Trident Home Builders Association to add green homes to their homebuilding repertoire, Ford said.

The association is encouraging its members to participate in the EarthCraft House program.

Managed by the Atlanta-based Southface Energy Institute, EarthCraft House is a blueprint for healthy, comfortable homes that reduce utility bills and protect the environment.

Participation in the EarthCraft House program is voluntary. Builders enroll in an intensive day-long course taught by EarthCraft instructors and learn about building materials and techniques used to create an EarthCraft-certified home. The course costs $300. Ford is arranging to have a course taught in the Charleston area in August.

Homes must be tested and inspected before receiving EarthCraft certification.

More than 300 EarthCraft homes have been built or are under construction in the tri-county area. Home Builders Association members building EarthCraft-certified homes include Brentwood Homes Inc., Bridgetown Construction Co., Passailaigue Homes Inc., Sabal Homes LLC, Simonini Builders of South Carolina, Structures Building Co. and the Verdi Group LLC.

About 400 EarthCraft homes will be built in the Lowcountry by the end of this year, Ford said.

All of the nearly 380 homes that will be built in North Charleston’s Oak Terrace Preserve, which the sustainability-minded Noisette Co. is developing, will be EarthCraft-certified.

Among the elements of an EarthCraft house are the use of recycled and natural-content building materials; minimal construction waste; durability; quality insulation, air-sealing measures, and heating and cooling equipment; energy-efficient lighting and appliances, such as the Energy Star product line; high indoor air quality; a site plan designed to control erosion and preserve trees; and low-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and other indoor water-conserving features.

EarthCraft homes tend to cost anywhere from 1% to 10% more than traditional homes.

However, the lower utility and maintenance costs offset the home’s higher price, Ford said.

Builders benefit from the EarthCraft program because the homes reduce the amount of repair work, which cuts into a builder’s profits. Also, the energy efficiency and low maintenance built into the home justifies the home’s higher cost, which increases the builder’s profits. EarthCraft builders also have access to energy mortgage programs they can sell to potential buyers; the programs can reduce a buyers mortgage payments, increase the loan amount they qualify for or even eliminate the down payment, according to a Southface statement.

As homebuyers become more energy- and environmentally-conscious, builders who build green homes in addition to traditional homes most likely will have an edge on their traditionalist competitors, Ford said.

Building green homes is not only smart business, it is “the right thing to do,” Ford added.

“We’re doing something good for the environment,” Ford said.

Dennis Quick is senior staff writer for the Business Journal. E-mail him at dquick@charlestonbusiness.com.

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