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Why Build Green? by Ron Jones
(excerpted from Building Edge Magazine, October 2004)

As a homebuilder, my business has thrived for over 25 years serving a growing majority of consumers who are willing to spend a premium on products and services they perceive to be socially and environmentally responsible.

But the average home buyer who gives a nod to the environment may not know exactly what lifestyle choices staying friendly to the environment might entail. They generally don't know the most resource and energy efficient alternatives to buy, so educating the customer about the consequences of their material choices and energy-use decisions becomes a key part of the sales process.

A Concrete Example
The Not So Big Showhouse was conceived by architect Sarah Susanka, whose best-selling book The Not So Big House introduced a "build better, not bigger" approach to home design. According to Susanka, "builders and consumers are realizing that by shrinking a building's footprint with better design they can put the savings into details that are high-quality, energy-efficient and healthy."

Homebuyers are sitting up and taking notice of Sarah Susanka because she's provided a concrete example of how to merge quality design and sustainable building practice in a package that not only provides owners with the sense of home they crave in a house, but also has excellent resale value.

Green Building Resources
Builders wishing to commit themselves to providing the best quality homes in today's marketplace will have to immerse themselves and their crew in industry knowledge. They need to learn what works, what doesn't, and have a sufficient grasp on green building issues to discuss them with discerning customers. Here are some resources to get you started:

  • Look for conferences and other educational opportunities as sources of emerging ideas, products and processes that will help you to elevate your company above the pack. The Not So Big Showhouse is a good place to start. First and foremost, the Showhouse is an educational experience for homebuilders to learn first-hand about the principles and practice of building homes that appeal to today's savvy homebuyers.
  • The Sustainable Buildings Industry Council's Fourth edition, Green Building Guidelines are national in scope, providing hundreds of tips and solutions for homebuilders wishing to get involved in a "whole building" approach. For more information, contact the SBIC; 202-628-7400; sbic@sbicouncil.org
  • Consult the technical resources of the U.S. Department of Energy's Building America initiative supporting the construction of energy- and resource-efficient homes. For more information, visit www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/building_america
  • Team up with a local HBA that has established a green building program. Such Build Green programs are great to get you going until your company defines its own building checklist. They and may be able to provide educational and sales data to help you explain the benefit of green building to customers. In areas where no such program exists, watch for emerging resources from the National Association of Homebuilders.
Ron Jones is the owner of Sierra Custom Builders, a design/build company based near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a partner in Green Builder, a premier development, media, and consulting firm dedicated to promoting sustainable design and construction.