June 4, 2008
More Big Changes Ahead Predicted For Green Building

Peter Yost, a former member of the NAHB Research Center staff, told last week’s NAHB National Green Building Conference in New Orleans that he is surprised at how quickly green building has grown since the annual conference was inaugurated in Denver 10 years ago, a trend he said is linked to the skyrocketing cost of energy.

When the conference was launched, the price of oil was less than $12 a barrel, and many industry analysts predicted that energy costs would remain flat for the foreseeable future. That forecast was obviously shortsighted, with the price recently topping $125 a barrel in mid-May with no relief in sight.

“Really, the Ouija board is probably the most sophisticated thing we have to predict oil prices,” said Yost, who is now a Vermont-based educator, writer and consultant long experienced in green building and design.

In 1999, people didn’t talk about carbon-neutral or zero-energy homes, and the American public was largely unconcerned about global warming. There were only 7,000 Energy Star-certified homes. Now, Yost said, there are more than 800,000.

As green building moves into the mainstream, Yost forecasted even bigger changes ahead:

  • More emphasis on water efficiency. Water prices are rising everywhere, Yost said, citing the example of one California county where the price has more than quadrupled in the last 10 years.
  • A stronger link between construction and transportation. “We completely disconnect the importance of the energy efficiency of our homes and the transportation system,” Yost said.
  • “Passive survivability” moves mainstream. Insurance companies are increasingly interested in how homes can perform when a disaster results in an extended loss of electrical power and other services. Also, code officials may get pressure to place more emphasis on sustainability as a global health issue and on energy efficiency as a feature for “the public good,” moving green building closer into the codes arena.
  • Changes in mortgages, insurance and appraisals. The insurance industry is studying whether to offer discounts to certified green homes, while real estate and appraisal industry professionals are beginning to study the data on green homes to decide how to determine their additional value.
  • More linkage between resource efficiency and global warming issues and national security. “We missed a huge opportunity after 9/11 to address sustainability on a national scale,” Yost said. Too much oil is in the hands of countries with unstable governments. That makes “the supply of oil fragile, and the distribution terrifying,” he said.
  • More innovative products. Many first-generation green technologies are now appearing in new and improved versions, like low-flow showerheads that deliver spray efficiently but feel about as powerful as they used to be and water-efficient toilets that do a better job of flushing. Yost predicted that the Environmental Protection Agency's new WaterSense program will “separate the wheat from the chaff,” much like Energy Star does today.

Yost also acknowledged the growing importance of standards for green products, especially assemblies, such as the interplay of siding, insulation and housewrap. Education is also key, he said. “We have a lot of work to do with builders and particularly with trade contractors,” he said. “Green is not just products, it’s processes.”

Source: Nation’s Building News, May 19, 2008

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CFSEI Atlanta/Southeast
Chapter Meeting and Presentation on “It’s All Green. Are You?”
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Brought to you by the Steel Framing Alliance (SFA) on the first Wednesday of each month, Framework Online arms you with the latest news and commentary on the steel framing and construction industries. In addition to industry headlines, trends and project profiles, Framework Online provides information and ideas that will better enable members to increase their participation in the residential and commercial construction markets.