CenterPoint Home Energy Program
Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Forbes has announced Houston is the fastest-growing city in the 2015!

Houston has landed the No. 1 spot on Forbes' latest annual list of America's Fastest-Growing Cities.

"Thanks in large part to the boom in horizontal drilling and fracking, which has helped the Houston metro area add a whopping 667,800 new jobs since 2005, the energy city is an economic powerhouse: Its 4.5 percent year-over-year job growth rate is the nation’s fastest," the Forbes report notes. "Jobs at major corporations like ConocoPhillips and Halliburton help boost the median annual pay for college-educated workers to $71,900, fourth among America’s 100 largest metro areas. Add to that an economy that grew at a 3.52-percent clip last year alone."

The Houston metro area is expected to create 63,000 jobs in 2015, Forbes reports from stats offered by the Greater Houston Partnership. As well, some 1,500 corporate relocation's or expansions have come to Houston since 2009, leased 20,000 or more square feet of office space or invested $1 million or more in capital improvements.

“When oil prices are low, Houston’s economy grows. When oil prices are high, Houston’s economy booms."

"In the past four years, greater Houston grew by half a million people — half from moves, half from births," the Forbes study notes. "Population growth means housing demand, and realtors sold more than 425,000 homes in the last five years, amounting to a home-closing rate of one every six minutes, according to the Greater Houston Partnership.

"What’s more, jobs boost construction, which is why last year Houston topped our list of "Building Boom Towns": Metro areas with the most new construction."

Forbes attributes exports as the driving force, beside oil, behind the boom, noting between 2009 and 2013 the value of Houston’s exports grew 74.5 percent, making the metro area the nation’s top exporter. Even though the falling price of oil is expected to slow Houston’s growth, the city's economy should "chug along" with the rest of the country, the report says.

“When oil prices are low, Houston’s economy grows," Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership, tells Forbes. "When oil prices are high, Houston’s economy booms."

Houston is joined by four other Texas cities to give the Lone Star State half the moving-and-shaking cities in the Top 10.

Austin is ranked No. 2 on the list, followed by Dallas at No. 3, Fort Worth at No. 8 and San Antonio at No. 10. Strong population growth and unemployment levels under 5 percent are propelling the cities' expansions, the report notes.

After Texas, the Golden State has the next greatest number of metro areas on the list with three: San Francisco at No. 7, San Diego at No. 16 and San Jose, No. 17.

The methodology behind the study began with taking the country's 100 most populous cities and their surrounding suburbs and ranking the areas on six metrics. Estimated population growth for 2014 and 2015, year-over-year job growth for 2014, 2014 gross economic growth rate, federal unemployment data and median annual pay for college-educated workers determined the final results for the 20 fasting-growing metro areas in terms of population and economy.

Forbes' 20 fastest-growing cities in the 2015 report are as follows:

1. Houston

2. Austin

3. Dallas

4. Raleigh, N.C.

5. Seattle

6. Denver

7. San Francisco

8. Fort Worth

9. Charlotte

10. San Antonio

11. Phoenix

12. Salt Lake City

13. Orlando

14. Cambridge, Mass.

15. Oklahoma City

16. San Diego

17. San Jose, Calif.

18. Las Vegas

19. West Palm Beach, Fla.

20. Nashville

Monday, March 16, 2015

Goodman Manufacturing - Quality Air Conditioning and Heating Equipment



Goodman Manufacturing Green Commitment


Air conditioning and Heating systems installed in today’s homes are the biggest energy using component of the home. Goodman Manufacturing has made significant contributions to making indoor environmental control “green” or environmentally responsible.


Being environmentally responsible begins at the factory where our products are manufactured. Goodman uses the latest manufacturing techniques and equipment to reduce its environmental impact. We recycle all of our metal scrap and other waste materials. We are committed to the theme of “reduce and recycle” throughout its manufacturing processes. Goodman Manufacturing was awarded the ISO 14001 Certified Environmental Management System rating and prides ourselves on being a good neighbor and protecting the environment.


We at Goodman are “heat transfer experts”. In our effort to reduce the size and energy use of our air conditioners and heat pumps we developed and patented the 5mm tubing used in our coils. The 5mm tubing is much smaller in diameter than the industry standard 3/8 inch tubing. This development allowed us to reduce the unit’s size by 15%. This reduced the amount of raw materials needed to produce each unit. The smaller diameter tubing allowed us to reduce the amount of refrigerant used in each system by 25% and increase the system’s efficiency. The air conditioning systems and heat pumps we produce today use 40-50% less energy than the units produced 10 years ago.


Keeping cool in summer is certainly important, but no one can forget about keeping warm in winter. All of Goodman furnaces feature our patented tubular heat exchanger that has the best performance and warranty in the industry. Goodman produces furnaces that have AFUE ratings from 80% to 97%! All of our furnaces feature; hot surface igniters, tubular heat exchangers and on board diagnostics.


Control of the HVAC system is important to maintain comfort and energy savings. Goodman has the “Comfort Net” control system that allows your homes system to maintain precise temperature and humidity levels that you can set or change with any computer, smart phone, or tablet computer anywhere in the world.


Indoor Air Quality “IAQ” is a very important part of today’s homes. Home construction has improved greatly over the past 20 years and today’s homes interiors are truly “micro climates”. Indoor pollution can build quite rapidly in a home. Many times the indoor air of a modern home has higher pollution levels than outdoor air! Goodman features a complete line of indoor air quality products that will keep your indoor air clean, comfortable, and fresh.


Goodman Manufacturing is the only HVAC manufacturer that builds 100% of its products in the USA. We are 100% American made! Being a green company is very important to us because the environment that we protect is our own!






Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Are Structures ill-equipped to handle weather extremes?

Recently the New York Times published A Bleak Forecast, highlighting the findings of a new report by The New York City Panel on Climate Change. It's not a pretty picture! The panel, consisting of scientists and building experts, forecasts many problems for the New York City area and other similar issues around the U.S. Rising mean temperatures, severe flooding, drought conditions and more super storms have the panel concerned that current building standards and infrastructure are insufficient to deal with what might lie ahead.

"Other unsettling predictions (based on NASA modeling tools) abound. From 1971 to 2000, mean annual temperature in New York City was 54 degrees; by 2100, the report said, the mean temperature could be as high as 66 degrees. By the 2050s, the number of heat waves per year is expected to more than double in the city (relative to the 29-year base period between 1971 and 2000) with the number of days at or above 90 degrees reaching somewhere between 32 and 57. By the 2080s, there could be 75 days a year of 90-degree weather."

In general, the report prepares us to expect increased flooding and more extreme weather “events.” Last year, the de Blasio administration announced an ambitious goal to mitigate such disruptions by reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, a standard set by the United Nations for developing countries. The plan is to be achieved here largely through retrofitting existing buildings — both public and private, through financial incentives and mandates — to enhance their energy efficiency.

To help combat climate change, people are asked to reduce their carbon footprint by buying energy star appliances, higher MPG cars or using public transportation, for example. However, the largest contributor to carbon emissions (almost 40%) stems from the climate conditioning of homes and buildings, many of which are poorly insulated. If the panel's predictions are correct, measures should be taken now to address these impending problems.

Another solution is to retrofit current structures with technologies to make them more energy efficient. Attic radiant barriers and IRCCs are inexpensive technologies used to lower air conditioning costs and reduce the building's high demand on climate control systems, especially in warmer climates. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Water Heater Efficiency

Big Changes Coming for Water Heater Efficiency. Ready?
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New residential water heater energy-efficiency standards that go into effect April 16 will require changes to the installation of many residential water heaters. Most water heaters with a capacity of 55 gallons or less will require more installation space, and those larger than 55 gallons in capacity will see additional, more significant changes. However, products manufactured before April 16 can still be bought and installed after the changeover date.

These new efficiency standards will require much higher Energy Factor (EF) ratings for larger water heaters, making a huge impact, especially on how these types of water heaters are manufactured, distributed, installed and/or vented.

The more common-sized water heaters of 55 gallons or less will likely be larger by roughly 2 inches in height and diameter to account for the additional insulation needed to meet the new standard. This may require builders to account for the increased size in their design.

It is expected that replacement water heaters installed in closets will present the biggest problems: They may require installing an applicance with reduced water capacity, selecting a much taller tank of the same diameter or a switching to a tankless water heater if space does not allow for a simple change-out.

As more information is available from manufacturers and the Federal Department of Energy, NAHB will update this page.

Larger heaters, bigger changes

There are many factors for home builders and remodelers to consider when deciding whether to specify these new larger water heaters. First is the cost: Conventional, current minimum-efficiency 60-gallon gas and electric water heaters are approximately $675-$1,500, while the new high-efficiency models are about $1,200-$2,450.

New gas water heaters with a capacity of more than 55 gallons will need to be a condensing combustion design to meet the new efficiency requirements, which raises the EF from 0.55 to 0.75 for a 65-gallon model. This means you'll need a dedicated electrical receptacle to power the exhaust fan and provide a means for condensate disposal. For venting, a dedicated line for combustion air via a lower temperature PVC pipe will typically exhaust through the wall rather than the roof with this design.  

Larger electric water heaters will need to be of a heat-pump design to meet the efficiency requirements, which increases the EF from 0.88 to 1.98 for a 65-gallon model. Where a 3 feet x 3 feet closet was often the go-to location for installation for an electric water heater, these new appliances likely won't fit into the same space.

According to the Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute, heat pump water heaters require installation in locations that remain in the 40-90 degree Farenheit range year-round and provide at least 1,000 cubic feet of surrounding air space. Because heat pump water heaters remove heat from the house to heat the water, it's better to install them in warmer areas of the country where the cooling effect of the heat pump will reduce the air conditioning load on the house.
Gary Klein of Gary Klein and Associates says one alternative is to run new plumbing to two smaller water heaters (i.e., 40 gallons) at opposite sides of the home, bringing them closer to the point of use and conserving both water and energy by eliminating excess piping.

For gas water heaters, there may not be much of a benefit from purchasing two appliances because of the need to install another gas line and comply with ventilation requirements. However, not only can the two electric water heaters fit in smaller spaces, there is no need to manage the cold air expelled from the unit or for the design to account for proximity to fixtures to decrease heat loss in piping.

Another alternative: the gas or electric tankless water heater. These units take up little space and can be mounted indoors in cabinets, under sinks, and in very close proximity to fixtures, using less energy than conventional water heaters.

However, gas tankless water heaters may require a larger gas line and modifications to the vent pipe. Electric tankless models may require increasing the capacity of the electric service to the house. Hot water flow rate is limited by the size of the unit and measured in gallons per minute (GPM). Whole-house tankless hot water systems with up to 7.0 GPM can cost $600-$1,000.

It’s important for builders and installers to become familiar with the new rules and the technology options so that they can offer customers the best solutions for placement and capacity.

Water heater manufacturers are working to get the word out and the major manufacturers have updated their websites with the latest information. So far, A.O. SmithRheemBradford White and State Water Heaters have announced changes to product lines and installation instructions to address how these new standards will affect their customers.

For more information about this item, please contact Donald Surrena at 800-368-5242 x8574 or via email at

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What Buyers Want/Don't Want in a Green Home

Building Science



Many builders make big mistakes when talking about the sustainable features of their homes. Here’s how to avoid them.

Suzanne Shelton
Suzanne Shelton

After 10 years studying Americans’ thoughts on environmental and energy issues, researcher Suzanne Shelton has found that many home builders often make big mistakes when marketing their high-performance homes. Below, the president of Knoxville, Tenn.–based Shelton Group talks with BUILDER senior editor Jennifer Goodman about the green features Americans want—and don’t want—in a home.  What do consumers think about high-performance housing? 
They don’t. “High performance” is one of those terms that builders and their advisers have gotten really comfortable with, and, unfortunately, it’s begun working its way into consumer-facing marketing materials. Here’s why that’s unfortunate: Last fall in our ninth annual Energy Pulse study, we asked Americans if they could confidently and correctly explain the term “high-performance home” to a friend. Eighty-four percent of the American population said, “No.”

We must stop using this term unless we’re going to really make the effort (i.e., support with marketing dollars) to make it meaningful to consumers. I love it and happen to think it’s a much better way of communicating the value proposition of a more efficient, sustainable home, but when 84 percent of the population tells us they don’t get it, it’s a great indicator that we’re just talking to ourselves on this one.

Energy-efficient homes like this one from Utah-based Garbett sell at an average price premium of 9 percent, a fact builders can use as part of their pitch to help buyers embrace the value of a better built, more efficient home.
John BareEnergy-efficient homes like this one from Utah-based Garbett sell at an average price premium of 9 percent, a fact builders can use as part of their pitch to help buyers embrace the value of a better built, more efficient home.

What is the best way to market the green features of a home? 
Americans care more about comfort, their health, keeping their family safe, resale value, and lower utility bills than they do about “green.” So that’s another term builders should stop using. For years, we tested the term “energy-efficient home” against “green home,” and “energy-efficient home” so handily clobbered “green home” year over year that we stopped testing it. “Efficient” is something they can make sense of. “Green” sounds squishy. But make no mistake: consumers care about many of the benefits of a green home, they just aren’t turned on by the term. So builders should talk about the health benefits (keeping allergens and toxins out of the house), the comfort benefits, and controlling energy costs. They also should talk about resale value. We see that as the No. 1 barrier to Americans truly embracing efficient homes. They believe they’ll pay more for it without getting their money back when they sell it, yet they believe they’ll get their money back for aesthetic awesomeness (granite countertops, hardwood floors, etc.).

A recent UC Berkeley/UCLA study of 1.6 million home transactions found that green labeling improved selling price. Controlling for all other factors, such as location, school district, crime rate, time period of sale, views, and amenities, researchers found that the 4,321 certified energy-efficient homes sold at an average price premium of 9 percent. Builders should start using this fact as part of their pitch to help Americans really embrace the value of a better built, more efficient home.

Can builders profit by offering energy-efficient features? 
More than 80 percent of prospective home buyers tell us year after year that, all other things being equal, energy efficiency would impact their home selection. In other words, they are not going to pay a huge price premium or sacrifice the school district they want, but if they’ve checked that box, the argument that the home will be more comfortable, healthier, and less expensive to operate is a great pitch. So, that really just tells you that builders should be able to sell these homes.

Profiting from high-performance housing means really understanding building science so they can offset more expensive items (like spray foam insulation) with reductions in other materials (like wider framing). Groups like the BASF Center for Building Excellence exist to help builders do exactly that—they’ll review plans and point out those kinds of trade-offs so the builder winds up with a high-performance home that he or she can sell and make a profit on.

Can green features make a home more attractive to buyers, even if it raises the price? 
The price question is tricky. The consumer segment we call True Believers—about a quarter of the population—has really bought into the idea of more sustainable, efficient, healthier homes. They see it not only as something good for them and their families, but as a way they can do their part to make the world/environment a bit better. They tend to be on the affluent side and consistently tell us they would pay a price premium for a home with sustainable, efficient features. Our guess is the most you can get is a 5 percent to 10 percent price premium, keeping in mind that we’re all wonderful people in the future and we have a habit of saying one thing and doing another.

Bottom line, though, a home with a little solar, rainwater reclamation, LEDs, a tight building envelope, and Energy Star-labeled products will be very attractive to this consumer segment, and once they’ve seen that possibility, they’ll be hard pressed to convince themselves to buy a different home that doesn’t feature all of that. The one caveat is that the home also has to be very attractive. Because True Believers skew more affluent, they like—and expect to have—beautiful things.

Shelton Group is an advertising firm that is entirely focused on motivating mainstream consumers to make sustainable choices. The firm tracks consumers’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors through four annual, proprietary studies: Utility Pulse, Eco Pulse, Green Living Pulse, and Energy Pulse.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How to Lower Your Bills in 2015

Remember Mom’s mantra that you didn’t live in a barn and should shut that door behind you when you come in?
Mom had a point. Heating uses more energy than any other source in the home, according to Chip Berry of the U.S. Department of Energy; other energy suckers include air conditioners, water heaters and the power for appliances, electronics and lighting.
If your dollar’s not stretching as far as you’d like, your energy bills could be a place to cut costs. Whether warm air is escaping through your attic or your appliances are silently stealing more electricity than they need, you can lower you energy bills in 2015 with some quick fixes and long-term changes.

Home energy audit

Take a tour of your home and see where you’re losing energy. Most heating, cooling and insulation companies will come out and give your home a professional energy audit for a small fee, and sometimes even for free. You can also do one yourself. There are many tools and apps available for consumers, including the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick, which helps homeowners improve a home’s comfort level and lower utility bills.

“Look for leaks and drafts,” says John Tough, vice president of operations and business development at Choose Energy, an online energy marketplace serving 13 states. “That alone can save you 5% to 10% on your energy bills.”
Tough also recommends lowering your hot water heater temperature to 115 to 125 degrees, since heating water typically accounts for 20% of a home’s total energy use.

Instant gratification

There are many quick and easy ways to save energy and lower your monthly bills.

  • Explore your options: “About half of households in the U.S. can shop around for electricity and natural gas plans,” says Tough. “Having energy options means you may be able to save money on your bills every month.”
  • Blackout curtains: If you can’t afford to replace your windows with energy-efficient ones anytime soon, a quicker and cheaper fix is to put up blackout curtains or drapes. In summer, they keep out sunlight that heats up a room, and in winter, they help block the cold. Blackout curtains are available these days in various colors and styles to complement your room’s decor without looking hideous or throwback.
  • Power down: Turn everything off when you’re the last one out of the room, including lights, TVs and computers. Unplug any items from the wall that aren’t in use. The electrical plug draws a current, even when the appliance is turned to the off position. It adds up and costs you money. Disconnect phone chargers, stereos, blenders, can openers and shredders, among other gadgets.
  • Make a decision: Stop lingering in front of the fridge with the door open while deciding what you want to eat; it takes more energy to keep the refrigerator temperature down.

Long-term investments

You can save money in the long run by investing in modern appliances, energy-efficient windows, home sealants and newer heating and cooling systems. Adding insulation lowers air loss, making it easier and cheaper to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Other options:

  • Radiant heat barriers: They keep heat out in the summer and keep it in during the winter, reducing heat gain by up to 93%. “Radiant barriers perform best in hot climates and hot conditions, but they can also benefit in cold climates by holding heat in the house,” says Robert Wadsworth of the Reflective Insulation Manufacturers Association.
  • Thermostats: A programmable thermostat will keep the temperature comfortable when you’re home and awake, and adjust to use less energy when you’re out or asleep.
  • Incandescent vs. compact fluorescent lamps: “If you have all incandescent lights in your house and you replace them with all CFLs, you’re going to save more money on your energy bills,” says Berry, of the Department of Energy. “They’re just that much more efficient.” According to, CFLs and light emitting diodes, or LEDs, are 25% to 80% more efficient than incandescents and last up to 25 times longer.
Friday, January 16, 2015

Green Building Materials to Double!

Green Building Material Market to More Than Double in Five Years


Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Jan 15, 2015 12:25:02 PM

Regardless which report seems more credible, the green building materials market will more than double within the next five years at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) predicted to be 12.5 percent -- and that’s big, really big.

Green Building materials as depicted by The Transparency Marketing Research Report.

Three years ago in 2012, the green buildings material market was $106.32 billion. A Transparency Market Research report, Green Building Materials Market -- Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth Trends and Forecast predicts the green materials market will grow to $234.77 billion by 2019, with green insulation as the largest market segment. In September 2014, another report from Global Industry Analysts projected the global green building material market to reach $529 billion by 2020, an even rosier outlook.

Transparency Market Research describes its report:

The green building materials market report by Transparency Market Research provides an in-depth analysis of the global green building materials industry. The report segments the market on the basis of applications, end-users and regions and also provides forecasts and estimates for each segment. The report also analyses the demand and supply characteristics of the market by providing a detailed forecast and analysis of volume and revenue for the period 2013 to 2019. Inflation is not part of pricing in this report. Prices of green building materials vary in each region, and hence, similar average revenue does not follow for each individual region. Similarly, prices vary for different types of green building materials. The price for each application has been taken into account while estimating and forecasting market revenue on a global basis. Regional average price has been considered while breaking down this market by end application market in each region.

According to Environmental Leader, The market, according to the application types, is segmented into framing, roofing, insulation, interior finishing, exterior siding and others.

Green insulation accounted for 21 percent of the total green building material market share in 2012. Green insulation includes environmentally friendly materials that include shredded denim and sheep wool.

Environmental Leader reports, The rising demand for cellulose, cotton, fiberglass and mineral wool for insulation is projected to show a healthy growth in near future.

Something that surprised me was that Environmental Leader called green building materials such as steel with recycled content, engineered lumber, autoclaved aerated concrete and structural insulated panels, “new non-conventional materials.” Green Builder readers know that autoclaved aerated concrete is a standard European building material that entered U.S. markets decades ago. All of the other materials mentioned are pretty standard conventional green building materials here in the U.S. and have been for decades.

Environmental Leader echoes Green Builder Media, when it reports, “The green building materials market is being driven by rising awareness about the benefits of green technologies, strict government regulations, increasing energy costs, declining costs of green building materials, higher resale value of green buildings, and increased adoption of voluntary certification programs for green buildings. Spiraling cost of resources such as water, energy and the ensuing need for conservation, and greater health and well-being of occupants in terms of reduced risk of allergic respiratory infections, also represent key factors fueling growth in the market.

Though the reports says the U.S. represents the largest green building material market, “Asia-Pacific is poised to emerge as the fastest growing market with a CAGR of 16.9 percent over the forecast period led by strong GDP growth, improving living standards, rising disposable income levels, and growing emphasis on energy conservation.”

Click here for more information on The Transparency Market Research Report.

Click here to learn more about the reports by Global Industry Analysts Inc.

Read more at Environmental Leader on The Transparency Market Research Report and the even more robust projections by Global Industry Analysts.

- See more at:

Monday, January 12, 2015

Home Values Increase by 10% on Average with Disclosure of 'Green' Certifications

Home Values Increase by 10% on Average with Disclosure of 'Green' Certifications; Most Sellers Missing Out

The Illinois Association of Energy Raters & Home Performance Professionals (IAER) finds that most real estate agents are in the dark about 'green disclosure' features found in many property listing services.

CHICAGO, Jan. 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- First, let's dispel the myth of 'Green' homes- in construction, 'green' actually just means 'well-built'. The green certifications are earned by homebuilders incorporate checklists and performance testing to ensure a home will be comfortable, healthy, durable, and low-cost. It turns out that homebuyers are willing to pay more for proof of those benefits - 10% more, on average. No recycled countertops or bamboo carpets needed.


In multiple studies across the U.S., homebuyers paid 10-14% more for homes with green certifications over comparable homes. The Multiple Listing Services (MLS) across the country are excited about this new avenue for added value in property sales, and over 180 of the 850 MLS sites (run by only 12 companies) now incorporate 'green features'. Take a look at an MLS listing from any metropolitan area, and you'll probably see features like 'HERS Rating' or 'Green Certifications' on the front page. Problem is: they're usually blank.

Realtors and real estate agents are widely untrained in how to use home performance features, so even if your home has some great ones, you won't see any financial benefit when you sell. And on the flip side, if you're buying a home, you'll have no idea how the home feels, smells, costs, and holds up to the weather until you've paid and moved in.

A comprehensive look at the performance of any home is a straightforward process that can be completed in a few hours by any BPI or RESNET-certified professional. Testing of the enclosure (air seal and insulation) and the HVAC (heating, cooling, and ventilation) can immediately determine any home's enjoyability and energy efficiency, and pinpoint the most effective home improvements.

"Home Improvement Consulting is the best way to phrase it for existing homes," says Corbett Lunsford, Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Energy Raters. "In new homes, we can deliver quality control of the construction process, which is something that's sorely needed in today's rushed, underfunded, overhyped home industry."

Home certifications generally include ENERGY STAR Home Certification, which is a brand recognized by over 80% of Americans. Verifying a home meets ENERGY STAR quality can only be done by a HERS Rater (which stands for Home Energy Rating System), and a list of these professionals in the greater Houston area can be found on our website under “Green Building Certifying agents.”

Before you prepare to sell or buy a home, get a home performance analysis (aka energy audit) to earn a better position at the negotiating table, and to prove what the house is really worth. 

Monday, January 05, 2015



Local jurisdictions can help boost demand and interest for green homes in their market

This article was featured in the December 2014 issue of BUILDER Magazine.

Green home certification is a market-driven tool. Builders and developers typically seek National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Green Certification voluntarily because they value the marketing benefits and quality assurance that third-party green certification provides.

But what about communities where builders are less familiar with green building practices and don’t realize the benefits they may accrue by taking the first steps toward green? Sometimes local jurisdictions can help prime the pump for green home demand by consumers and interest by builders in their market.

NGBS as Voluntary Green Building Code

In Clark County, Wash., community leaders saw green home construction as an opportunity. They felt green home building would reduce demand on local infrastructure. On that belief, they sought to drive market demand for green homes through builder and community education. Mike Selig, the county’s building safety program manager, says his team observed a “chicken-and-egg problem”—builders claimed home buyers weren’t interested in green construction; meanwhile, residents were either unaware of the benefits of green construction or couldn’t find professionals who could build a green home.

To help move Clark County in a more sustainable direction, its Board of Commissioners adopted the NGBS as the county-wide voluntary green building code. They determined it was easier for the building department to learn one rating system and train all towns/villages within the country on the same system, to ensure permitting consistency and knowledgeable support staff for builders.

According to Selig, the commissioners chose the NGBS as their preferred green building rating system because it was the most code-compliant and easiest to navigate. “It was also the only ANSI [approved] code, which lent a lot of credibility,” Selig said.

NGBS Adoption Spurs Local Green Education, Jobs, Green Home Construction

In addition to systematizing the building department to use the NGBS, Selig also was able to use it as a springboard for community and industry training and outreach, and a re-engagement of department staff with related expertise who previously had been riffed during the market downturn. With federal funding from the Recovery Act, Selig rehired staff and deployed a county-wide program that performed home energy audits, contractor training, and community outreach/education based largely on the NGBS.

The resulting Planet Clark program, initiated under the grant monies, continues today because of sustained community interest. One of the primary outreach tools of the program is a 20-foot-long demonstration trailer, which is equipped with energy-efficient products, children’s play and learn displays, and building safety information. It began traveling to community fairs, home and garden shows, and schools to teach residents about sustainable living practices, energy efficiency, and green home construction practices.

In 2012, the county worked with Quail Homes and the Evergreen Habitat for Humanity chapter to construct the Planet Clark Emerald House, the area’s first Emerald-level NGBS Green Certified home. It was designed to maximize natural light and heat to reduce energy use, and served as a demonstration home for months before being occupied by a local family. The home also includes high-performance fixtures, low-maintenance landscaping, and rainwater collection systems.

Help for Local Green Advocacy Efforts

Clark County’s efforts provide a great example for NGBS Green Partners looking to create demand for certified green homes within a local community.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Is Natural Stone a "Green" Material?

Is Natural Stone a "Green" Material?

There has been a debate for years about whether or not natural stone slabs are "green". To understand the answer we must look at what it means for a product to be considered green. 

A sustainable or green product is manufactured by increasing the efficiency of natural resources such as energy, water, and material usage while reducing the impact on the environment during its life cycle. Increasing the efficiency of resources could be achieved in many ways.

Modern technology has made it possible to develop machinery that reduces the use of water or electricity with the same or increased production. Another example would be producing products that yield less waste.

The other necessary factor is reducing the impact on the environment during construction, use, and demolition.

According to the Marble Institute, natural stone is "Mother Nature's original green building material". Natural stone is durable and outlasts most other building materials. This is evident when looking at historical structures as far back as the Roman, Greek, and even Egyptian eras.

Today, natural stone slabs such as granite and marble are used for a vast array of building materials. Some of the most common types are counter tops, shower surrounds, flooring, exterior cladding, and interior wall tile.

Natural stone slabs are solid rock extracted directly from the earth in manageable sizes. There is little manufacturing involved in quarrying stone slabs. They are available in multiple types of stone include granite, marble, limestone, travertine, onyx, sandstone, and soapstone.

Each stone type has countless color options determined by the region of the world that they are found. Unlike man-made surfaces, natural stone slabs have no bonding agents such as a polymer resin.

In addition, they do not emit VOCs and are recommended to be cleaned with pH-neutral cleaners; not only improving the air quality, but reducing chemicals in our sewer and soil. Materials that can be utilized in their natural state such as granite and marble greatly reduce the impact on the environment.

Granite and marble slabs are extremely durable with the longevity to last longer than the life of the building. Since it is one of the hardest natural stones, granite is able to be salvaged, re-cut, and reused - closing the life cycle.

All natural stone slabs are 100% recyclable with endless ways to re-purpose the material. New ways to recycle stone are being developed every day.

A few examples are resizing the slabs into pavers and tiles, grinding it into chips to be bonded in engineered counter top surfaces, and even crushing it into rocks for landscaping.

The benefit of using granite and marble in these recycled products is that the stone is durable in any form.

Natural stone quarries are located all over the world, making it convenient to find a regional source within several hundred miles of most projects. Selecting a local stone is another way to reduce the impact on the environment by minimizing transportation effects.

The final factor that determines if natural stone is sustainable is the decisions made by the end user. Selecting a regional stone, cleaning it with earth-friendly products and being responsible about the demolition ensure the best possible outcome.

*Article submitted by Allied Stone. For more information, you can visit their website