Growing green: WNC Green Building Council supports sustainable design
The built environment is an energy hog. The U.S. EPA has estimated that 68 percent of electricity consumption, 30 percent of landfill waste and 38 percent of carbon-dioxide emissions in this country can be attributed to buildings. Lumber used in new construction may originate from dramatic clear-cuts that ravage forest habitats. Storm-water and erosion problems linked with construction sites can degrade streams. And some products installed in building interiors can give off harmful airborne chemicals, threatening people’s health.
Fortunately, a growing number of building professionals in Western North Carolina are bucking the trend of high-impact construction. Attuned to the importance of improving air quality, addressing climate change and protecting the region’s pristine mountains and lush forests, the Western North Carolina Green Building Council is working to set a new standard for development. The group has dedicated the past eight years to teaching others how to lessen their environmental impact through green building – and the message seems to be getting through.
The WNC Green Building Council membership has tripled since the last directory was published, leaping from 150 members in early 2006 to 450 at the beginning of 2008. Meanwhile, an ever-growing number of builders have opted to register with N.C. HealthyBuilt Homes, a statewide green-building certification program that the WNC Green Building Council had a hand in establishing in 2004. When the 2006 Green Building Directory was published, it was reported that the local HealthyBuilt Homes branch had certified 19 homes in the area, and was anticipating 60 more in 2006. Now at the beginning of 2008, the numbers are considerably higher: 100 homes have been certified, and 492 are in the works. And the number of commercial buildings in WNC that have registered with the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, a more stringent standard for low-impact commercial design, has risen to 15, up from just a handful in 2006.
Green building has caught on so well that even local governments are now willing to lend a helping hand to homebuilders who are considering environmental design. The city of Asheville offers a number of financial incentives for green-design features, including $100 for obtaining an Energy Star rating, $200 for obtaining a HealthyBuilt Home certification, and $50 per installation of a geothermal system, a solar-panel array, a wind generator or a water-collection device. The town of Black Mountain has agreed to provide a $500 rebate to any construction project that achieves a Bronze certification in the HealthyBuilt Homes program or any certification level in the LEED rating system.
Still uncertain where to start? The WNC Green Building Council — and this directory — have got you covered. The council periodically leads green-home tours to provide builders and prospective homeowners with concrete examples of how to implement sustainable design. A series of workshops, the Green Building 101 Series, provides information on everything from choosing the right renewable-energy system to enhancing indoor-air quality, and is offered by the council on a regular basis (visit http://www.wncgbc.org for the schedule). The council’s Web site also supplies a wealth of information, including a listing of green homes on the market and a pile of resources for specific aspects of green design. Call the WNC Green Building Council hotline at (828) 254-1995, free of charge, to get answers to green-building questions or referrals for local green-building professionals.
Green building, or sustainable design, means implementing practices that use energy, water and materials more efficiently, and that have a gentler impact on human health and the environment over the entire life cycle of the building. The growth and development of our communities impacts not only on our natural surroundings, but our overall quality of life. Use this directory and the guidance of the WNC Green Building Council to reduce your impact, and to incorporate social and environmental responsibility into your design.
By Rebecca Bowe
Source: WNC Green Building
Publication date: 2008