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Homeowners Choosing Green Construction

Homeowners are being careful with how they spend their money. Like the rest of the country, Flagstaff has been hit hard by the economic down- turn. Single family home permits dropped from 217 in 2006 to 17 in 2009. Permits for remodeling have remained relatively stable, dropping from 202 permits in 2002 to 138 permits in 2009. These days, homeowners want to increase the value of their home and many are turning to green building options. “Over half of all remodels involve an upgrade to the home’s energy efficiency,” said Nanc Shibley, plans examiner for the City of Flagstaff.

“The term ‘green’ is used loosely in business today,” said David Carpenter, owner of Hope Construction. “A more accurate representation of what we do is ‘high performance building’- it’s like comparing a Ferrari to a Chevy.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines “green building,” or “high performance building,” as “the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s  lifecycle, from siting to design, construc- tion, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.” This can include anything from using high R value foam insulation that does the best job at insulating a house to geothermal heating that uses state-of-the-art technology to transfer heat from the earth and bring it to the home.

Coconino County Sustainable Building Program (CCSBP) and EPA’s Energy Star program rate homes based on their energy efficiency and sustainability. Since 2000, over a million homes nationwide have received the Energy Star rating, including 97 in Flagstaff (14 site built homes, 83 manufac- tured homes). Currently, the city’s permitting process does not track green or energy- efficient building or remodeling projects, but they are working on a process to do so. Architects and builders see increasing op- portunities in this area.

“Green building opens up a market that wasn’t there a few years ago and hope- fully, we will be able to tap into it,” said Bob Brownfield, president of Northland Builders. His company specializes in high-end homes and is currently working on a house that will use geothermal energy. “I am optimis- tic about the way things are going,” said Brownfield. “I am bidding on more projects.”

“A lot of people come in not really under- standing what green building is,” said Aude Stang, owner of Architectural Design Studios, “but they leave being open to having a more sustainable house.” She has noticed a trend towards smaller living spaces, with an emphasis on energy efficiency. “They want to make a house with strong bones. So homeowners will spend money on energy- efficient windows and top quality insulation,” said Stang. “Later, when their budget permits, they can get higher quality, sustainable interior features to replace the cheap items.”

Hope Construction specializes in building high efficiency homes. In 2009, they built five high quality homes that met the strin- gent standards of EPA’s Energy Star rating. They are currently working on an Energy Star home that will be totally energy independent and have a rainwater retention system for use as the home’s potable water supply.        “Business has definitely picked up,” saidCarpenter. “Half of the consumers have the desire to save on energy the other half are chasing subsidies.” In his business, energy efficient upgrades, including insulation, win- dows and solar systems, are popular right now. “Business is definitely improving,” said Carpenter. “We are on track to double last year’s volume. We have the expertise to pro- duce high performance, high quality homes, and people want that right now.”

Numerous agencies, including the federal government, SRP, APS and UniSource, are offering rebates and tax credits to encourage usage of energy efficient products. Custom- ers can check with the specific agency or Coconino County SBP for a list of these rebates.

“Green building will become a bigger piece of the pie as people realize that they can save thousands of dollars a year on en- ergy and they don’t have to break the bank to do it,” said Carpenter. FBN

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