Keepin’ it green
July 18, 2008
Green homes, contrary to their names, aren’t all made of vegetables. But, the process of building an environmentally conscious structure can be as difficult as eating your daily serving of broccoli.
As wide spread as green technology may be today, and as popular as the term has become, relatively few bodies are in place to truly monitor sustainability in construction. Until Build Green Utah opened their doors just shy of two years ago, interested builders could get Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council, but not from a local body with local priorities.
Build Green Utah is the only certifying body in this state that can approve buildings based on build green standards created in Colorado and licensed for Utah use. As of this April, they also became a state registrar and a LEED certification provider. The organization is funded partially by funds received from Park City and Summit County and partially from membership fees, mostly provided by homebuilders. Meghan Golden, program manager of Build Green Utah, said that Park City gave them the money expecting education and certification programs in return.
Currently, some 22 units in this area have registered to receive the greater certification while several hundred more have shown interest in the LEED certification, although many of them have not been able to fully commit yet. One large project, Bear Hollow, has expressed interest in the LEED certification but their several-hundred unit application is still pending said Golden.
For the most part, said Golden, builders interested in obtaining green certification have to start at nearly the same time as they break ground on construction. Most of the energy efficiency is established in early phases of construction and the cost of turning buildings around and making them certifiable after they have already been built, is prohibitive and not logical.
In order to meet standards, builders have to go through lengthy, but option-filled paperwork. Generally, said Golden, Build Green Utah attempts to stay ahead of the trend and government regulations. Beginning in October, all homes will be required to be Energy Star certified.
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Other certification steps are slightly more flexible. Builders are asked to identify and then perform in optional categories of sustainability. For instance, a builder can be certified partially on the merits of saving water resources or on health resources. Energy efficiency, probably the most important aspect of certification, can be obtained in a number of different ways including air distribution, cooling and lighting.
Paperwork is completed via a long checklist of items, each of which is assigned a point value. A garden that uses only 15 gallons of water per square foot a year is worth eight points, while a window frame made of sustainably harvested wood is worth two points. A total of 75 points is required to gain certification.
Some items can be checked off thanks to certification, spec sheets or photos. On-site investigation is only necessary for certain items including basic energy efficiency.
Build Green Utah prides itself on staying 15 percent ahead of government and state regulations, but Golden was not comfortable citing figures regarding total energy saved by a certified building. She did say, however, that their program features "aggressive standards."