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Green Building Conference underway in New Orleans

New Orleans The National Association of Home Builders Green Building Conference is in full swing in New Orleans, with a host of education sessions and green vendor displays, and a special focus on green building in the Big Easy.

Education sessions dealt with the basic ins and outs of green building, from how to explain green to consumers to what big builders are doing to tackle the green movement.

Michael Strong of Houston-based remodeler Brothers Strong; Scott Sevon of Palatine, Ill.-based Sevvonco; and Tom Kelly of Neil Kelly Co. of Portland, Ore., discussed how remodelers can best “sell green” to consumers who might be overwhelmed with information.

Sevon said that showing consumers a real cost-savings, coupled with the use of materials that will stand the test of time, is the best way to get the point of “green” across. Statistics also help, he said, pointing out that “36 percent of our total energy use (nationwide) and 65 percent of electricity consumption comes from residential use.”

Strong noted that it is an advantageous time for remodelers and builders getting into green, because so many manufacturers are pushing their new products.

“There’re a lot more free products than ever before. When it comes to green, vendors and manufacturers are falling all over themselves giving this stuff away,” he said.

The Green Building Show also included tours of a number of green homes built in the New Orleans area. Toni Wendel of Olde World Builders showed off two home projects, currently under construction, that will meet newly adopted “Crescent City Green” criteria, developed by the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans. The primary energy-savings features of these homes have to do with, of course, cutting down on air conditioning costs by building a tight envelope and using energy-efficient windows, which were purchased at a special discount through Pella, Wendel said. But the homes also feature FSC-certified wood that is termite-resistant, water-saving plumbing fixtures and a host of other green features.

KC Contractors displayed a home, which was rebuilt after having been inundated by nearly seven feet of water. The home is just one example of how builders have fit energy-efficient homes into neighborhoods with an eye toward ensuring the home fits in with surrounding architecture.

Duplexes being built by Green Coast Enterprises, a third city builder, are set to include bamboo and tile floors, as well as other mold resistant building materials. Will Bradshaw of Green Coast Enterprises told HCN that he plans to move into one of the condominium units with his wife when the project is complete.

“New Orleans is ground zero for all of these issues coming together -- sustainable building and affordable building,” he said.

This is the 10th annual Green Building Conference, but attendance numbers -- both for vendors and attendees -- are up well over last year, said Don Carr, program manager for the NAHB National Housing Quality Certified Home Builder program. The group is also awaiting the publication of a new national green building standard document, set for later this month, he said.

The Green Building Conference continues through today with further education sessions, including New Orleans-specific sessions on the Make it Right housing initiative and other green building projects that are tied into ongoing rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina. For more information, visit the HCN Green In Store blog at www.greeninstore.blogspot.com.

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