Every year the conversation about going green advances and green home building programs spread throughout the country. In the 2006 PROSALES 100 alone, 50% of dealers indicated they promote or sell green building products.

Two new national programs in particular—the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes (LEED-H) program—are helping increase awareness of green building's benefits. The NAHB guidelines have been adopted by 12 state and local home builders associations, with another dozen reportedly soon to follow suit, and the national launch of LEED-H is planned for this summer.

If green building is coming to a town near you, prepare your company to support builders by investing in education for you and your staff about techniques and products, such as the environmentally friendly materials shown here.

If green building is coming to a town near you, prepare your company to support builders by investing in education for you and your staff about techniques and products, such as the environmentally friendly materials shown here.

Credit: Photo: courtesy A.K.A. Green

As the green home concept moves into the mainstream, it's natural for LBM dealers to evaluate what it means to go green in the lumberyard. In a few cases, you might want to change your product mix, but not as much as you might think. More often, the biggest change to going green involves your knowledge. Use these tips to get ahead:

  • Most green building is accomplished with traditional or standard materials and products. “Green building is mostly about how you build—the design, the integration of the process, the systems approach. It's building science,” says Kim Calomino, director for Built Green Colorado. “It's not about new or different materials and products so much as about thoughtful design and building practices.”
  • Consider augmenting your product mix with green materials. Some green builders will choose to use products made from sustainable materials—such as cork or bamboo flooring—or products like low-VOC paints and adhesives or formaldehyde-free insulation that can have a direct impact on indoor air quality. “Don't be resistant to making it available just because it adds to the lines you have to carry. Look for trade partners that can be flexible in regards to how much you have to stock and whether you can order product just when you need it,” Calomino advises.
  • Get certified as a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) chain-of-custody wood product supplier. This status means you are capable of maintaining FSC's or SFI's chain-of-custody by receiving and segregating certified wood products from non-certified wood products.
  • Invest in learning. “I don't want to sound holier-than-thou, but education and background and sincerity on the issue are paramount,” says Jason Holstine, president of Amicus Green Building Center in Kensington, Md. “You will get customers who come in and ask about what makes a product green, or they'll ask you in-depth questions, and they'll be able to sniff out what you don't know.” Dave Dittmer, president of Lacey, Wash.–based Lumbermens, acknowledges that not every person at every store will be an expert in green building, but it is helpful to have at least one person on your sales staff who is able to speak intelligently about the green products in your yard and the issues they help solve. If your business is more specialty-oriented or is smaller and your customers value your expertise, then you have a good chance of success, according to Mick Dalrymple, partner/co-owner of a.k.a. Green Eco-Friendly Building Center in Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Evaluate how you can get involved. Your first step should be to contact your local HBA or green building program, find out what their guidelines require, and figure out how you can work with those requirements to support participating home builders' goals. There also may be sponsorship, committee, and education opportunities open to dealers. Calomino says programs are well-served by drawing on all links of the supply chain.