How long have you been in the home building business?I have been a home builder for over 25 years. I have been building in Atlanta since 1988.
When did you first become interested in green building? Why?I attended an HBA class on the EarthCraft House green building program in 2000. I left that class knowing that I wanted and needed to build green homes. Not because I thought it was going to be the next big thing in home building, it was way before that. I realized this was what we needed to be doing.
The day after I attended that first green building seminar, we started the process of pointing our entire company in that direction. Ever since then, the staff gets very nervous when I decide to attend HBA classes! I didn’t realize how much my decision that day would change the direction of our company, but honestly, that didn’t matter. I just knew it was the right thing to do.
Do you participate with a green building program?
We were one of the first larger local builders in Atlanta to join the EarthCraft House green building program. We started our first EarthCraft-certified home in 2000.
What is your overall philosophy/approach to green building?
My philosophy is that it’s the right thing to do. Period. But in today’s market, green building is not always an easy sell, but we are committed to it. Before the recession, consumers weren’t as worried about the cost of going green. We had a lot of momentum going in the Atlanta market where buyers were coming to us asking for energy-efficient homes.
Nowadays customers expect our homes to be energy efficient but it’s not necessarily at the top of their list, and they often don’t want to pay extra for it. Everything is so price-driven now. Unfortunately, there are some low price points that are being created now by local builders that can’t be sustained with an EarthCraft House component.
What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Getting our subcontractors to alter their behavior and change their construction methods to meet the EarthCraft program requirements was very difficult. While I made the decision to become a green builder overnight, it took several years to incorporate all the necessary changes into the company, and that included the way our subcontractors work. They had to change things like their framing techniques, the way they install ductwork, the products they use. But in all honesty it made them better at their jobs and elevated their abilities, too. Finally in 2003 we were able to say that we were building all of our homes to EarthCraft House standards and we still are to this day.
What are some of your greatest green triumphs?
Hearing from satisfied homeowners that their energy bills have been cut in half is one of the best rewards.
What is your favorite piece of green building advice?
Everyone has a different perception of what “green” means to them. It’s important to listen to your customers and find out their needs, and then help educate them on the difference that owning a green home can make in their lives--both financially and for the health of their family and the environment.
What do you think the future holds for green home building?
It’s going to be really interesting. I think there needs to be a resurgence of educating home buyers on the difference between what you pay for an energy-efficient home versus what you save on it in the long run. I would hope that to most buyers that becomes just as important as saving money on the cost of the house.
As for our company, we’re hanging in there right now. In the Atlanta market, things have picked up here and there. People are starting to realize that the inventory is out there for some really good deals but that it won’t last forever, so sales are starting to pick up.
Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor Online for EcoHome.