February 22, 2007

My house is greener than your house

  • Built Green has certified 10,000 projects, giving buyers bragging rights
    Built Green


    Green building is the fastest growing segment of the building industry, and what a recent Newsweek cover called “the greening of America” is a phenomenon reaching every corner of the nation.

    The housing bragging rights of the 1990s were characterized by house size, number of garages and entertainment facilities. With our new environmental conscience, the American consumer of today is talking about energy efficiency, recycled content, green roofs and a host of other environmental products that have entered the market.

    Many builders in this region have taken notice, and are now differentiating their projects by building to a higher environmental standard. To be sure that they receive full recognition for their efforts, they are choosing to certify their projects through the Built Green program, home-grown in King and Snohomish counties and tailored to our geographic region.

    Unique market

    Photo courtesy of Built Green
    West Seattle’s High Point development shows that green building can be done in affordable housing projects.

    Built Green started in late 1999 and certified its first home in 2000. At the end of 2006 the program reached the landmark of 10,000 certified projects.

    This rapid growth is an indicator of the growing level of awareness in both the builder and home-buyer communities, and is why our region is looked to as an innovative leader in the field. With 3,107 certified projects in 2006 — more than twice as many as in 2005 — just under 30 percent of new residential housing in King County is now certified through the program.

    In the past year it was demonstrated that green building can be successful in any location and price category. In the luxury home market, a five-star Built Green home at the Suncadia resort outside Roslyn showed that beauty and environmental consciousness are not mutually exclusive.

    The redevelopment of the High Point community in West Seattle demonstrated that green building can be done in low-income and affordable housing projects on both a community and individual home level.

    The contrast between these two projects exemplifies how unique our market is. Unique in our awareness of the impacts and interaction we have with our natural surroundings, and unique in our desire as a community to understand and incorporate this knowledge to meet the changing priorities of our regional population.

    Built Green conference

    Built Green Conference
    Everett Events Center
    March 13
    8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

    Call (425) 460-8238 or register online at

    One of the ways building professionals and business leaders stay up to date on this rapidly changing market is by attending the annual Built Green Conference.

    This year’s theme will be “Greening your Business,” with a keynote speech from author and business advisor Hunter Lovins. Lovins is the president of Natural Capitalism, a think tank, and coauthor of a book by the same name. She, along with coauthors Amory Lovins and Paul Hawken, originally introduced the concept of the “triple bottom line” by which social and environmental outcomes are taken into account along with economic outcomes in corporate decision-making.

    Since cofounding Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Institute, she has consulted for private-sector firms such as Bank of America, Royal Dutch/Shell Group and the Calvert Social Investment Fund. She also served in 2002 as a delegate to the United Nations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

    The plenary speaker at the conference, Joe Lstiburek, is a building-science guru who tours nationally speaking on quality construction practice, energy efficiency and indoor-air quality. His message will give builders practical knowledge that they can take from the conference and use in their projects.

    Built Green’s 2007 conference will also include the presentation of the Built Green Hammer Awards, given to outstanding builders who have certified projects in the past year, as well as a green building expo showcasing the latest in products and services in the green building industry.

    Growing awareness

    The growth of the Built Green program over the years has been remarkable, and 10,000 certified projects is a great landmark, but it’s also only the beginning.

    It is an indicator of a national movement toward more thoughtful and environmentally aware decision-making not only in the building industry, but across disciplines from food to transportation. It demonstrates the shifting priorities and growing awareness of how the decisions we make intersect with our local and global environmental impact.

    Aaron Adelstein is the executive director of the Built Green program of King and Snohomish Counties, a certifier of environmentally friendly single-family homes, multifamily units, remodels and developments.

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