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November 06, 2003

ARCHIVE: Green Buildings 2


NOTE - It was reported in this story that Jeff and Pam Vilkin of Tradewinds Construction are the only green certified builder and architect in Nevada. Neither Jeff nor Pam Vilkin are architects, they are builders.




According to a U-S senate report last year, the construction and operation of buildings where we work and live account for half of the nation's pollution and waste. Yesterday KNPR's Ky Plaskon explored efforts by architects to build less wasteful buildings while enhancing the quality of the indoor experience for occupants. As he reports today, the effort is driven by public demand - and Las Vegas leads the nation in meeting it.

Two years ago less than three out of every 20 homes in Las Vegas met Environmental Protection Agency energy efficiency standards called 'Energy Star'- today almost one out of every two homes built here are energy efficient.

'We are number one in the contiguous 48 states,'

Steve Botfield, Executive Vice President of Marketing Solutions a consumer research organization conducted a scientific survey showing 89 percent of home shoppers consider energy efficiency when buying a home in Las Vegas.

'As far as Las Vegas is concerned, we are considerably ahead of the rest of the nation in building living smart, water smart and energy smart homes and one of the things you will find is that perhaps all home builders are not on that bandwagon yet but it won't be long before they discover that they have to be.'

He says now one third of developers in Las Vegas are building Energy Star homes.

:13 - :32

'It is marginally profitable but it is a fabulous competitive advantage and even in hot markets and believe me this is hottest market I have seen in 40 years of being in this business, even in hot markets competitive advantages are good things to have.'

Track 23

'I think it's awesome that they are going in that direction and what the incentive, that it is market driven and that people are embracing it . . . I think it is awesome and ya . . . it is incredible.'

Pam Vilkin is Las Vega's only U-S Green Building Council accredited architect - it's an organization that evaluates and certifies truly environmentally sensitive buildings that are energy efficient, use renewable materials, less water and are on well selected sites. She says, while energy efficient homes are in demand and available they are still for the most part built with old school materials: wood from old growth forests, paints and carpets with chemicals harmful to the environment.

'I think that they have wonderful programs to help people get started but I think in the next couple of years you will see it go to another level. It is not easy for home builders especially to make those changes and some of the larger home builders have really embraced energy star but there are levels above energy star, but they are not cost effective yet.'

In fact there is one level above energy star - Build America by the Department of Energy. It helps big developers take steps beyond energy star and it got its start here too according to the DOE's George James with one big developer, Pulte.

'The fact that Pulte was so successful at Summerlin was a great boost in the program growing throughout the country.'

He says today there are more than 300 major builders around the nation working on housing projects that go beyond Energy Star.

'The prime age of the people who are interested in buying homes now is such that they have heard about energy efficiency and environmental things ever since they were little kids and so now they are in the house buying range and also faced with higher energy bills and higher energy bills in the future and they are buying very wisely.'

But for architects that have worked on buildings that are energy efficient as well as green - a combination of energy efficiency AND using less water, alternative power, higher air circulation, materials from renewable resources and thought out site selection, there's still a long way to go on that road for housing. Craig Curtis of the Miller | Hull Partnership won this year's Architecture Firm Award and spoke yesterday to developers and architects in Las Vegas.

'That is a market I think that is behind, there are some huge advances that can be made in the housing market and that is something that we have not be as successful in and that the industry as a whole has not been as successful and I think that is what we will focus on in Las Vegas.'

So far the large developers like Pulte and Pardee who build to energy star standards have offered some green building amenities like solar panels but have escaped the whole of green building concepts - making it difficult for the average homebuyer to find housing that's green. That may change in Las Vegas according to Julia Nicoletta, author of Buildings of Nevada.

29:20 'I think that because it is growing very quickly it keeps changing. It is not a place that is static and so a lot of people see opportunities in that and also it is a western city and so people believe in this idea that the American West is a place where you can go to start anew and try new and different things and so it is seen as a land of opportunity and so that is a place where people would go to experiment.'

That experiment starts today. Experts from the City of Las Vegas, Nevada Power and Clark County among others are in a two-day intensive planning and design meeting for 15 hundred acres called the Kyle Canyon Gateway. On the agenda are sustainability guidelines, renewable energy, green design principles and waste reduction. The city of Las Vegas has hired the Rocky Mountain Institute, known world wide for sustainable development.

For KNPR, I'm Ky Plaskon

TAG: And join KNPR tomorrow when Ky Plaskon visits a home built by a big developer in Las Vegas with green principles and sustainable resources in mind and talks to the site supervisor about challenges he faced in building it . . .


Kyle Canyon Gateway

Rocky Mountain Institute

USGBC Green Building Cost Study(pdf)

See discussion rules.


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