AS SEEN IN USA TODAY’S NEWS SECTION, JULY 27,
build America, are slow to move," says Charles Lockwood, an environmental and real estate consultant based in Southern California. "They still see a hint of tie-dye and wind chimes in green building. That's changing quickly. There's critical mass."
Even in suburbia, home of large- production builders of single-family homes.
"There's a lot more consumer interest. It's starting to be a groundswell," says Calli Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Home Builders in Washington. A McGraw-Hill Construction survey in March predicted that green building would reach a "tipping point" next year and that two- thirds of builders would be building green homes.
Common features now found in green buildings include: non-toxic paint and finishes, wheatboard cabinetry, low-flow showerheads and toilets, wood floors of Brazilian cherry, Caribbean walnut and other plantation-grown varieties, high- efficiency heating and cooling systems, recycled and locally obtained building materials, rain and wastewater captured for toilets and landscaping, and panels that double as sunshades and solar power generators.
The Walshes went green house hunting after they sold a home in Arlington, Va., that they'd owned for 30 years and came to Oregon. They bought a condo knowing it was temporary until the Meriwether, twin South Waterfront high-rises, opened. Both towers sold out during construction, except three penthouses.
"Eco-friendly was very important to us," says Michelle Walsh, 63. "We knew seven years ago this project was happening, and we watched it. We wanted this place." The couple paid $790,000 for a 10th-floor, two-bedroom, three-bathroom unit with a den -- plus those killer views.
Developers and builders aren't joining
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South Waterfront development
Ross Island Bridge
By Adrienne Lewis, USA TODAY
the green revolution purely out of a sense that it's the right thing to do. They can't afford to be left behind. By year's end, at least 6% of the nation's non- residential construction, a $15 billion chunk of the industry, will be green, says Greg Kats, a green-building consultant in Washington, D.C. Six years ago it was less than 1%.
"If you're not embracing green, you won't be at the table," says Homer Williams, one of South Waterfront's developers. "We do a lot of public-private work around the country, and it's the first question that comes up now."
The federal government, 15 states and 46 cities require new public buildings to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which require non-toxic building materials, among other things.
Four states and 17 cities offer incentives for LEED-rated private buildings. Chicago, Pasadena, Calif., and other cities now fast-track permit procedures for builders who commit to green standards.
Raising the bar
Developers find that green technologies and construction materials add no more than 1%-2% to costs, a premium quickly recaptured by energy savings.
"Critics will say, 'Why should we pay upfront for these things?'" says Ethan Seltzer, director of the Toulan School of Urban Studies at Portland State University. "They'd also like to believe global warming doesn't exist."
Green building, he says, "is no longer confined to capital-intensive office towers. Green technology is to the point where these are valid questions for Home Depot shoppers."
The Green Building Council has certified nearly 550 buildings across the country since 2002. Developers only recently have sought to stamp as green larger, multistructure projects such as South Waterfront. Same with single- family homes. The council is working on LEED versions for both.
Cities interested in LEED for large ventures include Pasadena, Milwaukee, Austin, Des Moines, Boise and Spokane, Wash.
Multibillion-dollar redevelopments on the Camden, N.J., waterfront and in New York City's Meadowlands are going green. Seattle's High Point neighborhood has the nation's first green public- housing project, 600 apartments and town houses surrounded by green houses selling at market rates. At least 5,000 units of green low-income housing in 25 states have gone up in the past 18 months.
Corporate America was the first to see the value of green beyond energy savings.
Companies noticed less absenteeism, less time lost to asthma, allergies and other illnesses aggravated by mold, stale air and chemicals found in many conventional buildings. But to Ford, Bank
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