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Top Of The Line 'Green' Construction

New Home Is Top Of The Line 'Green Construction

More Builders, Suppliers and Homeowners See Value of New Approach

By Summer Derry

July 31 - August 14, 2009
Yakima Valley Business Times

Tricia and Bryan Smith of Selah had air quality issues in their home. After renovating, they decided to have a house built to alleviate those problems. They wanted a home that was safe for their daughters, who suffer from asthma and related health Issues.

When Steve Weise was selected by the family to build a healthy home, he was not thinking that the end product would receive a 5 Star Built Green environment rating. As Weise began the project, he realized that "green" has many faces. The home that he is working on has a healthy one.

Built Green is an environmentally friendly, nonprofit, residential building program that provides healthier, more efficient houses. Built Green incorporates environmental considerations into every phase of the home building process, according to the national organization's website.

Weise knew from previous work experience that urea formaldehyde is a carcinogenic found in pressed wood, fiberglass insulation and glues in homes. He said the smell of new house or car is actually toxic glue. Weise knew there were safer options available.

Weise said there was an element of stress to building the 5 Star Built Green home. That's the top of the line rating for the Built Green program, which certifies construction according to the level of environmental and conservation building and materials used.

Green homes have become more popular locally in recent years. Central Washington Home Builders Association has a Built Green organization for area contractors. Several new houses have earned varying levels of certification, but the Smith's home is the first to meet the most stringent requirements. It involved some adjustment and learning along the way.

Weise said the subcontractors were not accustomed to building to that level, and at first they questioned the whole process. Even the heating contractor had not thought about air quality in that way, but toward the end of the process, he understood it. And all the vendors were forced to think about Built Green Concepts and standards.

When the home was complete, the family was asked by the Built Green program to use it as a model and agreed. Weise said about 500 people toured the home in six days. He said there are a lot of people who want to build that way but don't know how, and this gave them the opportunity to learn. He was able to provide a visual conception of what people can do.

Weise met people visiting the home who had opinions ranging from encouraging to critical of his work. He said an environmentalist might say "it took a forest" to build this green home. What people may not know is Weise purchased the wood more expensively from a sustainable forest.

"It is difficult to get builders to build green homes because they are not required to." Weise said. "Instead, you need to sell the idea to the public so that they will demand it."

Weise said the only reason people built non-green homes in the past is because no one knew there was a healthier option. "People in the building industry will be left behind if they don't start green building."

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Rich Smith is the western regional sales manager for Edge Construction Supply in Yakima, and like Weise, he aid the construction market is forcing builders and suppliers to think green.

Smith says the most common green items sold are water-based paints and sealers. He says Edge also carries a wide variety of environmentally friendly products. Recycled examples, include safety fence and traffic cones made of recycled product as well as spill kits, boom and oil socks and high percentages of recycled goods.

Smith said the company sells construction board or "ram" board, which is a very thick recycled product that protects hallways and floors during construction. It is incredibly durable and can be used over and over unlike plastic or laminate board that was used in the past. A great example of re-engineered products is the new 400 watt Wobble Light. It is a low-watt, high-efficiency work light that replaces the light created by 31 100-watt light bulbs with a fraction of the required power. Smith said "It seems as if manufacturers and consumers alike are looking to save our resources as well as saving a buck".

"Businesses are stocking stuff they did not stock before." Weise said. Carly Faul with the Central Washington Home Builders Association says there are 13 certified Built Green homes in Kittitas County; Yakima County has three.

Weise says if he successful, then it will inspire other builders to get on the ball and create Built Green houses.

"I used to think that if you subscribe to green building or Al-Goring, then you were a tree-hugger," Weise said, "It's not about that, it's about health."

Weise said this experience has changed his thinking forever. Before, he built houses using common sense. But Weise met a lot of people with house-related health problems, and realized healthy homes are a huge thing.

"I will never purposely build a house again that is made with urea formaldehyde," Weise says, "I will always build homes that are safe to live in."

Weise has been building log constructions since 1986. He is on the board of directors for the Canadian Log Association. He has owned Steve Weise, Inc. since 2000.

"I am a contractor that specializes in creativity." he said. He allows his subcontractors "the liberty to be creative," because if people are inspired, they get a better product.

"I build quality homes," Weise said, "People will never forget the quality of a product, but they will forget how much it costs."

He is happy to be influencing a healthy housing lifestyle in Yakima. In the future, Weise says, "I would love to be a consultant to work with other builders and educate them."

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