Green Building and Hurricane Katrina
Maybe you remember hearing about Global Green in association with the city of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. As New Orleans began to rebuild, Global Green spear-headed a green building campaign designed to build affordable, zero-energy homes. Major celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie joined the cause and helped fund the effort. The result is Global Green's Holy Cross Project, which includes single and multi-family homes, a community center and a resource center to advise citizens on green building. The project serves as a blueprint for green, affordable housing and has provided inspiration for similar projects throughout the country.
Of course, EarthCraft isn't the only company getting in on the green housing market. With the percentage of green homes expected to grow to nearly 10 percent by 2010, the introduction of new green building programs can only help the market grow.
Currently, the most widely used green building program in the world is the USGBC's Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design system (LEED). Thousands of commercial buildings have been certified under this program. In 2007, the USGBC introduced a pilot program to address LEED certified homes and multi-family units.
The residential LEED program is very similar in both pricing and structure to EarthCraft. Both are based on building guidelines and worksheets scored on a points system. Like EarthCraft, LEED for homes addresses the entire project, from site work to energy efficiency to air and water quality. One of the ways that EarthCraft has succeeded is by focusing their marketing programs on affordability and monthly cost savings of energy efficient homes. One of the criticisms of the LEED system, both in the commercial and home building markets, is that it's perceived as being too expensive. In reality, the cost premiums for building LEED homes are similar to EarthCraft, but LEED has focused more on marketing the environmental benefits of their system, and de-emphasized the associated cost savings.
The EPA's Energy Star program is another option for homeowners that want to go green. Energy Star focuses exclusively on efficient heating and cooling as well as appliances, and does not address some of the other areas that EarthCraft does, such as air quality and efficient materials. To this extent, the program is useful for lowering utility bills and improving energy efficiency, but Energy Star homes don't necessarily address all the concerns of those interested in green building.
Beyond the EarthCraft program, the National Association of Home Builders has its own program, called NHAB Green. This program utilizes an online scorecard on which homes can earn points based on the incorporation of green features. The idea behind this system is to simplify the certification process and make green building more accessible. While the program is fairly new, it shows promise for expanding green building across the country.
Another organization, Global Green, has focused its green building programs on affordable homes. Through its Greening of Affordable Housing Initiative, Global Green has developed single and multi-family units across the nation. These homes make use of solar panels and other green technologies to create zero-energy buildings. These buildings help residents save tremendously on utility bills, as the home uses no outside energy sources to operate mechanical and electrical systems. Not only do these buildings help the environment, they also help low-income families save money. Considering the average low-income family spends up to 19 percent of their annual income on utilities, this type of housing can improve residents' lives substantially [Source: Global Green]. The federal and many state governments also offer tax incentives for families using solar panels to generate power for their homes.
For more information on EarthCraft Homes and other green building programs, please see the links on the next page.