The EarthCraft Program
Although homebuilders had already started to note the rising demand for green building techniques, they had few industry models to follow. While it was possible to install solar panels or energy-efficient heating and cooling systems in homes, no guiding standard existed for green homebuilding as in the commercial market.
Inside an EarthCraft Home
EarthCraft homes look like average homes, but if you spend a little time inside one, you'll begin to notice subtle differences. Because the heating and cooling systems are customized for the space and are some of the most efficient units available, the home will be remarkably quiet. The EarthCraft system emphasizes the inclusion of natural light, so windows and skylights are plentiful, with many homes incorporating natural light through unique and creative home designs. Finally, the well-sealed exterior makes it easy to maintain the comfort level in these homes, so you'll be impressed by how perfectly temperature is maintained and controlled. Click through here to explore an EarthCraft Home in Charlottesville, Va.
Two Atlanta-based companies, Southface Energy Institute and the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association (GABHA), saw the need for green building guidelines in the residential construction market and decided to fill this void. Southface, a non-profit group formed in 1978, focuses on promoting environmental education and conserving resources. GAHBA, also a non-profit, was formed in 1945 to strengthen and promote Atlanta's building trades while helping to form sustainable and desirable communities.
In 1999, Southface and GAHBA formed a partnership called EarthCraft House. EarthCraft is designed to serve as a blueprint for the construction of energy and resource-efficient homes. By using energy and natural resources wisely, homeowners save money on utilities and do their part to protect the environment. Since the program began, over 4,000 single-family homes in the Atlanta area have been certified as EarthCraft homes [source: EarthCraft House].
Homebuilders and developers in other states eventually began to request that the program be expanded to their areas. To meet the growing demand, EarthCraft opened a Richmond, Va. office in 2007 that focuses on helping builders create EarthCraft homes in Virginia and Washington, D.C. areas. EarthCraft has since expanded its system to Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee.
With the success of the single family homes, EarthCraft has developed guidelines and certification programs for multi-family homes as well. This program focuses on low-rise residential units under four stories tall. As of 2008, 1,200 multi-family units have been certified by EarthCraft in the Atlanta area, with another 22 completed in Virginia [source: EarthCraft House]. EarthCraft has positioned itself to take advantage of future opportunities in the green homebuilding sector. In 2006, for example, only 2 percent of homes were built with a focus on green building. In 2010, that number is expected to jump to 10 percent nationwide [source: GAHBA].
In 2003, EarthCraft developed a program called "EarthCraft Communities." This program is designed to help developers create communities that are not only environmentally friendly and resource efficient, but also promote walkability and community connectivity. Five EarthCraft communities have been developed in coastal Georgia, with many more in progress in Virginia.
Recently, the company has also expanded their offerings to include guidelines and certification of existing homes through their renovation program. This allows homeowners desiring a green lifestyle to achieve Earthcraft certification without leaving their existing homes.