Homebuilders Call for Flexibility in Green Building

Energy efficiency is a major focus for homebuyers and homebuilders, but a one-size-fits-all green building standard is not the answer, the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) told a Senate panel last week. Speaking for the association, Alaska homebuilder Jack Hébert said, "Only flexible, locally-grown green building programs can adequately take local issues, architecture, weather and geographical differences into account."

The NAHB has issued Model Green Home Building Guidelines that allow builders to address the local environment and assess life-cycle costs based on local building codes and climate zones.

"Homebuilders look to PVC products to increase energy efficiency, whether in hot or cold climates," said Tim Burns, president of the Vinyl Institute.

For example, PVC figures prominently at the new Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks, Alaska. Designed with daylighting in mind, the center uses robust Capitol Glass/Northerm commercial-rated vinyl (PVC) triple-glazed windows.

Hébert, who is president and CEO of the center, uses Northerm vinyl windows on all the homes built by his own company, Hebert Homes/Taiga Woodcraft. According to data from the Department of Energy, homeowners can save between $125 and $340 per year by replacing single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR® vinyl windows.

In Hawaii on the other hand, energy efficiency is hardly a matter of capturing heat and light and guarding against cold. Major energy bills enacted in 2006 included promulgating a tropical energy efficiency building code. A new residential energy code, geared to retaining the coolness within air-conditioned homes, requires R-19 or equivalent roofs. The code allows several paths to achieve this, including cool roofs. Burns pointed out that PVC is a major material for light, reflective cool roofs, which not only lower the temperature within the building, but also reduce the "urban heat island" effect, thereby reducing smog.

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