Green Builders Adapt to Market

Green Builders Adapt to Market GARDNERVILLE, NV - In today's housing market, selling five out of eight homes in a new subdivision sounds pretty good, even if developers have roughly 50 more homes to build, not to mention a 140-unit multifamily project and about 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

That's the situation facing developers of the Kit Carson Village. The gated, master-planned, age-restricted community off Kimmerling Road is a pilot program for green, sustainable building practices. Using insulated concrete forms and other eco-friendly technologies, such as solar thermal water heaters, the community was designed for optimal energy efficiency and minimal environmental impact.

Project manager Pete Coates said Kit Carson homes achieve silver-level certification in the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

"What will emerge out of this recession is a new bar set by green building standards," Coates said. "It's what consumers are now looking for. People are coming in asking for not only Energy Star appliances, but Energy Star homes. They weren't asking for them two years ago."

Even with a cutting-edge product, Coates understands that to make it in this economy, a company must stay competitive. That's why Kit Carson is now building some of their homes with advanced framing technology, rather than insulated concrete forms.

The new technology reduces the amount of lumber used in traditional framing, employing the use of metal straps instead of wood plates, and layers of styrofoam for optimal insulation.

Coates said advanced framing allows for the same level of green certification while reducing construction costs.

"It's the same structural value, but increases the insulation by two and uses half the wood," he said. "ICF is the preferable way to build, but if advanced framing techniques are done properly, they're comparable to ICF in increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon footprint."

Coates estimated that half of the community's remaining houses will be built using the frame technology, and half ICF, depending on the market.

"One reason we moved towards advanced framing technology was to reduce our costs and get back into the competitive market," he said. "But we want a mix. We want to be able to give home buyers the option."

Whatever the method, Coates, who in March became Nevada's first accredited professional in LEED homes, believes his green project will not only stay the economic storm, but lead the way into the future.

"Kit Carson has been involved on the ground floor since day one," he said.

He said monitoring performed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Building America program found that Kit Carson homes save on average $1,500 in energy costs per year.

"When it comes down to it, it's about dollars per square foot," he said. "We're offering energy efficiency, renewable energy and recyclable products. The dollar has a lot to say."

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