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September 01, 2008

Gaining ground

Voluntary green building program hits home with Albertans

Sonya Procenko

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“It was my first exposure to (green building). In the back of my mind, there is no reason it couldn’t work in Calgary or Alberta,” says David Bengert of Jayman MasterBUILT and president of the Built Green™ Society of Canada.

Bengert is recalling his experience in 2000    with a Denver, Colorado green building program. Back then he believed a similar initiative could work in Alberta but to be really effective, the program needed to be industry-driven. The next step had Jayman enlisting SAIT Polytechnic to complete a feasibility study on developing such a program. Jay Westman, president and CEO of Jayman then committed to developing and launching what would become Built Green™.

By October 2004, the program had incorporated and turned over ownership and management to the Built Green™ Society of Canada.  “Any builder that is a member of a home builder association knows (Built Green) exists,” says Bengert.

Membership in Built Green™ is open to those participating in Home Builders Associations (HBAs), which includes builders, renovators, product suppliers, manufacturers, service providers, community developers and municipalities. Right now, Built Green™ offers certification for new single-family homes and row homes while standards are being developed to include multi-storey and residential towers, communities and renovations.
The Built Green™ certification process involves mandatory and successful completion of builder training then third-party testing, inspections and audits. Built Green™ Certified Builders can only build Built Green™ homes and identify them with the Built Green™ logos.

On the level

Built Green™ members choose their levels of participation or achievement—bronze, silver, gold and platinum—based on a foundation checklist. The checklist categories include operational systems; building materials; exterior and interior finishes; indoor air quality; ventilation; waste management; water conservation and business practices. A minimum number of the checklist’s green items must be incorporated by builders to achieve a status level (bronze, silver, gold or platinum). Builders use a new Built Green™ product catalogue, which has products and services to assist them to in fulfill level requirements.

“Three times as many homebuilders take the training, but don’t register,” says Bengert. He’s encouraged by the numbers though and can only assume these builders are still making improvements and lowering environmental impacts by using many Built Green™ principles.

“(Alberta homebuilders) have a pretty good awareness of green building. Today, every company understands they have to be perceived as being green … Built Green™ volunteers are very committed and want to do whatever (they) can to lower our environmental footprint.”

Made in Alberta
Currently, 7,068 homes and 210 builders are enrolled in the program.

Jayman MasterBUILT has committed to building 100 per cent of its homes in Calgary and Edmonton to a gold standard, reducing more than 3,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 alone. Specifically, the Alberta Ecotrust Ecohome in which Jayman was a partner, achieved the Built Green™ gold standard, is R-2000 certified and was also given an 85 EnerGuide rating (a new home rating of 80 is considered excellent).

Kanas Holdings Corporation developed the first Built Green™ platinum-rated building in Alberta, Parkhill Manor. Considered one of the most energy-efficient developments in Calgary, it has an EnerGuide rating of 88. Kanas claims to focus on giving Calgary residents healthy homes, building for the health of residents and the environment.

Assured Developments is developing the first Built Green™ stacked multi-family pilot project, Chorus Park in Calgary. The 42-unit development will achieve a silver Built Green™ rating with features including granite and concrete countertops, concrete fireplace, cork flooring, wool carpet, recycled underpad and rubber flooring.

Pilot project
Avalon Master Builder has taken to heart the task of building 100 per cent of homes with at least a bronze Built Green™ rating in Calgary and Red Deer. The company notes their obligation to build homes using fewer resources so there’s something left for future generations. Built Green™ fits naturally into the company’s philosophy.

In June, Avalon Master Builder announced a 40-home pilot project in McKenzie Towne to use geo- and solar-thermal technology for heating, cooling and domestic hot water needs. The company has partnered with ATCO Gas, Carma Developers and Ener-West Geo-Energy Services Inc. The homes are under the umbrella of Avalon’s newly-launched Emerge division, bringing Avalon a step closer to a goal of all its homes being Net-Zero at no added cost to customers by 2015.

Built Green™ groundbreaking - Calgary
In 2007, the City of Calgary began offering rebates up to 30 per cent for homes with Built Green™ bronze, silver and gold standards. The average building permit is $1,600, and the rebate can offset initial costs for the builder associated with the program.

The City of Calgary and the homebuilders’ association (CHBA–CR) agreed that builders who adopt the Built Green™ program tend to build to a higher level of overall construction quality. The rebate strategy rewards forward-thinking builders for fronting the additional costs Built Green™ standards require.

Want a Built Green™ Community?
Municipality and Developer members can receive Built Green™ recognition for their communities. As a minimum, they must commit to building all Built Green™ homes in that community. This means:
•  Every home uses less energy and produces lower greenhouse gas emissions.
•  Every home is third party tested and certified for energy efficiency and air tightness.
•  Every home must lower water usage.
•  Every home addresses indoor air quality.
•  Every builder must successfully complete the mandatory Builder Training before they can start building Built Green homes. This helps the builders to understand the “house-as-a-system” Building Science approach.
•  Every builder must take steps to lower the amount of waste materials generated on the jobsite thereby reducing the amount of construction waste going into landfills.

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