Greening the grey areas 

Municipal and provincial governments get ready to green building codes and bylaws

click to enlarge This Toad Hollow Home was the first home registered as "Built Green" in Whistler by RDC Fine homes. The company hopes to finish another three "green homes" by the end of this year. Photo by Insight Photography International
  • This Toad Hollow Home was the first home registered as "Built Green" in Whistler by RDC Fine homes. The company hopes to finish another three "green homes" by the end of this year. Photo by Insight Photography International

There is no looking back — green is the way of the future.

And like a creeping jungle vine, one of the places it is winding its way into is home development.

After all, for most of us our home is the place we spend most of our time and it is the asset we spend most of our money on.

In part the push to build green is being driven by a desire to “do the right thing.” But it is also a reaction to homeowners, who are renovating or building from scratch, asking about energy efficient and sustainable homes in greater and greater numbers. The government is demanding it too.

“People want more energy efficient houses, they want better indoor air quality and now they are willing to pay for it,” said Bob Deeks, owner of RDC Fine Homes, which hopes to have four registered green homes completed by the end of the year in Whistler.

“I think when you talk about a green building or a sustainable building it is equated back to what does it give the homeowner, and it essentially comes down to a greater level of comfort, healthier home, and lower (energy) costs.”

Deeks recognizes that home building is getting more and more expensive but he believes that many green features can be built into a home at minimal cost.

Homeowners also have to tweak the way they think about their budgets.

“There is more creative ways of financing these things because if your energy costs are significantly reduced then you can increase your mortgage payments,” said Deeks, who is also past president of the Canadian Home Builders Association’s Sea to Sky chapter (CHBA).

“So your net costs are the same moving forward but you have a better house.

“People should recognize that it is achievable, that the cost is not as great as they think it is, and they won’t get it if they don’t ask for it.”

Finding a way through the green building maze can be daunting, with over 20 standards around the world to choose from.

And in the last five years or so there has been an explosion of guidelines on how to build green in Canada or recognition of the ones that have long existed. They include LEED, the first accreditation system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1998, the new changes being phased in by the province to the Building Code, Whistler’s own green guidelines, and Built Green B.C. — the standard now adopted by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of B.C. — and this list is by no means exhaustive.

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