Custom-home builder and remodeler Gary Dorris, in business for 22 years, has built houses certified by Earth Advantage and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). - Photo by Julia Moore

REAL TALK: Q&A with green builder Gary Dorris

A: The bad economy has undercut its expansion. A few years ago, it was all green and now just about 50 percent. From what I have experienced, and the interviews I do, it's all about budget. People don't have as much money and don't have as much money to spend. Everyone wants the best value they can get, and budget is the most important thing right now, not the green building. Three years ago, 100 percent of what I did was green building.

A: In my experience, it's still the same. It's all about good building methods, good building types, being meticulous about the details and tightness of the house and having everything sealed up. We're so busy doing what we do that I don't get out to other builders and get a chance to talk about their experience. Every builder had a different clientele and network they work with.

A: It takes so long for the public to buy into it and see what's going on to trust it. Take structural, insulated panels, for example. Frank Lloyd Wright was using them, yet people are afraid of that technology. They insulate a house very well, but people are still skeptical of it. You are just starting to see windmills going up around town that are generating electricity for residences. I think ground-source geothermal is one of the best things; it's been around a long time, but people are still slow to catch on. I just did a house where I used it. Geothermal is so efficient, and the monthly billing is so low. The initial cost is high, but monthly bills are so much lower. Solar is the same way.

A: If you are building with structural, insulated panels or insulated, concrete forms, you need different tools. It's mostly different materials with a few different tools, but nothing drastic. Again, it's about attention to detail. When you build green and are dealing with a third-party certifier, attention to detail is everything because you are being inspected.

A: Prior to the economic downturn, people had enough money to where they were willing to spend a little more to get more. Now people are nervous about real-estate markets. Let's face it, who wants to build an expensive house in this market? Who knows if you are going to get your money out of it? That's what I'm hearing from custom-home customers: They don't want to put too much into it, so that they will get their money out. When there is a rising market, people will go a little further in their green technologies.

A: Everybody is different. People are coming back to the standard way of construction and not using new technologies. They are using standard framing like we did 20 years ago; that's where it all begins.

A: In our little circle, windmills are new. I don't actually put them in, but some people are. What we like to do is build insulation and geothermal heating. How tight you insulate is foundational; if I don't do that, everything else is a waste. If it doesn't hold heat or keep weather out, then the other things don't matter. Solar and things like that are icing on the cake.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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