Southern Oregon Homebuilders Getting Green Education

If any of the more than 200 homebuilders, contractors and real estate professionals who attended a “green” building seminar at the Jackson County Expo April 26 expected to learn about straw bale construction, geodesic domes or other off-beat building techniques, they were probably surprised.

What they learned, instead, is that a large—perhaps the largest—component of environmentally friendly construction is quality.

Mark LaLiberte, a green-building consultant who travels around the United States speaking about eco-friendly building techniques, spent two hours educating builders from the Jackson County, Josephine County and Umpqua Valley Homebuilders Associations.

“The common perception of a green building is a yurt in the middle of nowhere disconnected from the grid,” LaLiberte said. “A green building is one that exceeds its normal or expected life span.”

“A building that is torn down and thrown in a landfill after 50 years is disrespectful of the resources that went into building it,” said LaLiberte, who spent much of his time showing slides of poorly designed homes in Oregon and elsewhere, while preaching about the importance of using advances in building science to avoid common construction mistakes.

“What I heard was that the use of building science and correct building technique is a key principle—probably the key principle—of green building,” said Mike Neely, president of the Jackson County Homebuilders Association. “They go hand in hand.”

Neeley said he has seen a “massive” amount of interest in green building techniques in the past year from both builders and home buyers in Southern Oregon.

The Jackson County Home Builders Association has been taking steps to educate local builders about green topics, following the lead of the national HBA, which has launched several green initiatives in the past year, including a green resource guide for builders.

Last month, the Jackson County HBA invited a speaker from Phoenix Organics, a company on Highway 99 in Phoenix that specializes in green building products. The seminar by LaLiberte was aimed at expanded the group’s educational component.

“Green buildings are better buildings,” said LaLiberte. He challenged local contractors to start incorporating best-available building techniques immediately, especially techniques that reduce moisture, save energy, and ensure clean indoor air.

“When your children are sleeping in their room, don’t you want to know the air going into that room is good to breathe?” he asked. “The building industry has more than enough expertise to fix all of these problems without help from the legislature.”

“We’ve got to learn from the mistakes of others,” he quipped, “because we won’t live long enough to make all of them ourselves.”

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