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Green Building Curmudgeon

Water, Water Everywhere at Green Building Conference

NAHB's annual green conference covers water and more

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Tenmat's recessed light cover is a slick little product that should do well in the weatherization market.
Tenmat's recessed light cover is a slick little product that should do well in the weatherization market. Punched out of countertop scraps, these tiles are a great use of otherwise wasted material. Masonite's doors, with a wheat straw core and no added urea formaldehyde, are a nice addition to green builders' options.

After a daylong home tour, the NAHB National Green Building Conference got rolling in earnest on Monday, May 17, in Raleigh, N.C. While slightly smaller than a few years ago, the conference had a respectable turnout and some good educational sessions for attendees. Kept to a concise day and a half with five sessions running concurrently, it was easy to miss some good talks—unless, of course, not only could you split your personality, but also your body. The GBA team was, not unexpectedly, very well represented at the conference—on the tour, for the awards, and as educational session leaders.

Water was one of the major subjects of the conference. One session covered water reuse systems, including both central and local wastewater treatment systems. One key point made was that while the average American household uses 400 gallons of water per day, only about 3 gallons are consumed by people. Why are we using drinking water to flush toilets, water lawns, and fill fountains? Mike Hoover of NC State University made the point that while treating wastewater to potable standards is very costly, treating it to non-potable standards is not, pointing out that we use a lot of energy to treat water to a level that is not required for its use.

Another water session was led by Ryan Taylor, an architect friend from Atlanta, who shared great data and suggestions about water efficiency with deliberation and detail that eludes me in my presentations. I like to think that our styles complement each other nicely.

Green? Tense? Say what?

GreenTensives, a new concept this year, were a full day of open discussions on various subjects, including energy efficiency, indoor air quality, resource efficiency, and water efficiency. I don’t know who came up with the wacky name, but the sessions were well-attended, lively discussions. I led the session on water efficiency, which was a solid hour of good conversation on the subject. The two GreenTensives (I am still having trouble with that word) I attended—one on energy efficiency by Peter Yost and one on resource efficiency by Michael Strong—were spirited and informative.

Peter made some excellent points that struck home, including:

  • All builders are guinea pigs, and they should demand that manufacturers provide them not just products but complete systems, such as windows with flashing and sheathing with the best housewrap.
  • We put insulation in wall cavities not because it is the best place to put it, but because it is the cheapest place.
  • Buy from vendors with the most knowledgeable field reps who will come out to your job site.

And now to the exhibit hall

I was impressed by a few vendors on the show floor, where I saw some products I had never seen before. My unofficial award for elegant simplicity goes to the unfortunately named Tenmat recessed light cover. A fireproof preformed cover for recessed lights that protects them from insulation and helps provide an air seal, this product should fly off the shelves into the hands of weatherization contractors. Too bad they weren’t exhibiting at Affordable Comfort or Resnet, where they would have been more appreciated.

Another product that caught my eye was recycled granite from Earth Stone Products. Having developed a Huck Finn type of business model, they are paid to haul scrap stone counter material from fabricators, cut it into various shapes for tile and paving installations, and sell it to contractors. Not only do they not pay for their materials, but someone actually pays them to take the stone away. I like the product and the business model. Here’s hoping they are wildly successful.

Finally, while not a new product, Masonite’s Safe ‘N Sound green doors are new to me. These interior doors look like typical molded panel doors, but they are made with low-formaldehyde and low-VOC finishes and adhesives and are available with wheat straw cores and FSC-certified wood.

Overall, this year’s conference was, in my opinion, a modest success. The NAHB markets primarily to members—and with membership down and the industry still in a slump, they are challenged to increase attendance, which this conference deserves. Continuing to experiment with sessions such as GreenTensives and adding additional advanced trainings will help carry them forward.

One Comment

  1. Dina Lima | | #1

    Cool name... GreenTensives... hard to pronounce but it'll do! There is still so much education needed on the subject of waterproofing and these conferences truly help clarify the issues on this critical topic. You and I may not believe it, but there are still people out there (experts on the field, may I add) that believe that the basic house wrap is not needed because of the type of insulation they are putting into their houses. Scary, isn't it? But I don't these people are dumb or stupid. They simply lack the knowledge to do what's right, and in the long-term what is more cost-effective for the business in reducing water problems call-backs. Thank you for the update.

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