| Green Innovations Revolutionize Construction |
By Bill Roth
July 18, 2008
A Bay Area company demonstrates how the building industry can be a
leader in sustainability.
A Green Economic Revolution is under way, led by entrepreneurs with green
ideas for re-engineering the home construction industry. The pace of this
revolution is exceeding all expectations as consumers search for ways to
reduce their costs while helping fight global warming.
We're talking new ways of designing buildings and locating them. These new
buildings are using new products that place less stress on the environment
and that carry the type of third-party certifications just emerging from
institutions like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a nonprofit
organization that provides a consumer product label certifying the
business supports responsible forest management.
These buildings are designed to use little or no utility-supplied energy,
a benefit that's gaining tremendous traction among consumers with the
seemingly daily price increases in coal, oil and natural gas.
Deva Rajan is a successful "green" builder and founder of Canyon
Construction, a California-based contracting company in the Bay Area that
builds and remodels homes and offices using green methods. Rajan was a
leader in the "Going Green" revolution long before the rest of us "got it."
"When you build beautiful things, people take care of them. And durability
is a cornerstone of sustainability," Rajan says.
During the 1970s he quietly influenced the development of California's
Title 24--pioneering building codes that most states have now adopted. And
he was instrumental in developing a new type of concrete that recycled
"fly ash"--waste created by coal-fired power plants that's now a
high-utility standard among building materials.
"I really admire Deva's strength of purpose in helping turn this
Titanic-like building industry toward sustainability," Canyon Construction
President Chris Avant says.
"In no small part due to Deva's efforts, California pioneered legislation
focusing upon building standards that increased energy efficiency in 1978.
Since then we have learned a lot and the codes have been upgraded three
times, but we are still a long way from truly having building codes and
community planning that have sustainability as their cornerstone," Avant says.
Avant should know. He just moved into a new corporate headquarters
certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
LEED provides third-party certification for buildings to meet the highest
standards for energy efficiency and environmental responsibility. Canyon
Construction's building obtained a platinum rating, one of 17 new
construction projects in the United States to obtain such a rating at the
time of the building's completion.
The LEED program is helping the industry "adopt where we design, locate,
build and retrofit buildings to achieve sustainability in our work and
lifestyles," Avant says.
Canyon Construction's headquarters provides an example of sustainability.
First, it's a reconstruction of a building that had been vacant for years
and fallen into great disrepair.
Reconstruction helps eliminate urban sprawl.
"Infill is a major element of sustainability," Avant says, adding that
clear-cutting land or claiming farms for new construction results in more
commute time for more people.
"And it means we have replaced forests and farm plants that consume CO2,
the principal gas causing climate change, with houses, strip malls and
offices that emit greenhouse gases," Avant says.
It's better to use the "wonderful inventory of existing buildings and lots
in city locations that offer a good work and living environment" and also
place less demand on the consumption of fossil fuels tied to daily
commuting, Avant adds.
As you would expect, Canyon Construction's headquarters pioneers the next
generation of energy technology. The roof consists of solar panels that
look like high-quality roof shingles and produce nearly 100 percent of the
building's electricity supply. Lowering the need for electricity and
natural gas is the building's 3,000-foot horizontal thermal-loop heating
and cooling system that uses the earth's constant temperature to warm or
cool the building.
Combined with high levels of insulation, the building's design has
eliminated the need for fossil-fueled energy. That's not only good for
the environment--with natural gas prices at $12-plus per mmbtu (one
million British Thermal Units, the unit of measurement used by utilities
in calculating your natural gas bill) and ever-increasing electricity
rates--this is a building that's immunized to higher energy prices.
It was also built with recycled materials whenever possible. Ninety
percent of the decorative steel and 35 percent of the structural steel was
sourced from recycled steel. The wood in its ceiling, trellis and
balconies is 100 percent salvaged redwood and Douglas fir, all certified
by the FSC. The lobby floor is 100 percent salvaged Sierra White granite.
And 100 percent of the water used for irrigation comes from a
15,000-gallon rainwater catch storage system. In addition, the building's
insulation comes from recycled newspapers.
Then there is the issue of indoor air quality. Highly insulated buildings
that reduce energy consumption require special indoor air quality
attention. That means carpets that don't emit toxins and cabinets built
using formaldehyde-free adhesives.
So how soon can a construction entrepreneur expect to get a strong
customer base that wants to buy green products and services?
Canyon Construction's business is growing right now from leads generated
by sustainability projects it completed five years ago, Avant says.
"It isn't a question any longer of whether you brand yourself as a 'green
contractor' or a 'quality contractor,'" Rajan says. "The two are now
merging into being the same thing."
And those who "get it" will be harvesting sales leadership positioning in
a $350 billion annual revenue industry. Another example of how the Green
Economic Revolution continues its maturation into mainstream industries
like construction, creating opportunities for engaged entrepreneurs. Don't
miss my next article on how one visionary entrepreneur created a global
green standard in building design and construction.
Bill Roth is president of NCCT, a San Francisco-based consulting firm
facilitating innovations in sustainability marketing and green business
strategies. In addition to participating in the launch of the first
hydrogen-fueled Prius, he has held executive leadership positions as
senior vice president of marketing and sales with PG&E Energy Services, as
COO of Texaco Ovonics Hydrogen Solutions and president of Cleantech
America, a developer of solar power plants. Roth's latest book, On Empty
(Out of Time), details an emerging multi-trillion dollar green economy
that is revolutionizing how the world does business, and how you can make
money from it.