The Future of Sustainable Building: Built Green Conference 2016

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On Tuesday, several members from the Model Remodel team attended the Built Green Conference held at Cascadia College in Bothell, WA. We send a few members to every green building conference each year so that we can stay current on trends and remain an active part of the discussion on the future of sustainable building. As Leah Missik, Built Green Program Manager, wrote in the event brochure “though understanding how green building is connected with complex issues such as equity, health, and climate change can be daunting, it is incredibly heartening to know that as we improve in one area, we also rise in others.” As a builder, we are committed to building in a way that is structurally sound, but also environmentally-friendly. We do this because we believe it to be right, it is a shared-value of our entire team, and it is the only way to build for the future. This is a view we thankfully share with a large community of advocates in the Puget Sound area, and it was a pleasure hearing from and speaking with some of these great minds. As Shannon Affholter, Executive Director of the local Master Builders Association, said “It’s about being a good neighbor.”

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The future is looking bright for green building in the Seattle-area. Roughly one-third of new homes built in King County last year were certified Built Green, and the goal is to have 100% enrolled in a green program by 2030. The Built Green team also shared preliminary data that shows how Built Green 4 and 5-star homes well exceed the energy efficiency numbers they aim for, meaning that the regulations are holding builders to a high standard and those builders are rising up to meet (and exceed!) them. It’s good for the clients, but it’s also good news for an industry that can seem radical to some. Who doesn’t want a gas or electrical bill that’s cut in half? What an accomplishment by the green building community!

The keynote speaker, Hunter Lovins, was an inspirational and energetic way to start off the day. As a consultant for sustainability, she had plenty of anecdotes and experiences to share about how standards for sustainability and green building need to change and grow. “If we don’t like the standards, we can reinvent them. We’re going to have the opportunity to do so, as [green building] becomes thee way we build.” It was a great sentiment that reminded the people in the room that they are pioneers of a quickly expanding industry that is poised to become the new norm. The pros: healthy environments, return on investment, increased building lifespan and higher property values, absolutely outweigh the extra cost during construction. Other speakers and panels expanded upon topics from smart home technology to financing and affordability to retrofitting the more than 398,000 homes in King and Snohomish counties that were built before 1979.

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Panel: “How Can Green Builders & Built Green Support Affordability” (from left to right) Aaron Fairchild, CEO, Green Canopy Inc (moderator) Shannon Affholter, Executive Director, MBA King and Snohomish Counties Hunter Lovins, Founder, Natural Capitalism Solutions Mike O’Brien, Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Vatske, Director, Washington State Housing Finance Commission

The event wrapped up with a wonderful awards reception, during which the community applauded those who embodied green building in the past year. As one of the award recipients, we know we could not have won this award alone. The project designer, Sheri Newbold of live-work-play, was an integral part of our project’s ability to reach Built Green certification. It takes a passionate designer to plant the seed of green building into the client’s mind from the start. A construction project is a huge undertaking, during which the focus on sustainable materials and practices can easily slide down the priority list without a campaigner to hold it in place. Many thanks to Sheri for being that campaigner. We were ecstatic to be the builder of a project that had sustainability built into its very bones. It is precisely how we approach our own design-build projects, and we are always excited to collaborate with a designer who shares our personal and professional values. With the support of this great community, the leadership of our office staff, and the hard work from our talented crew including: Ricky Bribiesca, Matt Everett, Cody Dance, Colin Eikeland, Andy Ryan, and Dave Marks, we accept the Judge’s Choice award for the Columbia City Backyard Cottage together. Thanks Built Green! A huge shout out to our peers:

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It’s always great to see friendly faces while having open and productive dialogues about the future of our industry. Many presenters focused on the idea that: there are no wrong ideas. As this fairly new program and approach to building grows, we as an industry must remain nimble and willing to try new things. Perfect solutions are not born overnight. It is events like the Built Green Conference that give our voices a productive place to interact and brainstorm new solutions. Our team was excited to participate this year, and humbled to receive the Judge’s Choice award for our recently completed 4-star DADU. We look forward to keeping the conversation alive and continue our commitment to sustainable building all year round.