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Green practices spreading to business, local events

Construction focusing more on 'green' products
By: Susie Iventosch
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Editor’s Note: This is the third in a four-part series addressing ways to protect the environment. We want to address the issues and challenges surrounding conservation. Additional information on “going green” will be presented during Colfax’s Spring “Green” Festival from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 3 throughout downtown Colfax. The push for green is not just a re-engineering of daily chores like recycling garbage and composting table scraps. New projects, such as residential and industrial construction, are focusing more and more on “green,” which simply means sustainable and environmentally-friendly. The selection and availability of renewable building materials is rapidly growing, though large price tags can be a deterrent to consumers. “The higher the demand for these products, the greater the availability and the lower costs will be,” said Connie Heilaman, owner of Connie’s Decors in Colfax. “It’s going to take pressure from the public, but we’re seeing so many beautiful materials made from renewable resources. Bamboo floors are a good example of this. Bamboo replenishes every two years compared to exotic hardwoods, which take up to 80 years. And, they’re harder than oak.” Cork, which reproduces every six years, is another example of green flooring that comes in a variety of colors. Its natural cushioning makes an ideal floor for people with joint problems, Heilaman added. Recycled glass chips are also being reincarnated into counter and bathroom tile, while furniture created from fiberboard and wood chips is now available in the marketplace. “If it suits their needs, I always specify ‘green’ products as my first choice for clients’ designs,” Heilaman said. “Unfortunately, I don’t see as much demand for these products as I’d like to see. I think this stems from a lack of awareness of what truly amazing and beautiful green products are available. Of course, there’s the higher costs of these products.” Heilaman believes building costs can increase 10 percent when green products are used. And yet, those costs could be offset with savings in energy bills and health benefits. Green materials tend to have fewer toxins, causing fewer allergies, and are designed to be energy efficient. She said designers are learning more about sustainable design every day. In fact, she recently learned that stainless steel is made from recycled metals. “I think people are just beginning to see the benefits of paying upfront costs for future dividends,” Heilaman said. “They will derive both financial and physical benefits from investing in green design Jim Laasch, sales and marketing coordinator for E-Building Systems of Grass Valley, is a member of the foothill chapter of the Sierra Green Building Association, SiGBA. The group advocates resource efficiency in all phases of design, construction and operation of residential and commercial buildings. It provides educational resources and support, and offers networking opportunities and community events. “It is a great organization,” Laasch said. “The new foothills chapter covers Grass Valley, Nevada City, Auburn, Colfax and south.” Laasch said by some estimates, building green can save between 40 to 60 percent, or more, on heating and energy bills. E-Building Systems fabricates and sells SIP (structural insulated panels) to builders, developers and homeowners. These panels are made from OSB (oriented strand board) and insulated with a core of insulating expanded polystyrene foam. Laasch says the panels are structurally stronger than stick framing. “These panels create the structural integrity to the framing of the home and are more resistance to natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and fire,” Laasch pointed out. “And the panels are energy efficient, requiring the home to use less energy, thereby reducing the carbon footprint.” The initial cost may be slightly higher than stick and frame construction, but the cost could be recovered in three to five years with savings on reduced energy bills. “We work from the design stage all the way to the completion of the shell,” Laasch said. “We are also willing to train builders on this type of sustainable construction system. The important thing is to spread the concept of green building and all that it involves.” Connie’s Decors, E-Building Systems and SiGBA will participate in next week’s Colfax Spring Green Festival at the Sierra Vista Community Center.