The Path to Green Building: Part 2 of our interview with Matt Douglas

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The Path to Green Building: Part 2 of our interview with Matt Douglas

In Part 1 of our interview with Earth Advantage’s Matt Douglas, we discussed the process of getting a new home Earth Advantage certified. Matt went on to discuss green building in our community, the growth edges our community and the building industry is still struggling with, and trends in green building and certifications.


Timberline: What is/are the most easily remedied issue(s) in designing/building a green home?

Matt: I think it is all easy – the easiest and most important issue being the shell of the home.  The shell is made up of the floor, walls, windows, and ceiling.  By bringing the air sealing and insulation levels up to Earth Advantage standards is the easiest and most affordable way to build a green home.

Timberline: Conversely, what’s the toughest/most challenging issue in designing/building a green home?

Matt: The perception is that a green and energy efficient home is “too hard” or “too expensive” to build.  Sure, there is an added cost at the beginning, but the future homeowners will be saving on their monthly utilities for the life of the home.  The home is also more comfortable and durable. Considering the over all cost to build a home, meeting the minimum requirements of Earth Advantage is approximately 1% of total cost. It’s a small investment for home that will be better built.

Timberline: For people choosing a green building certification program, what is unique about Earth Advantage? Why would someone choose to go through the EA certification?

Matt: Other certification programs are great and I always encourage builders to go for those certifications if that is the goal of the home.

The great thing about Earth Advantage compared to other certifications is that it is accessible and typically achievable at a lower cost.  Our program is designed to bring in builders who already build to their state’s code, and help guide them to build more energy efficient and sustainable homes.  Earth Advantage is a multi-tiered program, so if a builder wants to take it to the Platinum level, they can.

For builders with spec. homes, Earth Advantage offers a lot of great marketing materials to help showcase the energy efficiency and sustainability measures in their homes.  There have been several studies showing that certified homes sell for more and at a quicker pace.

Timberline: What green building trends do you see surfacing and/or becoming more prevalent in Bend?

Matt: The trend I see most is the Net Zero homes. There were 5 Net Zero homes built in 2013 and there will be another 5 this year.  Building a home that can produce as much energy as the home consumes onsite is where the industry is moving.  Really, it makes sense to do this on all homes that have some solar access.  For the 5 net zero homes, we have found that the cost to do so is around 5% of a typical home build- after all the relevant tax credits and incentives are taken.

Timberline: Where would you like to see the green building industry go?

Matt: So far the industry has really focused on energy. Once we have this figured out with all homes built as net zero or net zero ready, I think the next focus will be on indoor air quality.  There are so many construction and home products that have bad things in them.  It’s time to really take a look at the indoor materials industry.  Also, this may be far reaching, but there are so many common things in our homes that are not very healthy –  floor coverings, furniture, electronics, and so on.

Timberline: Is there anything you would like to point out specifically about the work you do?

Matt: I really just want to help builders build better homes in Central Oregon.  We have a long(ish) winter and saving energy on heating will benefit everyone.  Earth Advantage certification helps highlight the measures that builders can do to improve their home over the standard Oregon code built home.