Sustainability and low-impact living move into the mainstream as houses focus on efficiency
by Edward D. Murphy, staff writer
PORTLAND — Barry Saxe wasn’t so much looking for products Saturday as he was shopping for reassurance.
Saxe, who owns New Horizons, a construction company, was checking out the goods at the Green Home and Living Show to make sure he was keeping up with technology that is changing almost daily.
He recently finished building a home in Pownal that is equipped with all the latest energy-saving and generating devices, from a solar hot water system to photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. The technology will allow the owner to avoid almost all energy bills initially and he may even reap a bit of a profit down the line by putting excess electricity back onto the power grid.
“It’s changing faster than you can imagine,” Saxe said of the technology involved in crafting a home that fits all the current buzzwords – low-impact, sustainable, green and energy-efficient. “From when we started (on the Pownal house) early in the year, the technology changed three times.”>/p>
Saxe was on one end of the spectrum of those attending the show at the Portland Expo, focusing on cutting-edge technology. At the other end were people just looking to save a few dollars when winter settles in by replacing drafty windows, perhaps installing a wood pellet stove or making sure the attic is well insulated.
Charlie Nestor, president of Green Event Pros, the company that put on the show, said there’s wide interest in green technology, from those who want to take whatever steps they can to save the Earth to those just pinching pennies.
The show itself is green, Nestor said, beyond the eco-friendly offerings of the vendors. Nestor’s company insisted that the city supply the concession stand with paper cups that will be composted, placed recycling containers around the exhibit floor and is lightening its carbon footprint through offsets purchased from Maine Interfaith Power & Light.
He said his company also relied on local vendors and suggested that all the exhibitors showcase their greenest wares.
“Our exhibitors are all about energy efficiency, being eco-friendly and socially responsible,” he said.
That meant a range of products on display from energy-saving windows and doors to foam insulation installers and from eco-friendly remodelers to a woman selling soy-based crayons.
The vendors also included Jesse Ware, who owns JP Ware Design, which designs Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified homes.
LEED-certified buildings are becoming commonplace in commercial construction, but Ware said it’s filtering into the residential market as well.
Even though LEED-certified houses cost 10 percent to 20 percent more than a conventional house, Ware said there’s a lot of interest among the public.
“There’s a big push right now,” Ware said. “People are really into green buildings.”>/p>
Ware said LEED certification is built on a wide range of factors, from making sure lumber is cut and milled within a few hundred miles of the building site, to minimizing waste and using sustainable materials. He said the system involved piling up enough points from a variety of techniques to earn certification.
Even though the cost is higher, Ware said LEED-certified houses are generally more energy-efficient than a conventional home, providing an ongoing return to the homeowner who opts for a certified house. The homes also generally fetch more on the market when they’re resold, Ware said.
Nestor said he hopes to make the show an annual event and is planning similar exhibitions in other towns and cities in northern New England. Portland’s show continues today.