February 1, 2014

“THINK”ing About Construction


By James Howsley

Winter 2014

A surprising resource in Clark County is the "THINK!" program, which is a collaboration between the Building Industry Association (the "BIA") and Clark County. It aims to educate existing and potential home buyers about the permitting process and the importance of obtaining development and building permits. It provides information about green or energy efficient programs and the importance of hiring licensed, bonded, and insured contractors; it also provides awareness of unscrupulous practices favored by unlicensed contractors.

The THINK program provides resources and handy links to sites with additional information about the topics named above. The message is clear: if you do not think before you buy, remodel, or build, it can end up costing you money and aggravation in the long run. The website for THINK contains a quite hilarious video of building bloopers that effectively illustrates the importance of using licensed and bonded contractors and the reasons why you want to get permits.

But the program also delves into one of the most confusing subjects, especially among new buyers: what is a green home? Just as in other businesses, the development and construction industry is striving to become green or sustainable. Clark County and the BIA have adopted the International Code Council (the "ICC") 700 National Green Building Standard (the "NGBS") as the voluntary green building/rating standard for home construction.

In 2007 the National Association of Home Builders and the ICC developed a standard for certifying homes in order to promote new construction that would circulate fresh air, improving indoor air quality. New construction would ideally reduce or eliminate pollutants from construction materials, increase energy efficiency, and use durable products to reduce maintenance. And in 2012 the ICC 700 included additional point consideration for homes being built in green developments that used lot design, preparation, and design elements.

The commercial and office building world buzzes about LEED, but in the world of single-family home construction, it is the NGBS rating system that is the benchmark for green development. One of the issues that the NGBS tries to tackle is reducing materials going to landfills. The average 2,000 square foot house creates 8,000 pounds of waste material during construction. Under the NGBS this can be reduced to zero or have a "zero effect" on landfills. This is achieved by third-party verification of the builders' recycling and using recycled materials to offset the materials that could not be recycled.

Clark County home builder Urban NW Homes is a pioneer in green homes and in fact built the first NGBS Emerald home (the highest level) in the country. This home uses approximately 94 percent less energy than a conventional home, with the remaining energy derived from renewable resources.

The THINK website will become more robust in the coming months, providing valuable information, especially about green development. Builders, home buyers, local government, and the general public can look to this tremendous local resource for guidance in making decisions in the building industry.

Winter 2014

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