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Eco-friendly homebuilding more in demand in Northeast Georgia
Green construction can include adding bamboo flooring, rainwater reuse or solar panels to home options. The aim is to be environmentally friendly and energy savvy.

Green events

Atlanta: Beyond Bricks and Sticks

When: Sept. 4 - Dec. 18

Where: Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center

Contact: 770-904-3500


Ideal Living Home

When: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday, through Dec. 19

Where: Dahlonega

Cost: $5 per car, proceeds to benefit United Way of Lumpkin County

Contact: 706-867-1660

Find a local EarthCraft certified homebuilder.

When it comes to construction, green is the only way to go for some homebuilders and their customers.

"In the last probably six months we've seen a great increase in popularity and interest in green homes," said Caleb Rhodes, construction coordinator for Green Friendly Homes in Suwanee.

According to, "green building is a trend in the architecture field to build structures that are water and energy efficient out of environmentally friendly materials."

And as more people become environmentally aware, the trend, though expensive, is gaining momentum.

"We're getting customers calling saying they want to be EarthCraft certified, which is a regional thing, or our clients are saying they want to be LEED certified."

The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) to provide third-party verification that a building or community was designed under sustainable or "green" guidelines.

Going green could mean a variety of home options from bamboo flooring to rainwater reuse to solar panels.

Jason West, director of development for the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, said their building was the first to be LEED-certified in Gwinnett County.

"The building was built with as minimum an impact on the environment as possible," West said, "And also was built to showcase that the things that were put into its construction were certainly things that can be done in a residential setting."

The GEHC is a combination of a science, history and recreation center located near the Mall of Georgia, and is hosting a traveling exhibit called "Atlanta: Beyond Bricks and Sticks."

"It's a very interesting look at green buildings in the metro area. Atlanta is a leader in this particular area (of building)," West said.

Builders in Georgia can become EarthCraft certified, a program created by the Georgia Home Builder's Association and the Southface Energy Institute, which was established in 1978 to promote sustainability in Georgia communities.

"I did have a potential customer recently who called me for this very reason, because I am not only a certified EarthCraft builder, I'm also a certified Green Professional through a national association of homebuilders," said Jim Combs, owner of Dahlonega-based Appalachian Contracting Services.

Jared York, of J.W. York Homes in Athens, said his company only builds homes that are Energy Star Qualified, another green certification, and EarthCraft homes.

"I have seen an increase in demand for our homes and our company has grown steadily throughout the last couple of years, even with housing being in a recession," York wrote in an e-mail, "We currently are building 12 to 15 homes a year."

At the GEHC, West said they present information and let people make the decision for themselves about whether or not to build green.

"There are some costs, but the energy savings are tremendous," West said, "And that's one of the things that we stress when people ask us questions. In the long run, you are talking a lot of savings."

Jim Combs believes green building will become more mainstream as the costs of using environmentally friendly materials decreases and code requirements change.

"I think time is going to (make) some of these technologies cheaper. The codes are now making some of them required," Combs said, "At least in terms of energy efficiency, we're going to be mandated to move in that direction."

Achasta in Dahlonega, of the Reynolds Plantation company, is showcasing a home completed in September as an energy efficient-designed residence for Ideal Living Magazine. The proceeds from the $5 per car charge to tour the home will go to the United Way of Lumpkin County.

"I think people understand energy efficiency," Bryce McCuin, marketing coordinator for Achasta, wrote in an e-mail. "There is a lot of detail in the questions people are asking with regard to ecobuilding. They are very technical and seem to have a strong knowledge of the building techniques that are being implemented."

Rhodes said education and advocacy have done much to promote the increase in green building. According to the American Institute of Architects, states "they have found solutions to problems such as water runoff, heating and cooling energy consumption, construction waste and water waste among other issues. These buildings span different climates (in states such as California, Ohio, and Georgia) and different functions (homes, courthouses, offices), displaying just how versatile green building can be."

Erecting sustainable buildings soon could be the norm as more people become envirnomentally charged.

"For the last 2 1/2 years, green has been a spotlight in the South but no one really knew what it was. I think it's knowledge gained from things like HGTV showing new products that are out."

"Homebuyers are really doing their homework," McCuin wrote.