News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV
NV89 Discover Music

an member station


Green Buildings 3




Just about every day local and federal governments, businesses and organizations around the nation are committing to building offices and schools with green concepts - That means with renewable resources, materials that are less harmful to the environment when produced, that use less water and energy when they are done. The same concept is slowly working its way into the broad housing market, but it still faces some hurdles. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.

Las Vegas has come a long way from the mud huts settlers built back before the railroad came to town according to Julie Nicoletta, author of Buildings of Nevada.


It was pretty primitive, so ya, those were buildings that you built when you first got there and once you could get wood shipped in you build with wood and so adobe is one example of where you have people building with local materials and so they are using the soil and using the buildings and adobe is actually pretty good at insulating interiors from exterior hear, but they are also building types that settlers didn't use very long.

As old as they are, they were built on green concepts - the focus on the orientation of the building so that the sun and wind wouldn't annoy the people inside or adversely affect the temperature. They built close to where they had to work with abundant desert materials that don't hurt the environment in the manufacturing process. These concepts are being employed by builders of offices and schools all over the nation . . . not true for housing however.

Support comes from


They can't buy one, and if you want to build your own green house, ha ha ha, a house that is green in architecture, you have to go out and find a contractor and an architect and for most people it is either too expensive or they don't even know where to start, so ya, maybe it will take a developer of housing that thinks they can make a profit by charging a little more for a house that is green.

Energy costs, increasing scarcity of building materials and a public interest in energy efficiency does have builders returning to some of the green concepts from the days of the mud hut . . . it's a little more complicated today.

Track 1


(Sound of working on house and whistling)

How much do you think it will cost?

I don't know . . .

In the southwest Las Vegas Nevada Trails community, ironworkers are fixing the gate to this 53 hundred square foot Pardee home called the Ultimate Family Home built as a demonstration project for the national home builder's show coming in January. Joyce Mason is the Vice President of marketing for Pardee Homes.


Standing here at the front door, I will point out a few things that you probably would not notice on your own. One is that all the paint that you see in this living room and dining room is all low VOC paint, so no volatile organic compounds come from the paint. Between the walls we have formaldehyde-free insulation, we have fluorescent lighting. This home is designed to be a zero energy home.

Zero energy means it will produce all the electricity it needs from solar panels. It's got few windows on the south side of the house where the sun could beat in, the carpet is made of recycled soda bottles, none of the wood comes from old growth forests - and some of the wood comes from a tree called Liptus, a hybrid of the Eucalyptus tree. They cut off a branch of the Liptus, use it without killing the tree and wait a relatively short period of time for the limb to grow back for re-harvesting.

Track 11


This is the first time we have used it here and we are really excited about it.

Track 19


First of all, I normally do normal construction so we normally just build with normal lumber and normal needs and normal deliveries and so working on this house was completely different.

Monte Fitzpatrick is the superintendent of construction for this house. He said workers had A LOT of questions.

Track 19

:58 - 1:23

The funny questions weren't too funny because they were needed. It was better than putting something together wrong the first time so it was kind of good when everybody asked what is this and how does this go together and why is there foam in between this header and how am I supposed to cut it and do I need to wear a mask and you know there were a lot of strange questions using the different materials but they were all welcome to make sure we got it done right.

And he says there is little resistance to building with some of these green materials.

- 4:13

Just the opposite, I get a lot of 'wow' factor. There are a lot of professionals out here in the trade and they see a renewable resource or something that is a harder wood or something that has a better grain that shows better with stain and there are a lot of wow factor people who are interested in putting something new in that is more exciting and more beautiful.

He says that a class for workers on these new materials could be helpful . . . Overall, builders are recycling more he says, concrete drywall, asphalt, wood; and using less than in the past. But there is resistance to recycling and renewable resources according to the U-S Green Building Council's Steve Winter. He's working on a committee that's designing national standards for less wasteful sustainable housing.

7:04 - 7:38

The concept of green building is kind of like motherhood and apple pie it is kind of a hard thing to dislike. But in anything that requires change or modification there is some resistance. And so if a green building uses a new type of material then anyone who is producing the old type of material will be impacted and will not like it.

The concepts employed in Pardee's Ultimate Family Home are some of the same ones the U-S Green Building Council considers when certifying structures as environmentally responsible. It's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED Rating System is a voluntary, national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. It's only a two year old program but already a thousand office, military and educational buildings are registered and a new one is added every day. Winter says they want a similar program for homes, but the challenge is that 2 million homes are built in the United States every year. One solution would be to focus on standards for model homes like Pardee produces.


Can we give a single certification for example to an entire development or to an entire batch of 10s or dozens or hundreds of houses. If that is successfully addressed it won't be that big of a problem.

The Green Building Council plans to have a draft of standards for homes in Spring next year, at the end of next year - a pilot program to be tested in homes around the nation, and in early 2005 a complete green building standard for homes.

For KNPR, I'm Ky Plaskon


U.S. Green Building Council

Pardee Homes

Kensei News and Information Service article on the Ultimate Family Home

Building Material Recycling

More from
Friday, November 7, 2003