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US: Conference Explores Benefits of 'Green' Construction Methods

by Melissa FollowellEnvironmental News Network
May 27th, 2005

Preserving resources for energy and environmental reasons took the forefront at Wednesday's Green Trends conference at the Chelsea Center in Sarasota.

As more people move to Manatee and Sarasota counties, and demand for resources grows, conservation techniques are very important to the area's future.

"Right now, the Sarasota County area is the hottest place in the state for green building," said Roy Bonnell Jr., executive director of the Florida Green Building Coalition.

As more areas, including Lakewood Ranch's Greenbrook Village, strive to meet green building requirements, more benefits are being discovered, said Nina Powers, a conference organizer. "How can you put a cost on human health?" Powers asked.

Techniques incorporated in green building include moisture control, safety and easy-to-clean surfaces.

Though homes may initially cost home buyers an additional 1 percent to 3 percent, the benefits of reduced utility bills and less product waste more than pays for the extra expense, Bonnell said.

With continual new construction, Manatee and Sarasota counties have more of an opportunity to use green building techniques than other areas that feature more older construction.

"It's cost effective if you build a home that way to start with. It needs to start at the design phase," Bonnell said.

One focus of Wednesday's lectures was ensuring affordable housing could go green as easily as luxury homes like those in Greenbrook Village.

Che Barnett of the Greater Newtown Community Redevelopment Corporation spoke about the community's EcoLODGical YouthBuild Sarasota program.

"We're the dumping grounds," Barnett said of lower-income communities.

In Newtown, a landfill and factories serve as neighbors, so Barnett and her crew of young people age 16 to 24 aim to make homes as healthy as they can to counteract some of the unavoidable pollution from surrounding areas.

"Green building is teaching us to be aware of the earth as well as learning to build," said program participant Haile Burke.

Burke would like to see the program go a step further and also include lessons on safe agricultural practices. He believes if people see how much they live off the land, they may learn to respect it more.

"Whatever we do in our every day lives at YouthBuild involves a green trend," Burke said. The U.S. Department of Energy Rebuild America, the Florida Energy Office and Sustainable Sarasota joined the coalition in organizing the second annual conference.




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