The fad of 'green' building is quickly becoming just the natural way to build, according to experts at Fencetech, held Feb. 17-19 in Orlando. By 2013 it will be a $140 billion market, split evenly between residential and non-residential.
Moreover, policies also are being implemented by governments. Practices are being codified and groups such as the International Code Council are requiring green building practices. According to the American Institute of Architects' Local Leaders in Sustainability study, 138 cities have green building programs, which translates to more than one in five cities surveyed. This is a 50 percent increase in green building programs since 2007.
On the consumer end, there is the impact of causal consumption where people want to be part of the solution.
People want to buy high-performance, low-maintenance products, said John Wagner, green building industry consultant, in a Feb. 17 presentation. Eighty-two percent of people are looking for you to identify yourself, your company, as green. Forty percent of builders say that green building is helping them sell homes in slow market conditions and that quality has emerged as the most important reason. Green homes are higher quality, easier to maintain, more efficient, etc.
There are enticing economic reasons for green, Wagner said.
Green homes in the Seattle area sat on the market half as long and achieved 11 percent premium on price. In 2005, green building was 2 percent of all construction. Since then, it's grown. Why? There's a growing public awareness, heavy increase in government interventions, etc.
People are being motivated largely by environmental concerns and family health concerns.
These were significant motivating factors for going green, cited by 50 percent of those surveyed, Wagner said.
People are paying attention to environmental consequences such as life-cycle maintenance of products, including the impacts of treating a wood deck. Products also now are heavily engineered for recyclability, durability and long life. We really should be proud of that and capitalize that when we're marketing, he said.
Companies are reinforcing this idea through marketing tactics, and officials agree that it is becoming just another way of doing business.
We're definitely keeping an eye on the trend. We think it's legitimate because it's legitimate in the eyes of our customers, said PeggySue Kelly, marketing vice president for Green Bay Decking LLC's GeoDeck brand.
The Green Bay, Wis.-based firm manufactures composite decking and railing.
Are we keeping an eye on that? Absolutely. Right now, the green movement is focused on the interior of the home, Kelly said in a telephone interview. But it's going to be a natural progression to expand it to the outside of the house.
FiberTech Polymers LLC of Ontario, Calif., showcased its Timberwolf line of fiber-reinforced composite fencing with the slogan: The best choice for green living!
In the current economy, people are paying more attention to highly durable products that can withstand the elements, marketing manager Jim Betancourt said Feb. 18 at Fencetech. The company doubled its business last year.
We're looking on forecasted numbers to double our business again this year, Betancourt said. Within the next 18 months, FiberTech will boost capacity and make extrusion lines more efficient to offer reduced costs to consumers.
Steve Dillon, marketing director of vinyl fence, deck and railing extruder Veka Inc. in Fombell, Pa., said the firm has approached the practical side of green. We're not trying to capitalize on green, he said, pointing out that there is an overall fad of companies adopting green practices.
A Veka marketing brochure details the firm's real commitment to the environment, such as switching paint and lamination lines to water-based paints and adhesives; and protecting its employees' health by minimizing volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants by 80 percent, he said.
Other firms were promoting sustainable products and brands at the show, such as Ply Gem of Cary, N.C., which makes Kroy PVC and composite rail, fence and outdoor structures.
Ply Gem's John Purvis, national sales manager, weighed in on the green movement and vinyl's bad rap among environmental groups. None of us jumped on the green bandwagon initially. Many of us now have official company statements, Purvis said.
Purvis pointed out that vinyl is a green alternative, as it requires no on-site finishing or painting.
Industry expert Wagner agreed.
If you have wood, wood is heavy to ship; it has to be treated. Once it's in place, it has to be maintained. There are environmental consequences, Wagner said. Plastics exacts its tax at the manufacturing process. Once PVC is created, it's extremely inert.
He addressed a number of sustainability principles that green builders, manufacturers and products should achieve, such as improving the indoor-air quality of a living environment; using materials that are renewable and sustainably harvested; reducing water use in a home; being manufactured from recycled or recyclable materials; and making certain that any building product used contributes to durability so the structure doesn't have to be disposed of and rebuilt.
For example, fence manufacturers, upon removing a fence from a job site, should advertise that they recycle the materials, he said. One of his clients, a PVC building products maker, has put a program in place to take PVC back from a job site.
Manufacturers are working hard to help build the green reputation of vinyl, he added.
These manufacturers out there have studied the green building products. There is a lot of sophistication coming down from manufacturers in marketing, Wagner said.
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