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Green Movement Sweeps U.S. Construction Industry

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's Chris Arnold has the story.

CHRIS ARNOLD: When we talk about green building these days, we're not talking about a few bearded hippies in California living off the grid inside of geodesic domes. In just the past few years, green building has taken a major turn into the mainstream.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION SITE)

ARNOLD: Tim Pappas, the building's developer, says it will consume 30 percent less electricity than a conventional building.

TIM PAPPAS: Many of the systems that we're using are new and different and innovative, or we're trying to modify them in a way that makes them more efficient.

ARNOLD: And there are lots of other green buildings going up around the country, which is a pretty big change for the construction industry.

HARVEY BERNSTEIN: Very much so. You can really see the shift since, you know, in the last five or six years.

ARNOLD: Bernstein says, by next year, half of all home builders in the U.S. will be using green building methods on at least some of their projects.

BERNSTEIN: That shows you the impact that this green movement has had on the homebuilding industry.

ARNOLD: Still, as with supposedly quote-unquote "natural foods" that you see at the grocery store, there are a hodgepodge of different standards for what people call a green building. So the Green Building Council has established a strict set of requirements, and since 2001 it's been certifying green buildings.

JASON BURRELL: Recycled contents. I have over ten percent already.

ARNOLD: The developer, Tim Pappas, is hoping that gold ranking will be a good marketing tool. The environmental benefits are touted in the sales brochures, and even in a cooling housing market Pappas says his sales office here is bustling.

PAPPAS: We've been extremely busy, and we're selling units every week. We have not made any price concessions or reductions. And everyone who comes into the building, I think, walks away really intrigued by green.

ARNOLD: Pappas says he waded into this first green building thinking it could add as much as a 15 percent premium.

PAPPAS: What we've realized is that we were completely wrong, that we were able to do it a lot more efficiently, that the real cost of building green is substantially lower than that.

ARNOLD: Chris Arnold, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996 and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.