“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has,” anthropologist Margaret Mead said. The Western North Carolina Green Building Council — its founders and its members — demonstrates the truth in those words. The council started as a conversation between two people, a decade ago. It then grew into a group of several people, but the goal remained the same: How to increase green building in the region.
From that humble start, the council helped make WNC a leader in the green-building movement. About 85 percent of the NC HealthyBuilt homes in the state are here. The council just certified its 500th such home and was an integral part in the national-level certification of Asheville’s first Platinum LEED home (the highest ranking offered by the U.S. Green Building Council).
But back in the beginning, Boone Guyton remembers “going to the [Western Carolina] Home Show and looking for people with any green products or services. Cindy Meehan-Patton was there, and we had our first conversation about the possibility of a green-building group.”
According to Duncan McPherson, another WNCGBC founder, “The primary need was education at that point, which included educating the city, inspectors, builders and architects. … We needed to provide the general public with a single resource for reliable information. … About a year after our first meeting, we were pulling together the first Green Building Directory; we had about 15 or more folks showing up at meetings and [we] were forming multiple committees.”
Ten years later, WNCGBC is a well-established, respected entity with hundreds of members, and its signature publication, the annual Green Building Directory, published in partnership with Xpress, is going strong.
New groups from all over North Carolina have called to ask, “How did you do it?” according to WNCGBC Director Matt Siegel. It’s hard to outline how it all came about, or how to quantify the accomplishments of an organization that educates and advocates, he notes. But here are a few highlights, which feature the many partnerships and collaborations that have made it all possible.
• First HealthyBuilt Homes in North Carolina: As part of a State Energy Office grant, WNCGBC helped green the Mountain Housing Opportunities development Prospect Terrace and certify it as the first NC HealhyBuilt Home development in the state.
• LEED for Homes: Since becoming a provider, WNCGBC has certified seven homes and registered more than 20.
• Appalachian offsets: As the nation’s first locally based carbon-offset program, the council has helped offset more than 2,600 tons of carbon through local projects paid for through local donations.
• Neighbor Saves: Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of WNC, the WNCGBC will launch an innovative new self-help program to encourage energy efficiency in existing homes. (Check out the music video at neighborsaves.org).
• Classroom training: More than 2,000 building professionals and homeowners have attended the organization’s classes and expanded their knowledge of the many facets of green building.
• Weatherization program: Thanks to a Community Development Block Grant from the city of Asheville, WNCGBC partnered with Asheville Green Opportunities and Community Action Opportunities to weatherize 60 low-income homes.
• Hometown green: With help from a State Energy Office grant, the council produced and distributed a 16-minute video on how to begin the process of greening a small town.
• Community projects: Volunteers completed a green bus stop on Clingman Avenue, with support from a grant from the Community Foundation of WNC.
• Permit-fee reductions: WNCGBC worked with the town of Black Mountain and the city of Asheville to get permit-fee rebates for certified green homes.
Through community outreach, the annual Green Building Directory and its many advocacy projects, the WNCGBC has helped green-building businesses in the region grow, says Siegel, and remains committed to promoting green building through rising demand and supporting its business members.
“The council has been a great resource,” says Rob Motley, owner of RS Motley Construction. The local builder has completed about six HealthyBuilt homes and says it’s sheer luck that his latest project became the 500th certified by the council. Noting that it’s been tough times for builders in the past few years, Motley reports that he got his newest construction project because his clients toured the council’s Green Home Tour last fall, saw some of his work and tracked him down. “Asheville’s at the epicenter of green building in the state, and that’s exciting.”
Homeowner Douglas Campbell agrees. A retired architect, he found the council’s staff very helpful in getting his Asheville home LEED-certified. “It’s an intimidating process, but they went over the requirements, what our options were and what our chances of certification were,” says Campbell. He encourages homeowners, builders and business owners to consider the council a “go-to place for anything to do with green building. They’re a warehouse of knowledge.”
And most likely, that warehouse is green.
— News Editor Margaret Williams can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 152, or firstname.lastname@example.org.