Group wants incentives to build green | SierraSun.com

Group wants incentives to build green

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
Greyson Howard/Sierra SunRick Solinsky's solar and wind system takes his house off of the utility grid. Solar and wind power are key elements of green building.
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Green building is catching on in the Tahoe-Truckee area.

Green building, which promotes construction of low-impact, energy-efficient homes has been gaining popularity in the region ” as well as around the world ” as a way to both protect the environment and save money on increasing utility costs.

The Truckee Green Building Committee started in 2004, said Denyelle Nishimori, Town of Truckee staff liaison, and has been working on education, training, and providing input on green building to the town.

Fifteen members sit on the committee from different groups, including the Sierra Green Building Association, the Contractors Association of Truckee-Tahoe, and the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.

The committee has also reviewed the General Plan Update, and wants to create a program that would provide incentives to developers to build green, Nishimori said.

Scott Terrell, the planning director for the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, is a member of both the Truckee Green Building Committee and the Sierra Green Building Association.

“We’ve worked with SiGBA, CATT, and others to put together training to help contractors,” Terrell said. “This is the direction things are going, so builders need to be familiar with it or they’ll be left behind.”

Terrell said the importance of green building should not be underestimated.

“It has been said that this is the biggest paradigm shift in the industry. It’s a huge thing,” he said.

While the area’s colder climate and snow-load present unique challenges to green building, Terrell said using the eco-friendly techniques and materials was not

necessarily more expensive than normal ” and in some cases can save money.

“It’s a huge misconception that green building costs more than conventional building, even if the cost is higher up-front, you have to look at the life-cycle benefit,” Terrell said.

Five essential elements of green building have been established by green building pioneers, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Terrell said.

These elements include finding low-impact sites, efficient use of water, use of renewable resources, use of healthy, non-toxic materials, and use of renewable energy, he said.

Chris Worcester, owner of Solar Wind Works, designs renewable energy systems for people interested in reducing their utility bills and for those living off the grid.

“We create hybrid systems that combine battery storage, solar, and wind, that can slow down the meter or spin it backwards,” Worcester said.

Prices vary widely from project to project he said, but a small site off the utility grid starts at about $35,000, and on-grid projects reducing utility use can start as low as $15,000, Worcester said.

Tony Pastore of Pastore-Ryan, a civil engineering company that specializes in green building, said using regionally appropriate materials is key.

“We use the lowest maintenance materials and most thermally efficient materials possible,” Pastore said.

Recycled products, Green Seal certified paints, and native plants also help create a green and healthy building, he said.