Green Building Goes Mainstream as Energy Costs and Environmental Concerns Spark Greater Adoption
EnvironmentStocks.com Reviews Green Building Technology and Industry Participation from Alcoa, XsunX, Centex Corp and International Barrier
Ann-Marie Fleming, www.EnvironmentStocks.com,
Green building has moved mainstream as the demand for the utilization of construction products, materials, and techniques that minimize waste, improve air and water quality, increase energy efficiency and protect the environment grows. Over the years as the nation has faced and continues to deal with, rising energy costs and the environmental consequences that comes from traditional energy sources, many are ‘Going Green’ and the companies involved in this industry are benefiting from this growth. Working to meet the growing need for environmentally friendly construction and energy production are companies such as XsunX, Inc (OTCBB: XSNX), and Aloca Inc. (NYSE: AA) with their focus on integrated solar technologies, in addition to efforts by home builder Centex Corporation (NYSE: CTX) and International Barrier, (OTCBB: IBTGF; TSXV: IBH), a developer of environmental friendly fire resistant building materials.
According to a recent survey conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction/National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) the residential green building market is anticipated to grow from $19 billion from 2005 to $38 billion by 2010. This is due in large part to the rising cost of energy. Taryn Holowka, Communications Manager, for the U.S. Green Building Council explains, “People are seeing gas, energy, electricity prices rising, and one way to combat that is through green building practices. When LEED certified projects are saving 20-50% on their utility bills and using thousands of gallons less water (saving on water bills) it is something that speaks to the bottom line.”
Ms. Holowka also attributes the surge in sustainable building in part to the increased level of education that is now available. “We have 60 local USGBC chapters out there educating and doing outreach at the local level – grassroots - and I think that the more education we get out there and the more people who know the benefits of green building, the more green buildings we will see. As of now there are over 500 LEED certified green buildings in the US and these buildings are serving as showcases, people are working in them and living in them and realizing that green is feasible, it is something that they can do,” states Holowka.
Contributing to growing level of education and overall demand for green products and techniques within the building process continues to be the vast media coverage of the key issues at hand. While it is true that one result is that consumers are becoming more aware of the risks to the environment, but they also understand the direct impact this may have on their own personal health.
According to Michael Huddy, President & CEO of International Barrier, Technology, Inc. (OTCBB: IBTGF; TSX.V: IBH), “A big part of the green movement stems from the media which is much more attuned to issues as they interface environmental issues with health. In the past there has been a variety of movements to protect the environment for future generations. Recently what is creating a greater sense of urgency in doing things organically, in a non-hazardous way using ‘green’ products is the connection between health problems in people and hazardous, non-green products and materials.”
“Our customers are coming to us as they not only seek environmentally friendly building materials, but also as they are steering away from products that may prove to be hazardous down the road. It is both sides of it, there is passive a movement towards green products, but there is also an aggressive movement away from hazardous materials,” adds Huddy.
Building a Greener Future
Employing the use of old building technologies in roofing, glazing, and exteriors or facades to create structures to service and house the tens of millions of people moving from rural to urban environments presents a static solution to a dynamic problem facing developing and developed countries alike.
As Tom Djokovich, CEO of XsunX, Inc. (OTCBB: XSNX) explains, “The energy problems facing governments and the societies they service presents an evolving sea of problems and limitations associated with access to fuels to power generations plants, the costs of generation facility construction and the deceasing lifespan of these facilities, costs and inefficiencies of power distribution, and the wasteful use of power at the point of delivery. The evolving nature of these problems requires dynamic solutions to first mitigate and eventually solve the future energy demands of society. We believe that this need for dynamic solutions is what is driving the growth in Green Building. Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) presents a process of innovation that provides dynamic solutions allowing buildings to increase efficiencies and reduce energy dependence on fossil fuels.”
Building Integrated Photovoltaics
A key element of raising the adoption level of BIPV technology is the ability to integrate with little if any compromise to the overall look and feel of the structures while enabling the building to serve multiple purposes.
“What architects, builders, and building material manufacturers need are technologies and products that allow them to integrate solar power production capabilities into materials as seamlessly as possible,” describes Tom Djokovich. “In the majority of instances these new materials should provide dualistic uses such as a glass facade producing electricity from the sun for the building’s use while allowing the windows to continue to function as a light source and provide views. At XsunX our product design elements focus on diversity of use opportunities, cost reductions, and efficiency improvements. In this way we are working to provide the necessary solutions to the building industry,” adds Djokovich.
Kawneer North America, a leading manufacturer of architectural aluminum products and systems for the commercial construction industry and part of
Alcoa Inc.’s (NYSE:AA) global Building and Construction Systems business unit, has developed an integrated BIPV sunshade product called 1600 PowerShade® (see Figure 1). Understanding the importance of enhancing building performance without compromising aesthetics, this patented sunshade technology generates solar power while also providing an optimal level of shad, according to the Company. Additionally BIPV can be incorporated into vertical and sloped glazing applications such as Kawneer’s 1600 PowerWall® and 1600PowerSlope® products. These products lead to energy conservation and an overall reduction of building costs.
For XsunX, the BIPV arena offers considerable opportunity as they work to provide solar cell designs that can easily be integrated into the exterior facade or skin of the building. “We are working on semi-transparent and opaque designs that could be integrated into the transparent glass facades and opaque surfaces of buildings to produce electricity, increasing building efficiencies, and decrease dependence of grid supplied power, describes Tom Djokovich.
He adds, “We are focused on the development of thin film photovoltaic "TFPV" designs that provide light weight, flexible structures that can be integrated into building products and become part of the surface of the building. We believe that our cell designs and manufacturing processes for theses cell provide a superior manufacturing technique that reduces cell manufacturing costs which in turn provide building material manufacturers with lower material costs and a greater opportunity for market acceptance.”
The Cost of Green Building
Historically a key challenge for the adoption of green building techniques, material and technology has been the upfront costs. The McGraw-Hill Construction/NAHB survey showed that costs in the form of start up expenses and an overall lack o consumer interest to pay additional costs for a green home, are perceived by 82% and 79% respectively as a barrier. While the issue of higher costs still remain a factor improved processes, government subsidies and an overall increased commitment to making these products commercially viable has led to significant reduction in cost and payback periods that are much more favorable than in the past.
As the U.S. Green Building Council‘s Taryn Holowka explains, “These costs have absolutely come down. New technologies and products are always costlier, but as new science, research and technologies come out, it becomes cost effective. Cost varies on the size of the building and the level of LEED certification that the building would be going for, but you can build a LEED project for 0-5% increased up front costs. And, these upfront costs (if you have them) can be recouped in the first 1-2 years of the life of the building through energy savings, utility bill saving, increased employee productivity, and decreased employee absenteeism and turnover.”
Centex Corporation, (NYSE: CTX) one of the nation's leading home building companies has been exploring the green building arena through various developments across the country. The Company’s Southwest Florida Division, a member of the Florida Green Building Coalition, Division became involved in "Green Building" through the purchase of land in a "Green Certified Development" - The Verandah.
According to a division representative, “The requirement to be a preferred builder in that community was that all models had to be certified "Green" by the Florida Green Building Coalition's certification standards. In addition, there were certain minimum energy certifications that needed to be met on all homes constructed. In addition to this, we are building all single family homes in The Quarry, a Centex Masterplanned community, in compliance with the EPA Energy Star Program requirements.”
Green Building Options
Being ‘green’ is fast becoming the preferred choice amongst consumers and businesses sparking an escalation in the availability and supply of products from a variety of segments in the building sector.
“There are a lot of new technologies and products out there that are being used. Paint and carpet adhesive manufacturers have really made it easier for everyone in that they have complete lines of products available now with no or low VOC content. In addition there are some fantastic recycled materials out there such as countertops made from glass, insulation made from recycled denim. Flooring materials like bamboo and cork are also very popular. In addition, under floor air systems have really taken off and they make so much sense form a business perspective and we are seeing them utilized in many different LEED projects,” describes Holowka.
As a major player in the homebuilder space Centex implements a variety of measures, many things as a matter of standard that brings a home close to certification. According to the Company some of these advancements include standard programmable thermostats, upgraded insulation R-values, roofing techniques, pest control systems, etc. “For the most part, we are 75% in line with the green certification standards on most of our homes. In addition, we continue to look into costs associated with green products such as Low Voc and No Voc finishes, alternate attic insulation techniques, use of recycled materials, and other green products.”
International Barrier’s Blazeguard fire rate wood panels, which are coated with the Company’s patented Pyrotite fire resistant formulation, offers builders and developers a high quality, environmentally friendly, non-toxic product that delivers fire, mold, mildew and impact resistance, in addition to structural strength. Dr. Huddy explains, “Blazeguard has absolutely no emissions. It is a physically inorganic, inert material that doesn’t change over time. It doesn’t have any interaction with the atmosphere, or any reaction with the physical environment around it. It is an inert material that does not emit anything of hazardous nature, a benefit customers will have for the life of the product.”
Another Alcoa business, Presto Products, has found a niche for stabilizing soil in green roof applications taking advantage of the growing green roof market with garden roof specialist, American Hydrotech. “The Presto-Alcoa GardNet is mainly used to confine and stabilize the infill material on slopped roofs and offers environmental benefits such as conserving energy, reducing storm water runoff, and provides aesthetic value to urban spaces,” according to the Company.
As we move forward it is becoming clear that not only are green building products healthy fro the environment and for people but they have evolved to the point where they provide high quality, high efficiency solutions for consumers and businesses. As this market matures and providers innovate and expand their presence in this space, being environmentally conscious has become a path for growth and a means for improving the bottom line.
Ann-Marie Fleming completed her MBA in the United States, where she attended Webster University. She also holds an Honors B.A from the University of Toronto. She has over sixteen years of experience within the financial industry to include retail banking and brokerage, investment banking, and mortgage brokerage within the United States and Canada, with a firm background in corporate research.
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