(Written by Skip Mead – NMHBA President – Originally published in the August 2006 Housing Journal)

Green Building in New Mexico – Already Status Quo?

As many of you know, Green Building has been alive and well in New Mexico for a long time. This effort goes back thirty years or so and most builders in New Mexico build some level of “Green” in today’s market. The National Association of Home Builders has published the “Model Green Home Building Guidelines” which is an excellent reference manual for those who want to be involved in the Green Building effort in a more formal manner. The Green Building elements described in this manual are considered good building practices by our builders and many are included in their day-to-day construction activities. The builders may not know they are building “Green” but they are because they care about what kind of product they deliver to their clients.

With energy costs being what they are, a renewed interest in Green Building has been developing – this time by various municipalities and state agencies. There has been a great deal of discussion about requiring some of these elements be included in all new residential construction. Complying with these additional requirements may not be a big deal for our builders but other issues arise when such requirements are imposed. Who’s going to do the inspections? Does CID or the municipalities have the personnel to do such inspections? How long will it take to get inspections? How many potential home buyers will be cut out of the market due to the increase in cost of the homes?

Let’s look at the big picture and do the math. For the sake of discussion, let’s say there are 1 million homes in the state and our builders build approximately 15,000 homes a year. It would take 67 years to replace the existing housing stock and that does not allow for any growth in the population. Requiring or mandating our builders to build “Green” beginning today is not going to solve the energy problem. The problem of energy efficiency is minimal in new home construction. The real problem exists in the existing housing stock. If a real effort to obtain energy-efficient housing for the state’s residents was launched it should be directed at the homes that are over 10 or 15 years old.

Don’t get me wrong, I think being a part of a formal Green Building program is a great idea on a voluntary basis. At least two local associations have adopted such program for their builders. These associations have adopted the NAHB Green Building Guidelines with minor modifications. Members of these associations have also expressed an interest in helping other builders around the state who want to become more involved in a formal Green Building program.

I would be remiss in saying that Green Building only addresses energy efficiency. It also includes water conservation, indoor air quality, etc. The reason that this article focuses on energy efficiency is because our elected officials seem to be concentrating on this specific topic. There are many facets to Green Building and there are pros and cons attached to the subject. There are no simple answers to this complex subject but I would encourage our elected officials to evaluate, in detail, the “Big Picture” and really determine what end results are desired. As for Green Building and energy efficiency as it relates to housing I would also encourage them to discuss the matter with some of our members that have been involved in this effort for over a decade.