Green building standards are becoming more universally accepted, but sustainable growth is not without its roadblocks. A round-up of some newly released eco-building programs and findings:

Debunking the Dollars.

Just how much more expensive is it to build green? Building industry decision-makers have some inflated misconceptions on that topic, according to a global survey by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. In a worldwide survey of 1,400 decision-makers in the real estate and construction industries, respondents pegged the additional costs of building green at 17 percent more than conventional construction, whereas the actual cost difference is about five percent. At the same time, survey participants estimated the built environment's contribution to worldwide greenhouse emissions at 19 percent, whereas buildings actually are responsible for a whopping 40 percent of greenhouse emissions.

"The world is undergoing rapid transformation, with strong demographic and economic growth driving a move towards urbanization on an unprecedented scale," said Bruno LaFont, chairman and CEO of Lafarge, a global supplier of building materials such as cement, gypsum, asphalt, and concrete, which co-chaired the project in partnership with United Technologies Corp.

"Life cycle analysis shows that 80 to 85 percent of the total energy consumption and CO2 emissions of a building come from occupancy through heating, cooling, ventilation and hot water use. If we want to make an impact on climate change, we need to tackle this challenge," LaFont added in a press release. "Combining the right materials when designing a building envelope can greatly reduce a building's energy requirements, increase its life span and ensure consistent performance over time."

A report based on the survey findings, "Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Business Realities and Opportunities," is available at

The Great Green North

Home builders and remodelers in Minnesota can now go for green certification through a new, voluntary program called Minnesota GreenStar ( A collaborative effort of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry-Minnesota, and the nonprofit Green Institute, GreenStar joins the ranks of other green standards shaping U.S.-built homes, including the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines (, EarthCraft (, Earth Advantage (, Built Green (, and the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design parameters for sustainability (

Initial funding for Minnesota GreenStar was supported by a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The program, which takes into consideration Minnesota's unique climate, building codes, energy conditions, and natural resources, will include a mandatory education program outlining certification requirements and proven best practices. Third-party inspections and testing for applicants will be provided by Minneapolis-based Center for Energy and the Environment, as well as St. Paul-based Neighborhood Energy Connection.

Upside Down

Old roof shingles are gaining a new lease on life in Missouri, where they've become a central ingredient in the asphalt mix used to resurface and rebuild highways.

Thanks to an innovative recycling program run by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), builders and remodelers have an alternative (and more eco-friendly) means of disposing of unwanted shingles salvaged from teardown and remodeling jobs, thus avoiding landfill fees. Plus, the program helps to offset an estimated 146,500 tons of roofing materials that are dumped in Missouri landfills each year.

For MoDOT, adding reclaimed roofing to the asphalt stew results in a durable, more rut-resistant paving mix that can be produced at a much lower price. The incorporation of recycled shingles saves $3 to $5 per ton of asphalt, according to the state agency. In a typical resurfacing project, which uses about 30,000 tons of asphalt, those savings add up to anywhere from $90,000 to $150,000.

As an ingredient, old shingles also help MoDOT reduce the amount of petroleum used in road construction projects by lowering the amount of liquid asphalt by 20 to 25 percent.

LEED by Example

The model home for Ashworth Cottages, a Seattle neighborhood designed by Runberg Architecture Group ( and built and developed by Pryde + Johnson (, has garnered the highest certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the first home in Washington state and one of only seven in the nation to go platinum.

Presented as a prototype for urban infill and sustainable building, the model features high performance windows, lighting, and appliances; high-efficiency plumbing features; and zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, along with formaldehyde-free interior doors and millwork. A rainwater cistern provides all the water necessary to maintain landscaping with native and drought-tolerant plants.

In addition, an innovative heat recovery ventilation system links its air exchange and filtration with on-demand hot water. The hybrid combines heat and air conditioning with a complete air exchange system that filters out 95 percent of airborne particles.

In speccing the home, Pryde + Johnson made extensive use of locally sourced materials, including paints, windows, countertops, brick masonry, and framing. Buying local helped reduce the trucking miles (and gas consumption) needed to deliver materials to the construction site.

Upon completion, the builder/developer aims to have every home in the Ashworth neighborhood ( certified as LEED platinum. With their small footprints, the 20 cottages will occupy a land area that would normally hold six residential homes.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.