Remodel Green Midwest

March 19, 2007

This past Friday, I attended the Remodel Green Expo and Conference in Plymouth, Michigan. This was a one-day conference largely coordinated through the local chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). There were two rooms of exhibits by manufacturers and suppliers for products ranging from architectural salvage and materials, to home power generation systems, to lighting and plumbing manufacturers, all emphasizing green solutions for building and remodeling.

The keynote address was by David Johnston, a former remodeling contractor, who is now a consultant and author (Green Remodeling : Changing the World One Room at a Time and Building Green in a Black and White World)who spoke about climate issues and about why building greener buildings matters. Johnston prefers the term "Global Climate Change" to "Global Warming" because the effects will be more complex and catastrophic than mere warming. "Global Warming" will actually make for a colder Europe, with the Gulf Stream diverted further south by a gradually warming polar cap. In addition to talking about why greener buildings are important, he also spoke extensively about how to make better, greener buildings.

There were so many interesting exhibitors present that I didn't get a chance to see everyone I would have liked to see. Coincidentally, one of the manufacturers there I didn't get to see also contacted us independently of this, and is sending some product information to review, so we may be talking about their product in the near future.

I did particularly seek out and did get to see a number of exhibitors dealing with residential power systems (wind power, photovoltaics, etc.) Michigan is not ideally suited for any of these technologies (there are sunnier places for photovoltaics, and there are windier places for turbines (though our lakeshores are good for wind power), but, despite that, all of these can be successfully implemented here (and throughout the midwest).

Much of the audience was directly or peripherally involved in the home remodeling industry: remodeling contractors, suppliers, architects, etc. The program was less an outreach to homeowners than it was a networking opportunity for various professionals to learn more about greening their business.

Conference sessions ranged from addressing indoor air quality issues, to reclaiming wood from trees that are cleared from a site or that are lost due to disease (the Emerald Ash Borer is a problem thoughout southeast Michigan and spreading), to real estate issues, to a green remodeling roundtable. There were a number of issues that were presented that I will be addressing more fully in the next few weeks.

Remodeling is an important part of green building. While new green homes and buildings are being built every day, only a very small fraction of the population lives in new houses. For the vast majority of us, our homes were built decades ago, and upgrading our homes to the preformace standards needed for the 21st century is going to be an important part of getting to the greener world that so many of us are working toward.

(Disclosure: I was a volunteer with the organizing committee for this event.)