Austin, Texas builder Clark Wilson has been in the homebuilding industry for over twenty five years, serving as president of Doyle Wilson Homebuilder, Inc. and then as CEO of Clark Wilson Homes, Inc. before retiring in 2002. Eager to get back into home building and aware of the growing demand for green homes, Mr. Wilson took over a small company named Green Builders, Inc. in 2007 with the goal of turning it into the largest builder and developer of green homes and communities in the United States. Only a year old, Green Builders, Inc. has already won the award for 2008 Single Family Affordable Home of the Year by the National Association of Home Builders.
When considering his return to home building in 2007, Mr. Wilson decided that the world did not need another behemoth home builder. “Austin is a hotbed of green,” said Mr. Wilson. “We’ve had green building programs since the 80s. With Green Builders, Inc., we wanted to bring green building to the masses.” By shifting building priorities toward saving money through energy and water savings, and by seeking out environmentally friendly products that don’t drive up the price of the home, green building has made traditional non-green building, in Mr. Wilson’s estimation, obsolete. “We’re priced competitively to non-green builders. They’re going to have to catch up. Green building needs to be widespread. We want to position ourselves as the Whole Foods of homes.”
While Mr. Wilson admits that the interest in green homes is for green as a whole – energy savings, earth-friendly products, and indoor air quality – at the end of the day the energy savings, with the obvious money savings, is the main factor in convincing someone to buy a green home. But that doesn’t mean a green builder should give up on offering earth-friendly products. “It’s our job as builders to find those green products that don’t drive up the price of the home. That would be like asking people to pay extra for seatbelts.”
Green Builders, Inc. homes are built to ENERGY STAR and NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and range from 1600 to 3300 square feet. Each of the homes is solar ready, meaning the owner can easily upgrade to solar power if they choose. The attics are sealed with icynene foam, increasing the efficiency of the A/C unit. As Mr. Wilson puts it, “The house is an igloo cooler.” Windows are placed higher on the wall and the roof is built with larger overhangs to help keep the house cool in the Austin summer. Tankless water heaters save water and energy. Water used in landscaping is reduced through the use of drought resistant sod and plants, and the lawn’s topsoil requires only 1″ of water a week. The downspouts lead to 53 gallon water recycling barrels.
Evidence of recycling or minimizing waste can be found throughout the houses. The lumber may be finger-jointed, which allows for smaller pieces to be used together, limiting waste. Oriented strand board is used, which is environmentally preferable to particle board or plywood. The floors throughout the houses can be bamboo or carpet made from recycled plastic soda bottles. The metal siding on the houses is made from recycled metal. “The siding might have been a 1978 Chevy Nova,” jokes Mr. Wilson.
In addition to using low-VOC paints, stains, and adhesives, Mr. Wilson points to the HVAC system and the use of an Aprilaire ventilation system for the increased air quality of Green Builders, Inc. homes: “Too many builders put in massive, oversized A/C units that kick on and off all day, wasting energy. If the system is sized properly, the A/C unit is running longer at a lower power, saving energy and cleaning and dehumidifying the air, resulting in much healthier air.”
Mr. Wilson sees consumers, rather than lawmakers, as the driving force for green building. “If people like us can offer green homes at an affordable price then consumers will choose green.”