Asheville, NC is Eco-Friendly
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Adkins
Despite what Kermit the Frog croons, it actually is easy being green – at least in Asheville, where numerous companies, educational institutions and a growing number of private-public partnerships teach ways to save Mother Earth.
People taking on new construction and remodeling projects have a host of resources here to ensure their projects are as environmentally sound as possible. They range from large firms that can oversee building projects from start to finish to specialists in sustainable plumbing systems, energy efficiency and even green-minded interior design.
A mainstay for 40 years, Deltec Homes has built its business by creating eco-friendly round homes for its customers while teaching other builders and individuals how to reduce their energy consumption.
In addition to building new homes, Deltec’s green team works with customers throughout the year to help them find products that will reduce their environmental impact.
“In Asheville, it’s almost expected to do business this way,” says Deltec President and CEO David Hall. “The folks here hold the environment at another level.”
Deltec was instrumental in starting the BuildSmart Alliance, a nonprofit group that brings together experts in energy consumption reduction with companies from around western North Carolina that have established themselves as leaders in green building.
“We’re trying to make this a one-stop shop for homeowners, and the people in this group have years of experience and loads of integrity,” Hall says.
Deltec and another local company, The EcoBuilders, have garnered national acclaim for their building practices and were chosen to build a home for the season finale of the television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in New Orleans.
Standing at the ready for people tackling green makeovers of their own is Build It Naturally, a local business that renovated a former gas station for its headquarters, where it stocks natural, non-toxic, recycled and renewable building and interior design elements.
These businesses are just a few of many options available to people exploring ways to build or renovate spaces with the environment in mind. Several locally based Web sites provide listings of these businesses, as well as tips and advice on green home building issues and considerations, such as the Mountain Home Guide and the Sustainable Home.
The site is maintained by Phillip Gibson, director of community outreach for the Warren Wilson College Environmental Leadership Center in nearby Swannanoa. In 2008, the college cracked the top four among 10 Coolest Schools in the Sierra Club’s annual Green College Guide edition of Sierra magazine. The college has gained such recognition because of several key initiatives on campus, such as its sustainably operated farm, garden and forest that provide food and lumber for the college.
In addition, the college’s Mountain Green Lunch and Learn Series provides a forum for in-depth discussions about best practices for developing the region, with green walkabouts afterward to give participants a first-hand look at examples of what they’ve discussed.
“In everything we’re doing, we’re trying to convey the information and examples either by modeling or teaching,” Gibson says.
During the institution’s annual service day, students in the INSULATE! program weatherize homes of elderly residents.
“The students manage the entire program, from the energy audits before and after to the actual installation of insulation, and they do the actual work,” Gibson says. “The way we educate the students is by allowing them to do the work and empowering them with the contacts. I’m transferring my knowledge to the students.”
In addition, a conference the school sponsors each year on green construction issues continues to grow and attract an ever-broadening audience.
And coming soon to downtown Asheville is the National Center for Sustainability, with the structure itself planned to be “the centerpiece of a massive adaptive reuse/historic preservation and building effort,” says Development Director Steve Cochran, who is a partner in Sustainability Strategies LLC, a strategic planning and management consulting firm.
Cochran says that the center will work with groups already within the region that provide opportunities for public/private partnering while also attracting new organizations that are taking leadership roles in the sustainability movement.