March 10, 2008


Home builders, remodelers go ‘green’

Home Show

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Carole Fisher, community educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, demonstrates the differences in power usage between incandescent and fluorescent household lighting Saturday at the 20th Annual Builders and Remodelers Association’s Home Show.

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — Whether they were showing window units, appliances, floor plans or patios, one common theme among vendors at the Tompkins-Cortland Builders and Remodelers Association show this year was “going green.”
There is a growing awareness among homebuilders and buyers today of environmentally-friendly practices and materials, and the builders at the association’s annual expo, called “Ideas ‘08,” held this year in Tompkins Cortland Community College’s field house, almost all had some new, “greener” products and services.
There were windows with better insulation to keep heating costs down. Carina Planet-Friendly Homes showcased its modular home units that are insulated in some cases with a soy-based compound, and nearby, the Earth Care Market demonstrated solar tankless water heaters.
Carole Fisher, a community educator with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, said eco-friendliness is much more on the public mind than it was 10 years ago.
She was working Cooperative Extension’s booth at the expo, handing out information about energy-efficiency, radon testing, and the dangers of lead-based paint.
“There are state programs available to help offset the cost of eco-friendly building,” Fisher explained.
The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority provides incentives for homeowners and builders to use solar and wind energy. According to its Web site, NYSERDA has $13.8 million in incentive funds to distribute to eligible solar power users through 2009.
The Cooperative Extension’s booth included a hands-on demonstration of the different amounts of power used by different varieties of light bulbs and household appliances such as hair dryers and fans.
A stationary bicycle hooked to a generator allowed visitors to actually feel the difference between traditional incandescent light bulbs and new fluorescent light bulbs.
As the rider pedaled the bicycle, the energy generated powered a board with eight light bulbs mounted on it — four incandescents, and four fluorescents.
 Fisher turned each on with a corresponding switch, and the amount of energy needed to power the lights would affect the resistance of the bike’s pedals, making it tougher to pedal as the power load got larger.
Fairgoers found that lighting up one incandescent bulb took about the same amount of energy as lighting up four fluorescent bulbs.
Fisher said green building means more than reducing the harmful effects on the environment caused by construction — it also involves increasing the efficiency with which homes and other buildings use energy.
For builders, that translates to using more recycled materials, better insulation and more efficient floor plans.
The fair is the annual money-generating event for the Tompkins-Cortland Builders and Remodelers Association, which uses the funds to provide scholarships to potential tradesmen and to provide charity assistance to local agencies such as the Red Cross and SPCA, said Kevin McMahon, president of the local builders and remodelers group and of KJM Contracting Inc.
A portion of the revenue from the fair is also donated to local Habitat for Humanity chapters, he said.
Although parts of the rest of the country are struggling to deal with a housing slump, McMahon said the Tompkins and Cortland county areas are relatively insulated from the effect of the market downturn.
“The New York state market is less affected than the rest of the country,” he said. “That has more to do with huge expansion areas.”
McMahon explained that even when new home construction slows down in this area, the slack is usually picked up in remodeling contracts.
“It might have an impact on the direction of the buyer,” he said. “But they’re still going to buy something. The money’s there, the difference is how they decide to spend it.”