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Ridgeland builder wants to see more green homes in Mississippi

Smith sold on ‘Green’ building

Mississippi homes are starting to go green and that gives David Smith a sense of satisfaction. The Ridgeland residential builder has been building in the Jackson metro market for 15 years and was the state’s first certified green professional home builder under the National Association of Home Builders’ program.

He became interested in green certification a few years ago when he built his own home as energy efficient as possible.

“I have always tried to build a better house,” he said. “I paid attention every time I heard something about green building in other states and tried to learn.”

There were no programs in Mississippi but he took a three-day class at a conference in New Orleans. After completion of the program, Smith had to find someone to become certified to verify any green building he did. He completed a green home last October in Rankin County, the first certified in the state by the National Association of Home Builders.

“It doesn’t look like a weird, flying saucer home either,” he said. “Also, it didn’t cost a lot more to build it to the gold level although building to the bronze level would have added more cost to it.”

Smith is sold on the features and advantages of building green. Beginning with the direction a house is facing, green components can include insulated windows, proper sizing of the heating/cooling system, using local and recycled materials, higher R value insulation in walls and ceilings, tankless hot water heater and energy efficient appliances.

“I could go on and on about these features,” he said. “Driving by, you wouldn’t know these are green houses. The extra costs will be recouped in 18 months in energy savings. We can build better in Mississippi. One day green won’t even be a word; it will be normal.”

He has completed two more certified green homes in Rankin County and is working on a 3,900-square-foot, custom-designed home in Ridgeland that will be certified.

Smith is also building the fundraiser home for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson. This year it too will be a certified green home. The 1,883 square foot home is located in the Providence subdivision in Madison County. He hopes to complete it in early May. Following a ticket-selling campaign, the home will be given away in August.

“I’ve built for them before and this year asked the hospital to do it green,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of materials and services donated, including the services of the verifier who will certify it as a green home.”

A past president of the Home Builders Association of Mississippi, Smith feels it’s a good time now while construction is slow for other builders to become educated about green building. Toward that goal, he started a Building Green Works committee with the association’s Jackson chapter. The committee had a booth at the recent Home Products Extravaganza.

“There was a lot of interest. We gave out a lot of literature and people asked good questions,” he said. “We want people to do anything instead of just doing nothing. It can even be as simple as putting in low-flush toilets.”

Energy can be conserved in old houses too by updating systems and appliances. “Even the way things were installed in the past wasted energy,” he points out. “Duct tape is used on ducts in attics. In our climate it doesn’t stick well and has air blowing out at the seams. We now have mastic tape that sticks better and makes the seams tighter.”

This builder sees a bright future for green homes in Mississippi once more people understand the concept.

“It’s building your house better; that’s all it is,” he said. “We’re all concerned with energy use and the amount of carbon we put on the earth. These resources will be here in our life time, but they will cost a lot more and our children won’t have it so easy.”

He applauds the tax incentives in the federal stimulus package that includes a 30% tax deduction on alternative heating/cooling systems. A builder can get $2,000 in tax credits for selling a certified green home in 2009.

“We’re trying to get the state to give some credits, but have not had much success. It will be slow to change here,” Smith said. “A lot of states have green programs in place, and we want a program that is used and supported here.”

He and his family are happy with their green home. He is now studying to build his next home “really green” and hopefully off the power grid. He also wants to have his own water/sewage treatment and thermal heating/cooling system.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at lynn@lynnsdesk.com.


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