Not too many years ago the local homebuilding industry was the scourge of the environmental movement. Developers were seen as gobblers and scrapers of the ecosystem with no consideration of anything beyond maximizing profits. Builders were denuding the forest with an insatiable demand for more lumber. Growth was a cancer.
In New Mexico, however, a solid core of progressive, innovative builders and developers has been part of the landscape for decades. Going back to the self-reliant youthful enthusiasm of the ‘60s and ‘70s, this now aging batch of baby boomers and their younger colleagues have shepherded a green building movement that has been grabbing national attention.
When 75 percent of newly permitted homes in Albuquerque routinely earn Home Energy Rating System (HERS) ratings below 60, meaning a 30 percent more energy-efficient home than a current code-built home, it is safe to say the market paradigm has shifted. It is true that a huge tax credit called the New Mexico Sustainable Building Tax Credit is primarily responsible for the paradigm shift. Unfortunately, that credit is set to expire in a couple of years, but there is no question that even the huge, publicly traded builders are now in the game to demonstrate the most efficiency. The race to net-zero energy is on!
The consequence is a transformation of the homebuilding industry that is radical and ongoing. The recent explosion in the percentage of “green-built” homes has fueled a new green economy that prevented the Great Housing Depression from being much worse than was experienced. The growing maturity of that green economy means new ideas for business and trade associations.
Both Santa Fe and Albuquerque Home Builders associations have large and active green building councils whose members are seen nationally as pioneering stalwarts of the green building movement. The time has come for those members to lead their industry into a wider green market and become members of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce.
I’m not suggesting that they should trade one organization for another, because they should not. Green building councils are about educating their membership on the fast-moving developments of the industry. The Green Chamber is about broadening their market reach and recognizing the importance of coalition advocacy on issues that promote the bottom line of their businesses.
Kim Shanahan is executive officer of the Santa Fe Area Homebuilders Association, a nonprofit trade association in the Santa Fe, Taos, Angel Fire and Los Alamos areas. 505.982.1774, www.sfahba.com