Watch the green buildings grow |

Watch the green buildings grow

The sound of power drills and nail guns echoed off the concrete paneled walls of the new BriarPatch Market building in Grass Valley recently.

The building marks the first privately funded retail center in Northern California to use the guidelines for sustainable construction required for recognition by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or L.E.E.D.

It’s one of many steps the construction trade is taking toward a greener way of doing business.

“This whole thing is really taking off right now,” said Tim Brady, owner of TruLine Builders in Grass Valley, the company building the new BriarPatch store on Sierra College Boulevard.

Green building is growing in California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order in 2004 to establish a priority for reducing energy use in all state buildings by 2015 and encouraging the private sector to set similar goals.

Because environmental requirements are stiffer in California, builders in this state are further ahead than in other parts of the country.

“There are so many laws inherent in building that they are becoming greener than they were ten years ago,” said Brian Washko, director of building for the Nevada County.

This year, the state energy code includes a law requiring new construction to use 15 percent less energy.

Coliseum strength

L.E.E.D is a certification process established by the U.S. Building Council that gives guidelines for sustainable construction.

Builders of the new World Trade Center in New York City are using L.E.E.D recommendations.

At the BriarPatch site, green techniques that will qualify the market for L.E.E.D. certification include a goal of recycling 90 percent of its waste at the building site, building a retention pond to catch runoff from the parking lot, using trusses made of 90-percent recycled automobile steel, and a white roof to lower the roof’s temperature.

One of the biggest green components is the use of fly ash in the cement foundation, floors, curbs, sidewalks and planters.

The cement was provided by the local company R.J. Miles Co., also known as Grass Valley RediMix. Owner Scott Miles said the company has been fusing recycled and traditional products long before the term “green” was ever conceived.

The Miles Co. has been using fly ash – the waste product of the coal burning industry – in its concrete for years because it makes a more durable, waterproof concrete.

“It’s our standard mix,” Miles said.

It is one of the oldest materials used in building: A similar product of volcanic ash and lime was used by the Romans to build the Coliseum.

Today, fly ash can safely be used to replace as much as 25 percent of Portland Cement, thus reducing the energy cost of making the cement.

Brady estimates 1,500 bags of Portland cement were replaced by the fly ash in building the new BriarPatch.

“There’s a huge win-win,” said Brady.

In recent years, more people in the construction industry have requested fly ash from concrete company Hansen Bros. as well. While the company doesn’t carry the product now, owner Orson Hansen said he is considering it.

Construction industry recycles

In July, the McCourtney Road transfer station adopted a new recycling program to curb the generated by construction and demolition, which makes up 27 percent of the waste of the landfill.

Now, seven percent of those materials – or 1200 tons of lumber, masonry, dry wall and roofing – that otherwise would be dumped at the transfer station has been recaptured for recycling.

The program is part of the county’s goal to satisfy a state mandate to recycle half its waste. Currently, Nevada County’s recycling rate stands at 45 percent.

“We’re close. We’re getting closer,” said Ben Chambers, recycling technician for the county Department of Transportation and Sanitation.

Now, the cost to dump construction waste equals the cost of recycling, but Chambers hopes the recycling fees will go down and encourage more companies to use the facility.

Concrete is not accepted at the transfer station and can be recycled at Hansen Bros. or shipped out of county. A concrete crushing facility is supposed to be up and running by next summer.

Future is green

“I think the thing that really tips the scale is when it effects their pocketbook,” said Jonathan Hill, systems engineer and owner of 26-year-old Sierra Solar Systems.

He says a fear of rising energy costs is driving mainstream buyers to look into alternatives such as solar.

Extra research time, limited distribution of materials and the need to request special items can raise the cost of green construction by five to 10 percent, Brady said.

But most of those expenses are offset by energy and other savings in the long run, he said.

“It just takes a little more intention,” Brady said. “Some of the green building isn’t a payback for the person doing it. It’s payback for the world.”


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

To learn more

The construction and demolition area at the McCourtney Road Transfer Station:

A green building consortium is planned for mid-February.

Resources for green building

Tru-Line Builders 272-8282

Better Building Systems, 477-8017:

Fred Stoenner/ Architect, 274-9418:

David Wright Associates, AIA, Solar and Energy Engineering, 477-1218:

Viridian Development, Inc., 274-8578

Sierra Solar Systems, 273-6754:

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