Kansas City housing slump slows green home building

Kansas City housing slump slows green home building

by Eric Hartz

Residential green building is off to a slow start in Kansas City, in part because of the slumping housing market.

"We've certainly seen an increase in interest recently, but I think we're a little bit behind other areas," says Kenneth Riead, the U.S. Green Building Council's Residential Green Building Advocate. "We had a couple of green developments going gangbusters, but the housing market bottomed out and they kind of fell off the radar."

Even though there are no LEED-certified residences in the greater Kansas City area, four projects are registered with LEED and plan to pursue certification in 2008.

Habitat for Humanity Kansas City completed one green home in December, and will pursue LEED certification after work on the landscaping is complete. "There are just a few components we need to finish up," says Craig Colbert, the building administrator for Habitat KC.

The three-bedroom house on Michigan Avenue features a geothermal heating and cooling system and precast concrete walls in the foundation. The home also has passive solar design, which uses the winter sun to help heat and light the house, and keeps the summer sun out by the positioning of windows and the placement of the home on the lot.

"This was a special build for us," says Rebecca Dye, the marketing and public relations director for Habitat KC. "It's something of a prototype in green building technology for Habitat for Humanity. We wanted to make a safe and good-quality home and utilize some of that technology in an urban setting."

The Metropolitan Energy Center also has plans to complete a green renovation this year. Construction on Project Living Proof, at 917 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd., will begin this spring and should finish by August.

The house, originally built in 1911 in the Rockhill District of Kansas City, Mo., is designed to be a show house after the renovation. With a slew of green features such as a geothermal heating and cooling system, solar hot water heating and photovoltaic panels, rain barrels, Xeriscaping, recycled or reclaimed wood and low-VOC paints, the overhaul is aiming for LEED platinum status.

"We want to demonstrate many kinds of technology," says Bob Housh, the executive director of the MEC.

In Fairway, Kan., Bill Howie is set to break ground on what he calls his "dream project."

"I've been wanting to build an energy-efficient house for 30 years, and the money, location and time to do it finally came along," Howie says.

By the end of the summer, Howie will have a new home with structural insulated panels, a ground source heat pump, radiant floors, a ventilation recovery system, passive solar design and photovoltaic cells that could generate up to 50 percent of the home's energy needs.

Howie says he's shooting for at least LEED gold certification. "I'm only going to do this once, and I want to do the best I can afford to do," he says. "I've always cared about the environment and thought that we're using too much of it."

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