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In sustainable supply

Environmentally friendly homebuilding products line area shelves

by Kim Grant


There’s a lot of excitement about going green, but it can become overwhelming at times. Luckily, the Triangle offers a bevy of sustainable building suppliers to help environmentally conscious builders and homeowners alike.


“The two big things our clients are looking for are energy efficiency and healthy indoor air,” says Betty Cross of Chapel Hill-based Silverwood Inc., which has been building green homes since 2005. Currently, the company is constructing homes in the Bingham Ridge subdivision in Chatham County, where the focus is on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Cross notes that all homes in Bingham Ridge are required to have solar hot water and at least a 2-kilowatt photovoltaic system, which converts sunlight into electricity.


Silverwood used local companies to install most of Bingham Ridge’s various solar systems — Carrboro Solar Works installed photovoltaic systems and Southern Energy Management of Morrisville installed a solar system, while solar hot water systems were installed by Solar Consultants of Carrboro.


Salisbury-based Superior Walls of North Carolina manufactures pre-cast concrete wall systems that add energy efficiency, act as a thermal barrier against a home’s exterior temperatures, and incorporate styrofoam to eliminate moisture and air flow.


“Since no air can move through the system, it causes homeowners to downsize their heating and air,” says John Cobb, regional sales manager.


“For example, someone using our system for a 9,000-square-foot house has an average cooling bill of $311 each month.”


A healthy home

In addition to energy efficiency, homeowners also are looking for healthier homes.


“People are becoming more and more aware of the fact that indoor air quality nowadays is so much more toxic than the outdoor air, and that they have to start changing the way they are living,” says Paul Toma of Common Ground Green Building Center in downtown Durham.


Common Ground, a retail store that primarily caters to homeowners, offers a variety of products to achieve a healthier home, including nontoxic paint with no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as nontoxic tints to add color.


For a healthy alternative to fiberglass insulation, many builders and homeowners are turning to UltraTouch natural cotton fiber, which is made from denim scraps and other cotton fibers.


“You can touch it and breathe it. It’s easy to install, and you don’t need a mask,” says Jessica McNaughton of CaraGreen, a Carrboro-based distributor of sustainable building products.


CaraGreen deals directly with builders, installers, architects and interior designers, but has a showroom for homeowners as well. The company sells a variety of sustainable building supplies, including cement and recycled glass countertops from Meld USA in Raleigh, as well as sustainable flooring such as bamboo.


“Bamboo is very popular with people. They like the look of it,” McNaughton says.


Toma agrees.


“Installers love it,” he says. “There’s no waste, and it’s much more durable.”


Bamboo and cork both grow quickly and are sustainable materials, and high-quality manufactured pieces are free from formaldehyde. Flooring made from reclaimed wood also is gaining in popularity.


Pittsboro-based Heartwood Pine Floors Inc. salvages antique heart pine lumber from abandoned textile mills in North Carolina and turns it into beautiful flooring.


“People are more interested in our product because they know we don’t cut down trees. We are saving trees every day,” says Larry Green of Heartwood Pine Floors.


“Being green-conscious is one factor, but the main factor is that the wood is just incredibly beautiful.”


Heartwood Pine Floors handles the remilling process at its Pittsboro location and works with builders and homeowners on selecting flooring options.


Local suppliers pride themselves on the quality of the products they provide. McNaughton explains that CaraGreen looks for a best-in-class products, which she defines as a good balance of recycled, environmentally friendly, low-carbon-footprint, and beautiful materials. Common Ground has the same commitment.


“We are doing research for people and bringing things to the marketplace that are truly green,” Toma says.


“They can feel good about what they are buying.” 


Kim Grant is a freelance writer based in Raleigh.