Bill Harrington Interview – Owner of Harrington Contruction; a sustainable/green/energy efficient company

 

By Lisa Moore

Harrington Construction has taken the initiative to be a leader in sustainable/green/energy efficient construction. Owner Bill Harrington believes his company can build a better, healthier, safer and more efficient product – not only for the customer, but for the environment.

Natural Awakenings: What inspired you to become a green builder and what is your mission?

Bill Harrington: I started to become interested in high performance green construction about 5 years ago. My son was going to college studying architecture and green construction practices were discussed often in his classes. As I attended workshops and educational seminars, it became clear that this was a common sense approach to building design and construction. Since I started building in 1976, I have always strived to build the best product for my customer. With new advancements in products, programs and information, I became excited that I could become part of a program that substantiated your extra work and commitment. Since most of the items that make a difference are behind walls and ceilings, it is important to educate the homeowner that they do have “options” that make a real difference! Our mission is to educate the homeowner that there is a better way to build for them, the environment, and future generations!

NA: Explain why it’s important for a house to work as “one system.”

BH: Until air conditioning was invented, builders did consider all the things that went into a house. House position, window placement and overhangs were all considered for passive solar heating and cooling along with cross ventilation. When air conditioning became the norm, house placement was not considered necessary. As the energy crisis began to emerge, builders started making their houses more airtight. Ventilation of the house was not really considered and soon problems started to occur with indoor air quality, mold and mildew.

If you can start from the design process and look at all the components and how they affect one another, you can develop a house that works together. An example would be that if the house were positioned correctly, windows are considered for size and type and overhangs are built to the correct size. This will help heat and cool the house properly and also make the HVAC equipment work more efficiently. At the same time it makes the homeowner feel more comfortable inside the home, costs less to operate and is bettering the environment by not using so much energy. It is a win/win situation for everyone.
NA: Is it more expensive to build green and if so, how long before a homeowner can recoup costs?

BH: It costs approximately 3% – 5 % more to build a high performance green home. These costs are associated with the house certification process and the addition of certain key building practices that make a big difference on the final product. In the house we built in Belmont, there are 96 additional items that are done to the house, which is above code standards. Some of these items cost very little to implement and at the same time make a huge impact on the performance of the house. We do a “modeling” of the house at the time of design to determine your energy savings and return on investment to help determine what items would be beneficial to you. Normally a conservative figure of a 3 – 5 year return is expected on your investment. You not only save on your utility bills (50% or more), but also on your maintenance costs of the house since it is built with sustainability in mind.

NA: Why is it important to have a certification like the NC Healthy Built Home?

BH: With “green” being the buzz word today it is extremely important to have a third party certification such as the NC Healthy Built Home program. There is no clear-cut definition of the word “green” and it can take on many definitions. I prefer to use the term “High Performance Green” construction because it defines the fact that the house has to perform at a higher standard than normal code built homes. By having a third party standard and inspection, I now have a certified checklist of items that I have performed in this house that makes it better than a standard home. It is sort of like the car industry’s “Estimated Miles Per Gallon” standard. We now have a standard that the homeowner can use to see how well a house will perform in energy, water conservation, indoor air quality and sustainability.

NA: What are your thoughts about the future of building green in Charlotte?

BH: I believe the Charlotte area has a perfect opportunity to build High Performance Green homes. With so many people moving into the area, it will become a necessity. There are other areas in the state such as Asheville and Raleigh/Durham that are more advance then us. The customers we see are usually moving into the area that lived in a “green” state or they had some kind of problem with mold, mildew, allergies, etc. from a previous house. They are educated on high performance green practices. I believe the key is educating the general public that there are alternative building practices that make a big difference without breaking the bank.

Bill Harrington can be reached at 704-542-0068 or BuildingHealthy.com.

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