Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sustainable Buildign Advisor in TRAINING

Hey there!

I just wanted to let you know that I took the leap of cash and signed up for the sustainable building advisor class being offered at COCC to 30 lucky individuals. At the end of nine months I will be able to take a test to become a Sustainable Building Advisor - a new designation given to people with more than a cursory knowledge of sustainable building techniques and principles. I am very excited. I have homework for the first time since I graduated from college (Seattle University)!

So...what's more appropriate for a blog than my first assignment. The question we're supposed to comment on is: “What are the benefits, pitfalls of approaching sustainable building from a philosophical position?”

Here's my answer. It's kind of long (1 1/2 pages) and I'm not a tremendous writer, so bear with me. I'd love to hear / read your comments if you have time and the inclination.

Enjoy these EPIC FALL COLORS! I was at Shevlin for a run yesterday at 4 pm and couldn't believe the backlit leaves - so pretty!


PS. Oh...the paper.

Eric Marley
October 11, 2007
SBA Class

“What are the benefits, pitfalls of approaching sustainable building from a philosophical position?”

As a contractor, I have had the opportunity to not only think about this question, but to make serious business decisions based on my philosophical position as it pertains to the environment. I came into the building industry in a unique way; a friend of mine needed some assistance in his growing general contractor’s business in the office. He really did need help – he was keeping most of his receipts in cardboard boxes and the rest, well, they just kind of vanished. I’m certain his accountant hated him. I know a lot of his clients did. Over 18 months, I was able to get him a system that worked for him and kept his clients apprised of their progress financially. About that time he decided he needed to cut overhead, and I was the bulk of it, so I left. I was ready anyway. After watching him, I decided I could do it as well, so I got my general contractor’s license, lined up a couple pre-sold build jobs and went after it.

What does this have to do with building from a philosophical position? Well, since I had never been on a jobsite before (office geek exclusively), the first thing I noticed was the sheer volume of waste being generated by the framers. I was appalled and, although at the time I was decidedly less “green” than I am today, I recognized a waste of trees, not to mention lumber, not to mention money. That was my first real shift towards building greener, not just quality. I noticed right away that recycling took a time commitment. No one was sorting recyclable material from non-recyclable for me, so I took that on. It was messy and time-consuming, but it kept me on the job site and I felt good doing it. I think that this experience has been quite indicative of the bulk of my efforts to build in a more socially responsible way. Most times I take another step towards building more sustainably I find it costs more to me in time and money. There are more details to keep track of and it’s more difficult to find subcontractors that are committed as well. If they like the idea but aren’t knowledgeable, I end up educating them. All this takes time. I have found in the past year since I started building again that it takes a sincere desire and solid commitment to build according to my philosophy, which has become quite green. It takes money and time; money for education and “greener” products, money to learn better practices and time to implement what I learn.

So why do I do it? Why, in this competitive market, should I make a business decision that has not been a good one from a financial perspective in the short term? This is where the benefits come in. If the pitfalls are time, money and extra effort, the one real benefit comes from the fact that I believe that all businesspeople, contractors included, need to start thinking long-term, not only short term as it applies to the bottom line. Realistically, there are limits (so far we arguably have that luxury), but wonderfully, each person sets their own limit as to the time and resources they are going to put into building and buying sustainably. I was able last week to sit in the house of a self-proclaimed green builder who made no bones about his feelings about most other self-proclaimed green builders.

“They’re not green”, he said with a disgusted look. “I hate this “green washing” – everyone says they’re green and they’re not.”

Well, to a man that single-handedly dismantles old buildings and then remills the lumber to make a new house using 95% reused materials, he’s right – hardly anyone’s green to his standards.

In the end, each contractor needs to make their own mind as to what is important and in what amounts. If green to one guy is using FSC lumber, let him sleep well, knowing he is doing something. However, given the urgent nature of the current environmental crisis, it is incumbent on the rest of us to educate this builder. We do this through gently informing without condescension as we seek mandates to coerce compliance on some issues. When the strength of his belief in preserving the world increases; when he becomes more informed and convinced of the importance to act now; if he is a man of integrity, he’ll change. He, like each of us, will learn and grow and implement more sustainable practices so that not only will he sleep with a clear conscience, but he’ll be closer to doing his part to implement the most important benefit of all – saving the environment we call earth.

Eric Marley
October 11, 2007

Monday, October 1, 2007

John Muir and my brother

John Muir said, "When one tugs at the strings of a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."

Of all the things I could write right now, especially after such an unforgivably long time since last time, it would be about this one quote. So let me take a minute and at share at least a few thoughts about it.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with a dear family member about global warming vs. commerce, science vs. pseudo-science and "the sky is falling" vs. a reliance on technology to solve our problems. Although this family member and I are close, the discussion eventually dissolved into one of elevated voices, with each side dissatisfied that their point had been truly heard, let alone understood. If I could have that conversation again with my brother, I would be tempted to start with the quote at the beginning and try to help him see the truth of that statement. My brother is not very excited about the out-of-doors; he is excited about moving his family to a big city next month. Not that that defines one's feelings for the environment, it's simply illustrative of his particular tastes. He'd rather have creature comforts than creatures, I guess, if he had to choose. My wish and hope is that I have some chance someday to talk to him more calmly this time, to convince him that that is the choice sometimes. Increasingly so. I'd like him to believe with me that, for instance, low prices on lumber most often do come at the expense of large trees and real forests - not re-planted ones that will be harvested again in a certain number of years. Furthermore, I'd like him to see that the destruction of these ecosystems affects water quality, air quality and the quality of a good hike through a forest, where filtered light comes through needles and leaves, backlighting them as brightly as colored bulbs in a darkened room. And I think that's really the crux of the argument, isn't it? I've seen how a vine maple seems to reach out to put a few leaves in an area where there seems to be a ray of light, illuminating them so that from a distance they look like bright butterflies hovering. In the autumn, how aspens are firely yellow, a color that seems to say "thank you and good night" to every observer just before they lift off to fill the ground with spun gold as they re-fertilize the ground like they've done for eons. I just don't think my brother has seen this, not often enough, anyway. I think that if I am to have any hope to convince my brother of the inherent value of the natural world, I'm just going to have to haul him out into the woods. Maybe, if we do that enough, he'll have the spiritual connection that he needs to have to see that John Muir is right, it does matter, and that it's worth some inconvenience to save it.

I hope we can all resolve, instead of trying to convince someone of the truth of the crisis we face from a scientific point of view, that we'll simply take them for a walk - punctuated by long stretches of silence - along a creek bordered by tamaracks, maples and aspens. Maybe that's the best way to convince the skeptics we all know.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Carbon Neutral?

Hey there all!

I was very intrigued by something I heard on the radio last week . A team in the UK just built what is apparently the first "carbon neutral" home in that country. That generally means that the carbon emissions from the home, those that contribute most infamously to the "greenhouse effect" we are all beginning to understand, are less than the energy the structure generates. Energy generation can be through solar or wind power, or in the case of the UK home, through a biomass boiler among other sources. Here in Central Oregon, some areas are blessed with great geothermal capabilities. The jury is still in deliberation about what exactly constitutes a "carbon neutral home". Should the calculations take into account only the final building, or the energy used to build it? Should it take into consideration the energy used to commute to and from the building? These are interesting and exciting things to debate. In the meantime, my company, Aspen Meadows Construction, is beginning to look into building a carbon-neutral home here in Oregon. It will be a real team effort, but it's an idea and project whose time has come.

Here's a link on the UK home:

Thanks for reading! And remember, Green is Good!


Sunday, June 10, 2007


Thanks to the tireless work of 3e Strategies, ENERGY INDEPENDENCE MONTH is JUNE 18-JULY 18!

· Energy Independence Month (EIM) is an initiative to empower the citizens of Central Oregon to begin the process of creating a model energy independent community. EIM will feature a series of events, publications and action campaigns that address practical ways to reduce fossil fuel dependency, increase energy efficiency, increase development of local renewable energy resources and establish community and economic development practices that reduce energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions. Upcoming Events for Energy Independence Month include:

o Commute Options Week (June 18th – 24th)
o Redmond Sustainable Development Summit (June 21st)
o Film: "Who Killed the Electric Car". (June 25th)
o Central Oregon Community College Course. Global Warming: Great Challenge, Great Opportunity (June 26th)
o Film: "Kilowatt Hours" and "Arctic Quest". (July 10th)
o Renewable Energy for the Future: Central Oregon Compared to New Zealand (July 12th)
o Creating an Energy Independent Home (July 13th)
o The Business Challenges and Opportunities of Global Warming / Climate Change (July 13th)
o Energy Independence Fair (part of Bend Summerfest) (July 14th and 15th)

Learn more about EIM at, pledge to take personal action and keep an eye out for the Central Oregon Energy Independence Guide coming out in the Source Weekly this month.

Founded last year by 3EStrategies, Energy Independence Month is being implemented by a collaboration of nonprofit organizations that make up the Central Oregon Climate Alliance, including: 3EStrategies, Central Oregon Environmental Center, Commute Options for Central Oregon , reSource and the Oregon Environmental Council. The Central Oregon Climate Alliance has come together with a shared mission of reducing dependence on out-of-state coal and foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through measures that improve health and strengthen the local economy.

To aid our efforts, the state of Oregon had officially declared the month of July Oregon Energy Independence Month!

It is the intent of the organizations implementing Energy Independence Month that our efforts will be taken up by communities in other parts of the state and country. For more information:

See for more on how you can declare your independence from energy!

Aspen Meadows Construction, a member of the 3e Strategies Builders Board is proud to bring you this info. For more, go to!

Green is good-


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Living Green - Easy, Accessible & Affordable

Green, or Sustainable Building, is a constantly evolving field. People worldwide are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that traditional building practices have on our earth. As a result, a market has been created - a green, growing, thriving market – that caters to the needs of these individuals.

Forward-thinking Builders have begun to experiment with new materials that have far less impact on the ecology of the planet versus traditional stick-framing. What’s even more exciting, many of us are beginning to turn our heads back – back to Old World, traditional materials and methods. And in some instances, old concepts such as passive solar are becoming increasingly effective as we learn what works and what does not in terms of the livability of the home.

Moreover, those of us concerned with such things realize that there can be great differences in energy efficiencies within homes. A Green Builder will take time early in the planning process to make your home as energy efficient as possible, using the newest - or oldest - technology available. Just as any Builder needs the tools to physically build your home, your Green Builder must have the latest knowledge about what can be done to make your home as green as you want it to be.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Green Too Expensive? Get A Better Builder

Recently I read an Associated Press article entitled, “’Green’: A Tough Sell for Home Builders”. The article (Bend Bulletin, March 8, 2007), stated “the National Association of Home Builders predicts a rise in green building to 10% of homes by 2010 from 2% today. However, experts say that large residential builders have been slower to respond to this trend.” According to the head of one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, consumers have been unwilling to pay for green features, assuming “green” technologies cost substantially more than traditional, non-sustainable building practices.

As a builder specializing in green – or sustainable - building practices, I take exception to the implication that consumers are not ready to adopt green technologies. I believe homeowners are willing and able to embrace green technologies into their homes to preserve Central Oregon’s environment.

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of touring and volunteering at the
3e Strategies annual Building Green and Solar Homes Tour, the largest of its kind in the nation. The homes on tour featured energy-saving mechanical systems, solar hot water or supplemental power, low VOC interior finishes, or all of the above. These homes demonstrated dozens of measures that can be taken to make a home green and perform to higher standards.

Building green just does not have to be that complex or expensive. Green building can be defined in many ways and can fit literally any reasonably conceived home-building budget. It’s often simply a matter of finding the right mix of options. If your home builder only offers options that seem too far-flung or expensive, then find a builder that will work with you to stay within your budget to build a green, more efficient home.

Green technologies are within reach of homeowners. There are builders in Central Oregon who will construct quality green homes, educate you about the options available to you, and provide outstanding customer service in the process. The Central Oregon environment and homeowners will benefit from green, sustainable technologies.