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Printed from the Charlotte Observer - www.CharlotteObserver.com
Posted: Friday, Aug. 08, 2008

Turnout at ‘green' class surprises the instructor

ALLEN NORWOOD
Published in: Allen Norwood

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If you're interested in a “green” home, John Ring can help. You just have to attend classes he teaches beginning later this month.

You won't learn whether brand X water heater is “greener” than brand Y. He won't tell whether bamboo floors from China are easier on the environment than linoleum floors from England. He will prepare you to make more informed home improvement choices for yourself.

But don't dawdle if you're interested – or someone else will grab your seat.

Ring teaches building sciences through Central Piedmont Community College. The school recently introduced a “green” construction course. He was startled by the turnout: 33 people showed up for the 30 spaces in his classroom.

Ring said about half the seats were taken by homeowners, and the rest by remodeling pros. CPCC's fall catalog says the course is designed for both.

The homeowners had general questions, rather than questions about specific appliances or components. “They'd been reading about how to reduce their carbon footprint and wanted to learn more. Or they wanted to learn in a lot more depth how to make their home energy-efficient.”

And some asked informed, sophisticated questions: “Some of them could have taught the course,” Ring said with a chuckle.

Ring also was impressed that the contractors were interested enough in green construction techniques to sit in class after working all day.

Many were members of NARI, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. It offers a new green certification program to its members, and Ring's class helps Charlotte remodeling contractors qualify.

“Green” is trendy right now. (And so overused that we've coined the label “greenwashing” for advertising campaigns pitching things as green that really aren't.)

For contractors, green certification is certainly a marketing tool.

But Ring said most of the pros seemed interested in more than just earning initials to stick after their names. “Several companies had several people there, which is a real commitment,” he said. “I think most of them have a serious interest in doing things better, period.”

The NARI certification program is impressive, too. To earn the certification, in addition to completing classes like those at CPCC, contractors must have at least five years of experience, and must have conducted remodeling projects using green practices or products for at least three years. They must pass a daylong exam. Ring is familiar with the NARI program because he had to earn certification.

Home construction technology is changing so rapidly that it's hard to keep up. And the stakes are rising right along with energy prices and environmental concerns.

Ring had an overflow crowd for his last green construction course, and predicts that CPCC will offer more continuing education classes to meet demand in the future.

If you're interested, Ring's course, Green Building and Remodeling, begins Aug. 26 and runs 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Nov. 18. It's at CPCC's Harper Campus off Arrowood Road. The cost is $140.

For more information or to register, visit www1.cpcc.edu. And if you're looking for a remodeling contractor, you can find out more about NARI's certification process at www.nari charlotte .com.

Allen Norwood: homeinfo@charlotteobserver.com or 704-358-5035

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