Eco-friendly builder takes his craft home

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When Mike Kerwin quit the advertising business to build a green home seven years ago, his mother asked him which shade of green he would make these houses.

Now, he’s a leader in a growing movement that could be here to stay — thanks to thousands of eco-friendly home projects in the works across California.

Kerwin — a founding partner of LORAX Development, which has been building green homes in San Francisco — just got approved by Burlingame City Hall to build one for himself. His will be the first in Burlingame to comply with the GreenPoint Rated system, a grade assigned by third-party organization Build it Green to tell homeowners how green their homes really are.

Kerwin’s home on Margarita Avenue will feature recycled blue-jean denim insulation, wooden floors made from reclaimed mine timbers and solar panels on the roof that will heat his domestic water.

“Some of the nastiest products that are produced are building products,” he said. “When you make the right selections up front and install them in your home, it’s a much healthierliving environment.”

There are already a few people living in GreenPoint Rated homes in Sonoma County; one is now for sale at 16 Sheridan Road in Oakland. The organization is only a year old, but already thousands of homes complying with their standards are in the construction pipeline and thousands more in planning stages, said Build it Green development director Bruce Mast.

Only the greenest homes, like the one Kerwin is building for himself, receive the GreenPoint Rated label. They need at least a 15 percent increase in energy efficiency to be considered.

“Without this label you’re walking into a home with no idea whether the builder is giving you accurate information,” Mast said. “This way, the home has been evaluated by a trained and knowledgable green-building professional.”

Mast said many developers such as Kerwin’s LORAX Development are increasingly building these homes to differentiate themselves from others because of the market downturn.

The Green Building Exchange, which helps citizens in the Bay Area with their green projects from initial design to completed structure, also opened in Redwood City in July.

Some real estate agencies have even begun training their agents specifically for green homes.

“Definitely, a lot of builders are moving in that direction,” said Debra Lee, a certified EcoBroker for Prudential California Realty. “I think it could be a trend, but that definitely it’s becoming more desirable.”

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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