Code Green: Building Healthier Homes

When people hear the word construction, some may see the brown of mud and soil, or the gray of concrete. But top home builders and suppliers envision--green. CNBC's Diana Olick reports from the 2007 International Builders' Show, where firms are "cashing in" on environmental awareness.

The Realty Check blogger told "Morning Call" that the convention, in Orlando, Fla., is highlighting the evolving trend toward green technology. Sherwin-Williams -- with its now-quaint logo of a paint can drowning a globe -- is pushing its low-vapor, higher-stability decorative products. (The centennial company should be credited with launching its GreenSmart brand in 2005.)

The eco-swing may be less about saving the earth than saving money, however: As National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) President David Pressly said, "Any prudent homeowner or builder will ask: 'What can I do to lower costs?'." What they can do, according to show exhibitors, is purchase energy-saving products and appliances from manufacturers like 3M, Whirlpool, and General Electric (owner of CNBC's parent, NBC Universal.)

At the show, Pressly is joining International Code Council (ICC) President Wally Bailey and ICC CEO Richard P. Weiland to push a joint effort to transform the NAHB's voluntary Model Home Green Building Guidelines to an American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard.

And beyond the micro level, the convention showed off the macro: specifically, two pre-fab, fully green-designed houses in sunny "downtown Orlando." Builders at the show reportedly have some 100 such green homes under construction.

Related news: Building firms may see profit in ecological awareness, but do not necessarily want such awareness foisted upon them. The NAHB reported a victory for the sector, when the U.S. District Court in D.C. ruled on Jan. 30 that builders and developers are exempt from requiring a federal Clean Water Act permit to operate construction equipment in wetlands -- unless they are dredging or filling them in, with so-called "additional" material. The anti-regulatory ruling is expected to be a big cost-saver -- just make sure you boil your water before drinking, one muses.