No green building in Carson - for now

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Mark Kaminsky, owner of Carson Country Construction, explains the equipment room in an east Carson City home on Thursday. The home has a number of green features, including being built with insulated concrete forms, having a solar water heating system and solar photo voltaic panels to produce electricity.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Mark Kaminsky, owner of Carson Country Construction, explains the equipment room in an east Carson City home on Thursday. The home has a number of green features, including being built with insulated concrete forms, having a solar water heating system and solar photo voltaic panels to produce electricity.

Northern Nevada developers must empathize with Kermit - after all, it isn't easy to be (or build) green.

Nor is it cheap.

"If you look at a house that has a 5,000-watt solar system - that costs in the neighborhood of $60,000 to install," said Carson-based home builder Mark Kaminsky. "You're still looking at 20 to 30 years in a home to offset that cost.

"The average person is going to stay in their home five to seven years. For a lot of people, it may not make sense and it may not be in the budget."

"That's changing fast," said Don Clark, a Carson High graduate whose Reno-based architecture firm, Cathexes, has won several regional and national design and building awards. "Sierra Pacific has a new program, there's still some tax credits.

"I think more could be done. But, I also think you're seeing national legislation push where Nevada - between sun and geothermal and wind energy - could make a big difference."

In May, Gov. Jim Gibbons vetoed his first bill, SB567, which would have suspended tax breaks for energy-efficient building projects.

The tax breaks were approved by the 2005 Legislature but they didn't anticipate the fiscal impact. Lost tax revenue for just the 10 projects that applied by April of this year would have been $974 million over the next 15 years.

So lawmakers tried to repeal the breaks, which Gibbons vetoed in May.

The two sides compromised, reducing the property tax breaks from 50 percent to a maximum 35 percent and eliminating the sales tax breaks entirely for future projects. The 10 projects already in the application process will still get the sales tax exemption.

Those include the $7.4 billion CityCenter project on the Las Vegas Strip, which will be exempted from $100 million in local and schools sales tax exemptions over three years; the Fontainebleau project in Las Vegas with nearly $38 million in sales tax exemptions; and The Palazzo, being built by the Las Vegas Sands Corp., with about $24 million in sales and use taxes.

The only major Northern Nevada project is a service center for the Patagonia company, based in Reno.

Builder Kaminsky said until the incentives trickle down to the homeowner or small business owner, Carson residents and Northern Nevada in general may see a dearth of green building projects built in the foreseeable future.

"If it makes a house $50,000 more expensive to integrate solar energy, the person building it may want to - they just can't afford it," Kaminsky said. "If you're trying to get into a house that's $300,000 to build -you just won't be able to do it."

Sheena Beaver, director of government affairs at the Builder's Association of Western Nevada, agreed.

"The way to go is green building," she said. "But it's a high expense with a little amount of cost-recovery; especially since the Legislature has taken away a lot of our incentives."

Nevada - as compared to California - is falling behind in rebates, incentives and tax exemptions for green building, Dayton-based development consultant Garry Bowen said.

"There's a bumper sticker you see here and there driving around and it's a perfect example of the mind-set in Nevada," he said. "It says: 'We don't much care how you did it in California'.

"Nevada still considers itself in a pioneer mentality, which is fine. But, what California realized is if they don't get on the stick, they're going to be in major trouble. We need to start thinking along those same lines."

In September 2000, AB970 was approved in California, ushering in seven years of new green energy supply and demand programs.

"In the (2007) Nevada Legislature there were a couple bills that came through with incentives that we were trying to get out - to encourage more green building with tax breaks," Beaver said. "They were not approved."

The newness of "green" building to the area and its amorphous definition may also be a hindrance, architects and builders say.

"Green building could be everything from people installing a high energy-efficient heating system to people building houses out of spare tires and earth berms," Kaminsky said. "It's a pretty broad spectrum. My house is 2,900 square feet and we were paying $180 a month last winter to heat it, but I don't build houses out of spare tires.

"So definitions are key."

"I guess to be fair, I'd say the reality is there's a natural ambiguity to the whole green building thing," architect Clark said. "There's no single right answer to green design, there are many, many ways to accomplish sustainability.

"People latch on to things they understand like solar: 'OK, I can get solar.' There are so many different kinds of green design and green buildings you can get there a lot of ways - there's no specific answer, to a lot of people, it can be confusing and intimidating - as you dig deeper, you start finding, it isn't that big a deal."

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219.

Going green

Ten easy ways to 'green' your home:

1) Turn down the thermostat. Lowering it by 1 degree can reduce heating energy costs by about 4 percent.

2) Use ceiling fans in the summer and winter. In winter, reversing the direction of the blades pushes warm air down, helping to keep rooms warm.

3) Conserve energy by purchasing major appliances with an Energy Star rating. Compared to a 1990 model, a new Energy Star-qualified refrigerator would save enough electricity to light a home for more than four and a half months.

4) Repair leaky fixtures: One drop per second from a leaky faucet can waste as much as 10 gallons of water each week.

5) Install low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets. Low-flow faucets reduce water consumption and the cost of heating water by as much as 50 percent; using a low-flow toilet can save Americans 2.1 trillion gallons of water and $11.3 million nationwide every day.

6) Choose carpeting, rugs, window treatments and other textiles made from natural fibers, such as cotton or wool, which are untreated and free of toxins such as pesticides or chemical cleaners.

7) Ask for flooring products made from rapidly renewable resources, such as bamboo. Bamboo is one of the fasted growing plants in the world, requiring no replanting and little fertilization or pesticides.

8) Select solid woods harvested from sustainably managed forests, when possible, for furniture or cabinetry, rather than pressed woods or composites that may contain formaldehyde or other chemicals that may be toxic and hazardous.

9) Eliminate waste by choosing products that are biodegradable or recyclable. Consider the "lifecycle" of furnishings and accessories before purchasing: Are they made of materials that can be reused or recycled when the item eventually wears out or is no longer needed?

10) Recycle packing and shipping materials from any newly purchased items, and safely dispose of paint cans and other containers with contents that could potentially contaminate the ground or water supply.

- Source: National Building Museum

Sustainable hardwoods

The Northern California-based Sustainable Hardwoods Network consists of locally owned wood products manufacturers, contractors, retailers, and nonprofit organizations committed to ecologically sustainable forest practices. The network's goal is to pass on a stable, growing and productive tradition of restoration, sustainable forest management and high-quality wood products (

Some builders who are designing 'green' here

Carson Country Construction

"Carson Country Construction is committed to building homes of exceptional quality and value that are tailored to the individual needs of each customer's lifestyle." (


"Green architecture, or sustainable design, are terms used to describe economical, energy-saving environmentally friendly, sustainable development. It describes the relationship between architecture and ecology, between design and the environment." (


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