April 21, 2016 | Barb Livingstone
Doing it rightCorporate social responsibility plays into homebuilders' decisions to go green
If you do the right thing corporately, the rewards will come.
That's the succinct explanation of how social responsibility can affect a company's bottom line from the president of one of Alberta's largest homebuilders.
Reza Nasseri's Landmark Group of Companies not only builds about 800 homes annually; it is one of the greenest homebuilders in the province.
"If you don't do something to protect the environment, it is a crime," said the electrical engineer. "I've been pushing this (green building practices) for a long time."
In 2011, Landmark opened the world's largest, fully mechanized manufacturing housing facility, reducing home construction costs while cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than five tonnes per home by building them indoors.
Its homes already have above-average EnerGuide ratings (standard measure of a home's energy performance). By the end of this year, all homes Landmark builds will also be, at minimum, net zero-ready (needing only solar panels to produce as much energy as they use), said Nasseri.
In 2013, the company built one of the first net-zero communities in Canada — a 14-unit Edmonton townhome project. That same year, Landmark was named one of Canada's best-managed companies, and in 2014, expanded operations into the U.S., including plans for a second manufacturing facility.
Nasseri said to date, his company has absorbed the extra costs of net-zero homes, to help build stronger communities.
"In the end, it's about building the best house possible. If you do right by your customers, you always get rewarded," he said.
The need to address GHG emissions was also behind creation of BuiltGreen Alberta in 2003.
The program, which promotes sustainable homebuilding practices and has since expanded across Canada, was spearheaded by Jayman MasterBuilt, which recognized energy costs would continue to climb and that GHG emissions needed to be addressed, said David Bengert, who led the initiative at the behest of president Jay Westman.
Bengert, now vice-president of MasterBuilt Hotels, said the industry was ahead of government – "and still is" – when it came to energy-efficiency leadership.
"We were green before it was fashionable," he said. "And we used our experiences building greener homes as research and development."
Bengert estimates more than 20,000 homes have been built under the BuiltGreen banner across the country, resulting in tens of thousands of tonnes of GHG savings.
"It is fine to talk about doing something; we actually did something," he said, noting Jayman has consistently been named as a best-managed company with a blend of fiscal and corporate social responsibility.
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