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Shady Cove urges green homes

With a new water system on tap and a proposed expansion of its urban growth boundary in the offing, many people think the city of Shady Cove is on the cusp of a building boom, and the city council is urging home builders to make it a green boom.

Shady Cove City Council passed a resolution April 5 recommending that all new home construction in the city be built according to Earth Advantage standards. Earth Advantage is a Portland-based non-profit organization that sets eco-friendly building standards and certifies green-built homes. Homes built according to Earth Advantage standards use less energy and water than standard code-built homes and result in less solid waste going to the landfill, two key reasons the program won Shady Cove approval.

Earth Advantage homes also use environmentally friendly materials, such as reclaimed or recycled wood, and combine the use of non-toxic materials with air ventilation systems to ensure cleaner indoor air.

The Shady Cove resolution does not require builders to construct energy-efficient, eco-friendly homes, says Shady Cove City Administrator Elise Smurzynski.

"This resolution doesn't say anyone has to do anything," Smurzynski says. "I hope folks in the building community realize this is not a requirement, but an encouragement."

The resolution states that the city council "encourages builders and developers in the development community of Shady Cove to adopt the building practices enumerated through Earth Advantage" and that the city "encourages responsible growth that considers the community's livability and quality of life as well as growth's regional and global effect."

For the past five years, Shady Cove has averaged 34 new residential units per year. That total could increase significantly if plans for a new water system and a 100-acre expansion of the growth boundary occur. Up to now, residents in the town of 2,760 people along the upper Rogue River have received their water from approximately 1,000 private wells.

"Given the uniqueness of the expansion that's going to happen there, this is an opportunity for a community facing development to influence this change," says Steve Vincent, an Earth Advantage board member and Oregon Economic Development Director with Avista Utilities.

Vincent made a proposal to Shady Cove City Council in March asking the city to endorse the Earth Advantage program for builders. Avista is poised to expand service into Shady Cove because of the growth that is anticipated there, Vincent said.

"They've embraced it and it's a great thing," Vincent says of the council resolution.

Hundreds of homes in the Portland and Bend areas have been built according to Earth Advantage standards, but Southern Oregon builders have been slow to adopt energy-efficient and eco-friendly techniques that are gaining popularity across the nation.

To date, just 34 Earth Advantage homes have been built in Southern Oregon.

That seems to be changing, says Sean Penrith, executive director of Earth Advantage. He says the organization has received a "barrage" of requests in recent months from builders, architects, real estate agents and others interested in green building. As a result, the group is establishing an office in Medford.

While the group has been successful in advancing its program with individual builders across the state-and has worked with cities such as Wilsonville to build clusters of green homes-this is the first time a city anywhere in the country has endorsed the green concept for all future construction.

"Here we have a chance to culture and nurture growth in an entire city," Penrith says.