By BRYAN CORLISS
EVERETT — Dirty socks can save salmon, if they’re industrial size and part of an erosion control system at a building site.
That’s one of some 270 environmentally friendly building practices being touted by a new "Built Green" program unveiled Tuesday by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties and the King and Snohomish county governments.
The program is one of six nationwide, said Sego Jackson, the principle planner for Snohomish County.
It was developed in response to last year’s federal listing of salmon as an endangered species, Jackson said. Builders wanted to show that environmentally friendly construction can take place under a voluntary program.
"We felt it was important to demonstrate a way to our customers that we actually are a responsible builder and that we’re thoughtful about these things," said Peter Orser, senior vice president of Quadrant Homes of Bellevue, which is developing two Snohomish County subdivisions using the standards.
The program establishes a rating system of one to three stars. Each new home must be built to meet state energy and ventilation codes, and water use and site development standards.
In addition, the builder must take steps in one of five other areas: building site protection, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, materials efficiency and environmentally friendly home maintenance.
This is where the socks come in. Temporary erosion control structures like the socks can reduce the amount of runoff into salmon-bearing streams, Jackson said.
So can things like adding mulch or deep compost to replace topsoil lost when a lot is cleared, he said. The organic material improves soil quality, which reduces runoff and also the amount of irrigation water needed to keep a lawn and trees healthy.
Adding these features into a home may or may not increase the purchase price, Orser said.
But long term, it will be cheaper to live in and maintain them, he said, because they’re built with more-durable materials and use energy-efficient designs and components.
And by emphasizing indoor air quality, owners of Built Green homes may be saving themselves thousands of dollars in health care costs over time, Jackson said. Asthma, which affects more than one in 10 Washington residents, has been linked to indoor air pollutants, he said.
Further, having a Built Green home could mean a better mortgage, Jackson said. Fannie Mae, the federal home-lending agency, has included the King-Snohomish county program in a pilot "Green Mortgage" program.
The program gives buyers credit for energy savings they get with Built Green houses while calculating payments, he said.
And it doesn’t always come down to dollars, Orser added.
"People, particularly in the Northwest, make buying decisions on principles," he said. With a Built Green home, "You’re making a contribution … That makes people feel good."
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