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BuildChat: Green builder Michael Matson talks healthier homes and misconceptions

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Chat with Michael Matson for a few minutes and you’ll learn his philosophies about green building balance passion, practicality and wit. For this week’s BuildChat, Matson advises builders to take steps toward greener construction, but only within your client’s budget and comfort zone.

What’s the biggest misconception about green building?
In my particular market: That old building methods are somehow “green” while newer building technologies are not. I’m often asked to do “strawbale” or “cordwood” or “adobe.” While those methods may (or may not) be green — depending on sourcing — they’re certainly not as durable. The other mythconception is that green equals more expensive. It can, but that’s not a universal truth.

You use the phrase “a healthier home.” What makes a home healthy?
Lack of toxins in the environment. Toxins can come from a variety of sources — including the inhabitants. In building, two of the most common sources of toxins are paint and flooring. But that’s hardly an exclusive list. But pollen and dust mites and other things can also be present in the home. Air flow is critical to a healthy home.

What drives decision-making for your clientele: Cost or conscience?
In a word: Yes. I haven’t had a client yet where vision and cost didn’t collide at some point in the process. Sometimes easily, sometimes grudgingly. Now more than ever, folks in my market are pinching pennies. Green has to equal savings for it to even be considered.

Which climate provide the best opportunity for green building?
Right now, the homebuilding market definitely seems short of opportunities — in my market, anyway. Some kinds of commercial building seem to be shaping up, and some of those projects are green.

With spec homes so scarce, how and when should builders experiment with green building?
That’s a tough one in any environment, thanks to our lovely tort system. My preference has always been to experiment with the customer’s permission. Something they’re interested in pushing the envelope on, knowing they’re out there, pushing the technological envelope.

Look into your crystal ball: Where is green building in 2021?
Dude! I’ll be retired. Seriously, though, it’ll be the building standard for all buildings that contain conditioned space I should imagine. And it will affect those that don’t have conditioned space (garages, etc.) to the extent that toxic chemicals, are, even now, being removed from building materials.

Note: We conducted this interview via Twitter, using the tag #buildchat to label and track the discussion. Follow @integritywindow on Twitter for information about upcoming #buildchat interviews.