One way you can tell that the number of builders and customers interested in green construction is growing is the ever-rising number of requests dealers are hearing to explain what being green means. One of those dealers decided to address the issue through a Web site that's as colorful and innovative as it is informative.
TW Perry of Gaithersburg, Md., took the Excellence Award for Best Web Site because its new initiative, http://green.twperry.com/, was an impressive combination of clean layout, solid information and easy-to-access features. The site launched in July, and the dealer says it helps customers both learn about green building and see what green services and products TW Perry offers.
"Because there is so much information out there on green building, we thought it would be best to have a go-to source for our customers and clients," says Mike Moore, vice president of materials management for TW Perry. "The best way to do that was via our Web site." The company hopes that its customers will not only see the site as a resource, but will recognize that the dealer has become a resource on green building.
Moore and purchasing agent Michael Salazar did a lot of research to decide what would make it onto the site, and they continue to do so in order to keep content fresh. They attend green building forums and Webinars, find industry-approved green products, study national green building programs, and look through various publications.
"It's a constant flow of information that we pull from for what we think is relevant to our site," says Moore.
Moore and Salazar broke the site into two sections, one for homeowners and one for builders. The site opens with the sound of birds chirping and animation that flows to form two homes surrounded by a field of bright green grass. One house is the starting point for homeowners, the other for builders. The rest of the site echoes this introduction with a combination of fresh graphics, nature-inspired photographs, and earthy tones.
"We were looking to create something with an earthy feel, something to match what people thought of when they thought about green building and the environment," Moore says. "We chose graphics and colors that were all in that vein."
While the two areas of the site each have unique information, both include a part on green products and an interactive house graphic that details environmental issues in a home.
To get all the products they include in the site, Salazar and Moore contacted manufacturers, but also looked through industry-approved sources to ensure products were truly considered green, Moore says. Products are listed in the GreenSpec Directory, which notes products that meet certain green qualifications, or are certified to be environmentally friendly by a program with third-party testing, such as Greenguard or Scientific Certification Systems. The products are grouped according to category, such as caulks and adhesives, decking, and lighting.
"There are so many definitions of what green is. We wanted to make sure that what we included has been through the rigors of testing," Moore says.
The interactive house graphic started as inspiration from a feature on the Energy Star Web site, and it mixes the information from that graphic with original content. The TW Perry graphic is a cartoon drawing of a house, enhanced with animation. Users click on rooms to get more information on how to be environmentally conscious in that area of the home. For example, after clicking on the deck of the house, a user learns that choosing sustainably harvested wood for a deck is a green option, as is using plastic or composite decking with recycled content.
"It was a way to contain a lot of information in what we consider to be a fun and active way," Moore says.
TW Perry also made sure to include information specific to homeowners or builders.
"Our builder-clients are looking for information that is distinctly different from the end user, or a person that is going to have work done for them," Moore says.
Homeowners can read about how homes relate to environmental issues, such as clean air and sustainable forestry, and learn how to keep a healthy home environment. This section is called "Green @ Home." Tips include making sure your house is oriented to make best use of sunlight, using locally produced products and materials, investing in double pane windows with a low-E coating, and using low-VOC paints.
In another section, consumers can access a list of green builders that TW Perry recommends. To be included on the page, builders or contractors provide proof that they have "an overall corporate commitment to green building," Moore says. The proof can take a variety of forms, such as green certifications, past green training, and past green building projects.
Along with products and the interactive graphic, builders can access other resources. A section called "Green Building Basics" covers the basic environmental issues that most green building standards address: lot design, prep, and development; resource efficiency; energy efficiency; water efficiency; indoor environmental quality; and operation, maintenance, and education.
A section called "Green Building Programs" gives builders background information for the major green building programs: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the NAHB's National Green Building Program, Green Globes, Energy Star's Qualified Homes program, and two programs local to TW Perry.
After a ton of research into green issues and half a year of planning, TW Perry is making sure that its site has the best of both worlds.