Clark County taking green ‘to the masses’

Planet Clark trailer will travel to tout benefits of energy efficiency

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Clark County commissioners last year adopted the National Green Building Standard as a voluntary code for residential buildings; builders had been asking the county for a uniform set of green guidelines to appease customers seeking more efficient homes.

Now, the county will take its energy-efficiency act on the road to get more homeowners to think green.

Commissioners Marc Boldt and Steve Stuart attended the dedication of Planet Clark, a trailer outfitted with energy-saving and environmentally friendly ideas, on Wednesday outside of the Clark County Public Service Center in downtown Vancouver.

Boldt said it’s easy to say the county advocates sustainable practices, but the trailer will make a stronger statement than an ordinance. He said the county aims to help people save money while helping the environment.

Mike Selig, the county’s energy-efficiency services coordinator, said during a work session with Stuart and Boldt before the dedication that approximately 20 local businesses donated items and materials for the trailer. Clark Public Utilities, Northwest Natural and Energy Trust worked with the county on the trailer.

“The goal is to get into neighborhoods and talk to people,” Selig said. “This is a mission that could go on for many years.”

The trailer, which includes countertops made from sustainable materials, a ductless heat pump and a gas fireplace with a bamboo mantle, is designed to change with the latest trends, Selig said.

Its first stop will be at the Clark Public Utilities Home & Garden Idea Fair running Friday through Sunday at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, 17402 N.E. Delfel Road in Ridgefield.

Heidi Olsen of Vancouver’s Ecolution NW, Inc., which sells and installs eco-friendly floors, tiles and countertops, said the countertops in the Planet Clark trailer were made using Richlite. A Tacoma company makes the durable material out of paper.

When people are inquiring about green products but aren’t sure what they are looking for, they sometimes need convincing that they will work.

Olsen, who attended Wednesday’s dedication, said she thinks the trailer will be a great educational tool.

“It’s taking it to the masses,” Olsen said. People can touch it and more easily imagine what it would look like in their own homes.

Same goes for items such as the ductless heat pump air handler, which was mounted above the gas fireplace.

The bulky white object wouldn’t get a second glance installed in an apartment in Europe, but might pique curiosity here. Selig said Clark Public Utilities has installed 1,500 ductless heat pumps as part of a pilot project — the program targets homes that now heat with ceiling cables, or baseboard or wall heaters — and only one person has had a complaint about aesthetics.

Before the dedication, Selig told Stuart and Boldt that homeowners are warming to the National Green Building Standard. He said 30 NGBS homes are in the planning stages locally. More homeowners are also taking the county up on its offer to do free heating duct and home performance inspections, he said. The county has one inspector, and it takes a little more than a month to get an appointment.

For more information on the county’s energy efficiency services department, go to http://www.planetclark.com.