Five years ago, green home building was a new concept for South Carolina.
Today, the state is on the cusp of making green standard in all new homes — with some leading builders starting their own energy-efficiency programs, according to The State.
"We feel like building is definitely heading this way," said Charlie Barber, a green-building specialist for Columbia-based Essex Homes, which recently developed its own program for environmentally friendly building, eBuilt by Essex.
Essex started the program in Charlotte, where it had seen a bigger demand, and expanded it to South Carolina this year.
"We just wanted to stay ahead of the curve," Barber said.
The curve is about to bend sharper.
In January, the state's builders will fall under a new building code that will require changes in the way they construct homes to make them more energy efficient, said Mark Nix, executive director of the Home Builders Association of South Carolina.
The state is adopting the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, which requires such items as efficient lighting and programmable thermostats and tighter sealing of the "envelope" around the house so that it leaks less air.
Seminars are planned in the fall to help home builders better understand the code.
Consumers who want to understand the green-building standards — as well as other green-building programs available locally — will get some help when the association launches a new website next month comparing the programs.
"It's not picking one above any others," Nix said. Instead, the site aims to lay out the basics of each program so consumers can make informed decisions, he said.
That has become more important as more green-building programs pop up, experts said.
For example, the Energy Star certification is now on its third version. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program has four levels in its residential-building program alone. The Home Builders Association also has its own certification program.
And local builders, such as Essex, are developing their own programs. Irmo-based Mungo Homes introduced HauSmart last fall. And Lexington's McGuinn Homes plans to launch its Green Your Way program this fall, which will let buyers select green home-building packages as options — from basic code up to Energy Star.