Building green is focus of seminar


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- One can find a little good in just about everything, even a major recession. So believe Rebecca MacLeod and Betty Beckley, a couple of self-proclaimed "tree-huggers."

The women think the lull in building activity brought on by the current recession is the perfect time for builders and homeowners to think about and learn ways to build more green and environmentally friendly homes and buildings.

Hence, the daylong Builders and Homeowners Conference Friday being held at the National Conservation Training Center on Shepherd Grade Road north of Shepherdstown. 

The women belong to Potomac Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group founded in 1969 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the county commissioners in West Virginia's eight-county Eastern Panhandle region.


MacLeod is the USDA coordinator of the group in the eight counties and Beckley is a board member.

The group and the National Conservation Training Center are co-sponsoring the conference. Its theme is "Building for a Greener Future."

The sponsors have assembled a list of 14 experts who will address the conference on a range of topics, including the opportunities, challenges and costs of adapting green practices to the local building industry, MacLeod said.

The speakers will "talk about what's out there and show the builders what's in it for them. This building lull is a good time to get them interested in green building techniques, tell them about new materials, tax incentives, even benefits from the stimulus package," MacLeod said. "This will be a training opportunity for local builders and homeowners, and a time to find out where the country is heading in green building technology. It will be something for everybody, whether they are building new, remodeling or weatherizing."

"The purpose of our organization is to bring these things to the forefront," Beckley said.   

As of Monday, more than 80 builders and homeowners had signed up for the conference.

"We're hoping for at least 100," MacLeod said.

Among the speakers are Jeff Feldman, a trainer, coach and author on a broad range of environmental leadership topics. He and his wife, Kristin Alexander, built a passive solar, post-and-beam, straw-bale house in Berkeley County.

Among those addressing the conference will be Jay Slack, NCTC director; Mike Tidwell, founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network; Andrew Grisby, founder of Commonwealth Sustainability Works in Culpeper, Va.; Christopher VanArsdale, a lawyer with the green building movement in Washington, D.C.; Tom Lawson of the Green Building Council; and local green builders Chad Gauthier and Mike McKechnie.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, there will be a free Green Homeowners Panel discussion at NCTC as a prelude to the conference. On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Potomac Valley Audubon Society will sponsor a Green Homes Tour with stops in Charles Town, Shepherdstown, Martinsburg and Berkeley Springs, W.Va. Maps, available at the conference, cost $15, with the proceeds going to the Audubon Society.

Chazz Printz, secretary of Friends of NCTC, said his group is seeking volunteers to work in a book-selling booth at the conference Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you go

What: Building for a Greener Future, a conference for area builders and homeowners

When: Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A free green homeowners panel discussion will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at NCTC.

Where: National Conservation Training Center on Shepherd Grade Road north of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

For more information: Registration, which includes all meals, costs $55. To register, call Olga Adams at Potomac Headwaters RC&D in Martinsburg at 304-267-8953, ext. 5, or send e-mail to

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