Some investors eye companies’ ‘carbon footprints’ as risk factors

By Marilyn Geewax
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

WASHINGTON — Stock investors already are worried about interest rates, oil prices and credit crunches.

Now environmentalists, state officials and others say shareholders should pay close attention to another risk: a company’s “carbon footprint.”

They want corporations to release more information related to greenhouse gas emissions so that investors can better judge whether they may be exposing themselves to lawsuits and other costs related to climate change.

In recent days, the environmentalists have scored some successes, getting Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to take action, as well as stepping up pressure on regulators to require more disclosure from publicly traded companies.

“Smart companies know that profits and jobs come from solving problems, not ignoring them,” Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, said in a news release announcing his group’s effort to demand greater disclosure. “Investors have a right to know who is paying attention.”

But some analysts say companies cannot be expected to anticipate every conceivable risk, especially from events that may be years away.

“Companies know legislation is coming down the road” to force reductions in emissions, said Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University. But forecasting exactly how such changes might affect the bottom line or reshape the economy is impossible, given that Congress has not passed significant greenhouse gas legislation.

“Government can’t require information on everything” that could possibly impact the future, Dhawan said.

But Environmental Defense, an advocacy group, argues that all companies, even low-polluting ones such as banks and phone service providers, should estimate the financial impact of having their operations disrupted by global warming-related changes such as rising sea levels, floods and droughts.

Just as companies already inform investors about hazardous waste risks, they should warn them about climate-change risks, the argument goes.

Earlier this month, Environmental Defense joined with nearly two dozen state officials, plus pension fund managers and other environmentalists, to petition the Securities and Exchange Commission to use existing law to require disclosures about legal proceedings related to carbon emissions, and financial losses related to climate changes.

SEC spokesman John Nester said the SEC does not have to respond to petitions.

He noted the agency already requires companies to disclose “material environmental issues” that could have an effect “upon the capital expenditures, earnings and competitive position of a company.”

But last week, Wal-Mart decided not to wait for legislation or regulatory requirements. Instead, it announced it would begin asking suppliers to measure, and then reduce, their carbon footprints. It will start by focusing on seven categories: DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda.

“Some of them are things we rarely think about — like our vacuum cleaners — and some of them are things we’d rather think about, like beer and movies,” John Fleming, Wal-Mart’s chief merchandising officer, said at a New York news conference. “But each of these products has an impact on our planet.”

Fleming said even huge suppliers such as the Coca-Cola Co. have agreed to participate in its carbon-disclosure program and to reduce emissions.

The company said it is working with the Carbon Disclosure Project, a non-profit group of 315 institutional investors controlling about $41 trillion in assets.

On Monday, the project released its fifth annual global survey of 2,400 large companies’ self-reported carbon emissions and energy costs.

Four of five U.S. companies consider climate change to be more of a risk than a commercial opportunity, the study said.

But only about 29 percent of firms said they have specific targets and timelines for reducing emissions.

Wal-Mart is not alone in trying to reduce its carbon footprint.

For example, Dell Inc. promised last week that in 2008, it will become the first major computer manufacturer to neutralize the carbon effect of its worldwide operations.

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Bush: Nations must choose to cut pollution

By James Gerstenzang
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — President Bush, who took office skeptical about global warming, said Friday that the nations emitting the most greenhouse gases — a group that includes the United States — must reduce their pollution levels.

But he also insisted on voluntary goals for such efforts, which he said could be met largely through new technology that would create what he called “an age of clean energy.”

He set a two-year deadline for nations in a U.S.-led conference to reach a consensus on how to cut emissions, a schedule that punts the decision to his successor. He also proposed creating an international fund, with contributions from governments, to help make clean-energy technology available.

Critics chastised Bush for failing to call for immediate and specific steps to increase energy efficiency, expand use of renewable fuels and move toward mandatory emissions restrictions similar to those set to expire in 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol, an international pact the United States never signed.

Bush spoke on the second and final day of a 17-nation conference at the U.S. State Department that brought together energy consumers and officials from some of the world’s major economies.

Bush acknowledged that climate change is real and human activity is a factor.

“By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem, and by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it,” he said. “We share a common responsibility: to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while keeping our economies growing.”

James Connaughton, who as chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality oversaw this week’s meeting, said it met his goal of putting “issues on the table.”

But Mogens Peter Carl, the European Union’s director general for the environment, said there needed to be talk about targets for emissions reductions, rather than broad goals.

The global-warming debate has proved troublesome for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, both of whom spent several years in the oil business. Bush rarely speaks of it at such length.

With the demand for energy forecast by many experts to rise more than 50 percent by 2030, Bush challenged conference participants to find a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while meeting the needs for economic growth.

Bush called for “a new international approach on greenhouse-gas emissions,” one that would commit “the world’s largest producers” of the gases to set goals for reducing them and to do so by next summer at a meeting of heads of state.

The program would include a system to measure progress toward the goals and would be followed by a “global consensus” at the United Nations by 2009 on emissions reductions.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a veteran observer of international global-warming negotiations, said the conference had “achieved nothing.”

He also said: “As long as the White House continues to oppose mandatory pollution limits, it is part of the problem, not the solution.”

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Clinton Global Initiative hears pledges

By Deepti Hajela
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Some pledges were huge, such as a commitment from the Florida Power & Light Co. to build a solar power plant as part of a $2.4 billion clean energy program.

Others were smaller, but still substantial. CARE, a humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty, promised $150 million to provide health services to 30 million women and children. BRAC, a Bangladesh nonprofit, vowed to spend $271 million to educate 7.5 million young people in Asia and Africa.

The first day of the Clinton Global Initiative brought out a number of commitments as participants made pledges Wednesday toward action on such global causes as climate change, poverty, health care and education. More promises were expected Thursday.

Founded by former President Clinton, CGI draws world leaders, celebrities and scholars for three days of discussions on global issues and asks them to take concrete steps on those causes.

Brad Pitt announced that his Make It Right project was prepared to break ground by the end of the year on 150 affordable, environmentally friendly homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

“This is doable – this is not that difficult,” Pitt said. “I’ve seen these designs. They’re fantastic.”

Pitt’s partner, Angelina Jolie, spoke about education. She announced a commitment from the members of the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which she co-chairs, to help educate more than 1 million children around the world.

The Education Partnership, founded in 2006, helps fund education programs for children affected by conflict. The 2007 commitment includes $1.2 million to build an educational complex in southern Sudan, a plan to take “Sesame Street” to Afghanistan and a distance learning project that would reach 150,000 children, including those affected by the war in Iraq.

“They say education is not lifesaving,” Jolie said at a news conference with representatives of the Education Partnership’s member organizations. “All of us would beg to differ.”

Pitt and Jolie were among close to 1,300 people – famous and not, liberal and conservative – attending the third CGI conference.

There was even a brief reunion as Clinton and his former vice president, Al Gore, shared a stage Wednesday for a discussion of the need for global action.

Although there has been a chill in their relationship, the two Democrats spoke warmly of each other. Clinton praised Gore for his environmental activism, and Gore plugged Clinton’s new book.

“This climate crisis is not going to be solved only by personal actions and business actions,” Gore said Wednesday at the conference. “We need changes in laws, changes in policies. We need leadership, and we need a new treaty.”

More than 50 current and former world leaders were on the list of attendees, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Tennis star Andre Agassi and media mogul Rupert Murdoch were also on the conference’s guest list this year.

Those who attend pay a $15,000 registration fee and are expected to commit time or money to the conference’s big issues. Those who do not fulfill their pledges are not invited back.

Clinton spokesman Ben Yarrow said there were five people this year whose registration fees were not accepted.

On the Net:

Clinton Global Initiative: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/

Rice urges nations to find cleaner fuels

By John Heilprin
The Seattle Times

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s climate meeting opened Thursday with its main problem on full display: The biggest polluters – industrialized and developing nations alike – say their economies are more important than global warming.

Not for the richest nations, retort Europeans, the United Nations and some developing nations.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, anticipating such divisions, urged all sides to work together to “accelerate the prospects” of a U.N.-led solution later this year at talks in Bali, Indonesia.

“Pitting the developed and the developing countries against each other will not lead to economic development and environmental sustainability,” he said in remarks prepared for Thursday night. “We must tear down artificial barriers that impede the spread of today’s clean technologies. There is no moral or economic reason for tariffs or non-tariff barriers on environmental goods or services.”

The U.S. talks, following on the heels of the United Nations’ climate gathering Monday, is an attempt to influence what happens after 2012, when the U.N.-brokered Kyoto Protocol mandating greenhouse gas cuts by industrial nations expires. The emphasis, as with much of Bush’s climate approach, is on the sharing of green technology.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a solution “that does not starve economies of the energy they need to grow and that does not widen the already significant income gap between developed and developing nations.”

But she left it to nations to set their own goals and priorities.

“Let me emphasize that this is not a one-size-fits-all effort,” Rice said at the start of a two-day climate meeting called by Bush. “Though united by common goals and collective responsibilities, all nations should tackle climate change in the ways that they deem best.”

Rice also called for nations to “cut the Gordian Knot of fossil fuels, carbon emissions, and economic activity.”

Though the White House-led meeting includes Britain, France, Germany and other nations in the Kyoto accord, many European officials expressed concern that Bush’s meeting would sidetrack the U.N. negotiations that have been the main forum for addressing global warming.

On Thursday, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that he did not think that the Bush administration would be an impediment to global talks.

“We all know that they will be out of office in a few months,” he said on NDR Info radio. Bush leaves office in January, 2009.

Later, Gabriel told reporters the conference was a sign that the Bush administration was engaging in the issue.

“The good news is that we are negotiating,” he said. He said Europeans would be watching closely a speech by Bush at the conference Friday to gauge the U.S. commitment.

The U.S. talks proposed new “processes” and work teams for negotiating solutions. Despite the emphasis on bureaucracy, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told participants: “This has to be about more than presentations.”

Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official, told the 16 nations participating in the White House-led meeting that “this relatively small group of countries holds a key to tackling a big part of the problem” but that their response can succeed only by “going well beyond present efforts,” especially among rich, industrialized nations.

While the U.N. supports mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases by rich nations, Bush’s rejection of the treaty stands: The U.S. won’t do more than slow its growth rate of emissions, and whatever requirements the world agrees upon should extend equally to fast-developing nations like China and India.

Developing nations such as China, Mexico and Indonesia say reducing poverty must be their main priority, but that they also can reduce emissions carbon dioxide and other warming gases, for example by targeting some parts of their economies for cuts or by planting trees and cutting down fewer forest lands.

They argue that rich nations should make greater use of Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism, which lets them meet their carbon cuts by paying for projects in poorer countries.

“Poverty is still No. 1,” Emil Salim, an economist and member of the Indonesian president’s council of advisers, told The Associated Press.

“It is correct that for the developed countries, climate change is more important,” said Salim, a former Indonesian minister for population and environment. “But for the developing nations, the key notion is how to get poverty reduction and search for a pattern of development that is different than the developed nations.”

As they consider ways to curb greenhouse gases, developing nations expressed a preference for U.N.-sponsored talks to decide on a post-2012 strategy and said they do not want to give up ground toward industrializing – and meeting basic human needs.

Bush’s meeting has competed for attention with the climate change summit held Monday in New York City, at which U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned 80 world leaders that “the time for doubt has passed” and urged fast action to save future generations from potentially ruinous effects of global warming.

About 70 demonstrators from Greenpeace and other environmental groups gathered Thursday outside the State Department, where dozens were arrested for refusing to leave the premise after two hours of protest. The activists labeled the conference a fraud for not encouraging mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases.

“I’m here to protest the fact that we are having a climate conference when we should have been signing the Kyoto agreement,” said Lauren Siegel, 23, from New York, N.Y., as she was loaded into a police van. “This is a diversion,” she said of the conference.

Poll: Many pessimistic about environment

By Alan Fram
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — People want their leaders to move boldly to help the environment but give them dismal grades for their actions so far, according to a poll released Wednesday that highlighted rampant pessimism on the issue.

Only about one in five voiced approval of how President Bush, Congress and U.S. businesses have been handling the environment. And while decisive majorities said they want strong public and private action, fewer than one in 10 said they had seen such steps in the past year, according to the poll by The Associated Press and Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

The survey, conducted days before Bush was convening an international climate conference in Washington, showed that though Democrats and independents were consistently more critical than Republicans, anxiety is widespread over the environment and global warming.

“I don’t understand why we’re letting people destroy the Earth the way we are,” said Jerry Menees, 34, an independent voter and truck driver from Potosi, Mo. “It scares me what this world is coming to.”

Only about a fifth think the environment is in good or excellent shape, including 39 percent of Republicans. Just over one in 10 think it is faring better than a decade ago or will improve a decade from now, while about eight in 10 say global warming is under way – views that were broadly shared across party lines.

The 84 percent who believe world temperatures are rising is virtually unchanged since Stanford and ABC News conducted a similar poll in March 2006. But while 45 percent of that group said in 2006 they were very or extremely sure, 61 percent said so in this month’s survey – including most Democrats and independents and a sizable 39 percent of Republicans.

On the other hand, of the 14 percent who said global temperatures are probably not rising, nearly half say they are very or extremely sure – up from the roughly one-third who felt that strongly last year.

“I don’t understand how they can say there is global warming or man causes it when it’s a natural cycle of the planet,” said Russell Marshall, 34, a student from Enid, Okla., and a Republican. “It’s like the planet cleanses itself from time to time by changing temperature.”

In some of the starkest partisan differences, Democrats and independents strongly disapprove of Bush’s performance on the environment, while Republicans approve by 50 percent to 18 percent. Republicans were also likelier to think Bush and business have caused little harm.

Yet even among the GOP and conservatives, those saying they want Bush, Congress, business or the public to take strong action far outweighed those who said they prefer that little or nothing be done. Nearly six in ten Republicans said there would be serious problems if global warming is not addressed, and more of them said the environment is worse than a decade ago – and will be even worse 10 years from now – than saw improvements.

“I just don’t see anything being really aggressively done,” said Sonia Alfonso, 50, an interpreter in Greenacres, Fla., and a longtime Republican who is unhappy with Bush and other leaders.

Even so, this year’s poll showed slightly smaller numbers of people favoring strong action on the environment than last year, especially among Republicans.

The poll was conducted before this week’s meeting of world leaders at the U.N. designed to spark momentum for international talks in December on further limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that cause global warming.

Bush, who has opposed mandatory emissions cuts embraced by 175 other countries in the 1997 Kyoto treaty, is holding his own meetings this week with top officials from countries that are major producers of planet-heating gases.

Under Bush, the U.S. has refused to ratify the Kyoto pact. Arguing that binding caps would hurt the U.S. economy, he prefers long-term voluntary goals and clean energy research.

The survey also comes as the Democratic-led Congress moves slowly on the matter.

A House-passed bill would require most utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources like the wind, while the Senate has voted to require Detroit to produce more fuel-efficient autos. Lawmakers must approve a compromise before sending it to Bush.

“I’d like to see the Democrats stand up to Bush, put him on the hot seat,” said Sam Butler, 53, a writer from Brooklyn, N.Y., among the nearly two-thirds of Democrats unhappy with Congress’ actions. “Congress has to start pushing through alternatives, they’ve got to start cutting back on oil consumption.”

This year has seen growing pressure on the U.S. to act, including a U.N. report concluding that man is almost certainly causing global warming; an Oscar for former Vice President Al Gore’s film on rising temperatures, “An Inconvenient Truth”; and a Supreme Court ruling that the government can regulate gases heating the planet.

The survey involved telephone interviews with 1,001 adults from Sept. 21 to 23, and was conducted for the AP and Stanford by Ipsos, the polling company. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

AP Director of Surveys Trevor Tompson, AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer John Heilprin contributed to this report.

On the Net:

Ipsos: http://www.ap-ipsosresults.com

Stanford University: http://woods.stanford.edu/docs/surveys/GW-200709-AP-survey.pdf

Big businesses look at energy use

By Vinnee Tong
The Associated Press

NEW YORK — The world’s biggest companies are making climate change a higher priority, in part through more widespread disclosure of carbon emissions, according to an annual report released Monday by a nonprofit group.

The report from Carbon Disclosure Project tracked how companies plan to deal with the risks and opportunities associated with greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

“The big thing this year is the huge increase in the level of seriousness with which climate change is being incorporated into the corporate strategy of companies,” said Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Chief Executive Paul Dickinson.

Wal-Mart announced Monday that the company would begin measuring energy use for seven product categories in a partnership with the CDP.

A typical Wal-Mart Supercenter, which combines a full grocery section with general merchandise, carries about 200,000 items in thousands of categories.

For the time being, the world’s biggest retailer would not yet use the data to choose its suppliers of DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda.

“This is an important first step toward reaching our goal of removing nonrenewable energy from the products Wal-Mart sells,” its chief merchandising officer, John Fleming, said in a statement.

British supermarket chain Tesco, a Wal-Mart rival, announced plans in January to label 70,000 food items to show consumers the amount of carbon emitted during the production, transport and consumption of each one. Tesco is the market leader in Britain ahead of Wal-Mart subsidiary Asda and plans to enter the U.S. market starting this year.

Former President Clinton, who appeared with the nonprofit group to release the report, said Monday that the U.S. has missed out on the biggest job-creation engine in years by ignoring the need to combat climate change through reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Clinton said the U.S. had ignored the climate-change problem, and in doing so, passed up the chance to create jobs the way Britain has by deciding to exceed the carbon-reduction goals set in the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. has not signed.

“We walked away from the only low-hanging fruit,” Clinton said.

Among the 500 companies ranked by the Financial Times newspaper as the world’s largest by market capitalization, 75 percent responded to this year’s survey, up from 47 percent when the survey started four years ago.

The response rate by companies in North America rose in all industry sectors, and nine of 10 sectors had a response rate of more than 50 percent. The increased willingness by companies to disclose their carbon emissions and find ways to reduce them reflects the changing political and regulatory landscape over energy efficiency.

Of the companies that responded, 76 percent implemented programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, compared with 48 percent last year.

On Monday, the Carbon Disclosure Project also was launching the Climate Disclosure Leadership Index, a smaller group of 68 companies including Citigroup, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard and General Motors.

Associated Press reporter Marcus Kabel contributed to this report.

Seattle considered a bellwether

By Jon Talton
Special to The Seattle Times

Green may sound good, but will consumers pay more for a house even if it saves money over the long run? And what’s the right balance of voluntary compliance and regulation to achieve green?

After 30 years in the construction industry, Roy Hanchett says he can see into its future. And the future is green.

“I don’t see any roadblocks,” he said. “As I told the contractors, you’d better get used to it, because it’s going to be in all the building codes in the future.”

Indeed, the range of practices that go into green building — from using recycled materials to positioning of a building to maximize energy conservation — are increasingly entering the mainstream. From 40 to 50 percent of new houses will be built with some green elements, according to a survey last year by the National Association of Homebuilders and McGraw-Hill Construction.

Still, the most aggressive and effective measures to lessen the environmental footprint of housing are a difficult sell to much of the industry. Green may sound good, but will consumers pay more for a house even if it saves money over the long run? And what’s the right balance of voluntary compliance and regulation to achieve green?

Seattle’s leadership in green building makes it a closely watched bellwether in answering these questions. For international sustainability experts, Seattle “is up there with the greats,” said Sue Roaf, an architectural consultant in the United Kingdom and visiting professor at Arizona State University. “You have done really well.”

This year, 11,600 homes have been certified as Built Green by the program of the same name, operated by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. That compares with 3,107 in 2006. (There were 25,743 total housing starts in the metropolitan area in 2006.)

Experts credit several factors for Seattle’s prominence, and not all of them will translate easily to every region of the country:

• Strong government regulation and incentives.

• Partnerships among building professionals, government and utilities.

• Growing expertise and resources, including architects, developers, contractors and materials.

• Limited land for development, which lessens environmentally destructive sprawl.

• Pro-environmental sentiment by residents.

“We were basically forced by government to do compact development, and do it in a way that lifestyles are better,” said Bill Kreager, a principal with Mithun, a Seattle architectural, design and planning firm. “It’s amazing how far ahead we are, and I teach all over the country.”

One recent example is Ashworth Cottages on Densmore Avenue North in Seattle. The development’s model house was awarded the Platinum rating by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, the highest level from the nationally recognized standard. The builder hopes to gain the award for all 20 houses.

On the outside, the cottage blends seamlessly with the neighborhood. Yet the house is a revolution away from the mass-production tract housing that characterizes much of American suburbia.

For example, it features a rainwater cistern to collect water for use in landscape irrigation. Want hot water? Press a button, activating an instantaneous hot-water heater, eliminating the need for the conventional hot-water tank.

Yet, nationally the big production builders, which account for as much as 80 percent of housing construction, have been slow to embrace major green initiatives. The reason: They say consumers won’t pay higher prices for houses with the most effective green features. The construction cost differential is a point of debate, with estimates ranging from 4 to 9 percent or more than a conventional house.

Residential green faces other challenges, according to Built Green Executive Director Aaron Adelstein. Chief among them is the need for more acceptance of the value of green building by lenders and appraisers. “We need education and a data-compilation process,” he said. “The value of green needs to be proven.”

While consumer interest in sustainability is rising, no uniform standard exists as to what “green” means. Some companies see it as marketing term,” Adelstein said.

Indeed, environmentally-friendly claims that lack the third-party verification of a program such as Built Green can be fake green or “green wash.”

Being green can be complicated, with consumers deluged with information. In addition, a push for higher density, to keep development within existing urban areas, can spark nasty zoning battles.

In many places, ordinances and neighborhood sentiment stand in the way of mixed-use development, which is necessary to cut down on car use and emissions.

Still, architects and builders say, buyers who live in the houses reap substantial savings after several years, as well as health benefits from the nontoxic materials used.

These long-term savings are already being realized by businesses, which took the lead in green-building practices starting in the mid-1990s. More than 1,000 commercial buildings have received the demanding LEED certification since 2000.

“Companies want to pursue green building because they now have to appeal to a broader constituency,” said Mark Vitner, chief economist for Wachovia, the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank. “They have clients, customers and regulators all over the world, including places where environmental issues are much more important than in America. It’s a sound business decision.”

Other pressures are also coming into focus. Chief among those issues are climate change, sustained higher energy prices, resource depletion and subsequent competition for resources such as oil and water. Many major corporations are concerned about the costs and disruptions.

“We have around 10 years in which to build an ‘Eco-Society’ that is capable of putting the planet, the global common good, and ‘survival’ at the top of its agenda,” according to sustainability scholar Roaf, whose Oxford EcoHouse in England is a pioneer in energy efficiency.

One place to start, advocates say, is in building. Construction and operation of buildings account for 39 percent of the energy and 70 percent of the electricity used in the United States, according to the federal Department of Energy.

Architect Kreager built a carbon-neutral home for himself in the San Juan Islands, using photovoltaics to produce solar energy and other advanced techniques. But, he said, standards such as LEED are achievable for the broader public, reducing if not eliminating their carbon footprint.

“It’s a matter of the simple things. … How you orient a house, where the glazing is, there’s no higher cost.”

Still, many house buyers will have to be convinced, even in the Pacific Northwest.

“I grew up in the suburbs, and the American dream is not to buy a ‘unit,’ ” Kreager said. “We have to convince people to spend more money on less land and less house, and see they can be delighted.”