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Builders' Group Makes Plans to Keep Island Green

Dec. 30, 2004 –– While there's no way to stop development, the newly-formed Green Builders Group on St. John hopes to guide it in a way that does less damage to the environment.
"We're trying to develop local standards that work in our environment," St. Thomas architect Doug White said.
White frequently designs St. John homes and has a long-held interest in the environment.
He said that most people think that because most of St. John's acreage is V.I. National Park, the island is "saved." Not so, he said, citing a condominium development in Cruz Bay that has drastically changed the landscape as well as building projects across the rest of the island.
He said that most of the books currently available on green building reflect stateside references and standards that may not fit local needs.
White said that many contractors cut down all the native vegetation when clearing the lot.
"There's an attitude that all of it is scrub and second growth, but the native plants growing on the property are the most economical form of landscaping," White said.
He said, if builders cleared less of the lot, owners wouldn't have to replace the plants with non-native species and pay for the water to keep them alive.
White said the group hopes to work with people like excavators to show them how to do their job while creating less environmental problems.
The group currently has 15 members. While most are architects, builders and others in the construction trade, it does have a few members with a strong environmental interest. White said anyone interested in the issue is welcome.
White said its first project is the development of a book on green building guides for construction. When that book comes out in February or March, one on green building for subdivisions will follow.
The group is also working on a Web site that will make in-depth information on green building more easily available.
"The chief audience is people who bought land and want to build on it," Joe Kessler, Friends of the V.I. National Park president, said.
He said the Friends had tried unsuccessfully to get an environmental education program for builders and owners off the ground, but is now supporting the Green Builders Group.
Membership runs $25 a year. Charter memberships are $100 and help support the group's efforts.
The group meets at the Friends' conference room at Mongoose Junction. Meetings are held at 8:30 a.m. on varying Saturdays each month.
The next meeting will be held Jan. 22. Call the Friends at 779-4940 for information on subsequent meetings.
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