Sun & Earth lays the building blocks of energy efficiency
By Jonathan Butz, The Las Cruces Bulletin
Everyone seems to be endorsing “green” lately because of rising temperatures, higher energy costs and the endless mantra that seems to ring in every corner of our lives – green, green, green.
Despite the instant recognition people feel when they hear the word, not every product marketed as “green” is what it appears to be.
Sun & Earth Construction President Jim Graham hopes to clarify the current phenomenon of “green-sploitation” by providing realistic service in sustainable, energy-efficient building and remodeling.
Since the 1970s, Graham has been on the forefront of green building in southern New Mexico, making sure that clients get exactly what they expect from sustainable living.
“We’re cautious of green washing, which means applying a ‘green’ label on something just so you can sell it,” Graham said.
Although green building has changed dramatically since the 1970s, Graham said he is still intent on building houses that adhere to Sun & Earth’s strict criteria of aesthetics, accessibility, energy efficiency, ease of maintenance, durabil-ity, safety and comfort. Specializing in energy-efficient air conditioning, solar water heating and sustainable roof coating, Sun & Earth Inc. strives to create a service and product that is more than just a buzzword.
“Green building has become more sophisticated since the ’70s and focuses not only on the sustainability of the house, but on aesthetics and livability,” Graham said. “At one time, green building was pretty raw. It may have been efficient, but it wasn’t comfortable to live in or pleasing to look at.”
Things have changed now, and more people are becoming interested in green building, Graham said. With more affordable options available, long-term utility savings and a number of tax credits and incentives, Graham said it is becoming easier for indivduals with modest incomes to have their homes remodeled or built to green standards. He said he remembers a time when he only saw a response from those associated with universities and research; however, he has seen his clientele base broaden, primarily among retirees.
“Affordability is a mainstay of what I do. If I do something more expensive than the mainstream it’s usually due to nicer amenities,” Graham said.
“I tailor to the clients’ individual needs and I try to be realistic about what I can do for people.”
With a lifetime’s worth of construction experience and a biology degree from New Mexico State University, Graham continues to challenge himself, creating innovative residences for people of southern New Mexico.
“I’ve always set a goal of making buildings 80 to 90 percent more efficient than conventional buildings,” Graham said. “When conventional buildings get more efficient, it challenges me to build more efficient buildings.”
Graham said one of his recent successes has been a two-stage evaporative cooling system, which he calls “one of the best available in the area.”
Additionally, Sun & Earth offers roof coating that can reduce the amount of needed air conditioning, and ezinc solar water heaters that can shave dollars off utility costs.
Now, after years of service, Graham said he always has the future in mind. He hopes to contribute to a cleaner, safer and more beautiful future, despite what color it may be.
“A building is not sustainable if people aren’t going to want to look at it 100 years from now,” Graham said with a laugh.
JIM GRAHAM, contractor, Sun & Earth Construction