Later this month, the Kampground of America (KOA) campground in Herkimer, N.Y. is going to start renting out the nation’s first park trailer to achieve “Emerald” status from NTA Inc., a Nappanee-based company that specializes in certifying “green” manufacturers.
Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries Inc. received the Emerald status for the Herkimer park trailer in late April after proving that the unit met NTA’s highest green standards.
Indeed, the Herkimer KOA unit, believed the first “off-grid” park trailer in the country, features numerous green features, including solar panels capable of producing 2 kilowatts of power, bamboo flooring, LED lighting, recycled axels and tires, recycled lumber composite decking, on-demand water heating, energy efficient heating and air-conditioning.
But while this unit may demonstrate one company’s efforts to prove how green it can be, in reality, park trailer manufacturers in Elkhart County, Ind., and across the country are increasingly seeking green certifications, not only for their products, but for their manufacturing processes.
And several consulting engineering firms are helping them obtain their green certifications. In the past year, TR Arnold & Associates in Elkhart has certified Elkhart-based Trophy Homes Inc. and Forest River Inc. as well as Middlebury-based Woodland Park as green manufacturers, while Athens, Texas-based Athens Park Homes also met NTA’s requirements for green certification. Elkhart-based Country Log Cottages, for its part, has also obtained green certification from Anderson, Ind.-based BIS LLC, as has Chariot Eagle Inc., an Ocala, Fla.-based park trailer manufacturer.
Olin Wenrick, president and CEO of Trophy Homes, said consumers are becoming increasingly educated about the merits of green products and it may eventually get to the point where manufacturers are at a disadvantage if they aren’t able to tell their customers they are green.
“It’s coming. So why not start now?” Wenrick asked. “It at least tells people out there that I’m trying to do the right thing for the environment.”
In Trophy’s case, it already was. Trophy had already adopted environmentally friendly manufacturing practices, such as recycling its construction waste, so it was relatively easy for the company to get green certified, Wenrick said.
Dave Burrows, national sales manager for Middlebury-based Woodland Park, said his company also achieved green certification with relative ease.
“We didn’t really have to change anything,” he said. “We had been manufacturing to green standards for quite a while. There was just not a certification process or a verification process for our industry.”
But TR Arnold & Associates, NTA, BIS and other consulting firms have tried to fill that void, and park trailer manufacturers are finding it’s worth their time and effort to seek green certifications.
Burrows, in fact, said Woodland Park’s dealers applauded its green certification. “Basically, the dealers looked at it as a move in the right direction. They looked at it as another tool for them to sell our product. And my Canadian dealers absolutely loved the thought of a green product.”
Mandy Leazenby, TR Arnold & Associates’ green program manager, said her company looks at several criteria before determining whether a company’s manufacturing operations can be green certified. “We look at indoor air-quality, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, operations and maintenance and innovative practices,” she said. “We also look at the attitude of the company and the extent to which they recycle materials during the construction process.”
But while obtaining “green” certification has been relatively painless for several Elkhart County manufacturers to achieve, selling “green” units is another matter, said Wenrick, adding that his company’s green status hasn’t yet translated into increased sales.
That day may come, however.
In fact, while many consumers may not yet be ready to purchase an “off grid” green park trailer with all the bells and whistles, such as solar panels with backup generators, consumers are showing interest in purchasing park trailers with energy and water saving features, such as LED lighting, low flow faucet and showerheads and energy saving appliances.
Dick Grymonprez, vice president of marketing for Athens Park Homes, which achieved its green certification last year, said his company is seeing increased demand for instant hot water heaters.
“Some people just focus on solar panels, but there are different shades of green,” said Leazenby of TR Arnold & Associates, adding that there are many green features in today’s park trailers that are very positive features for consumers, such as units with low-VOC paints and finishes as well as formaldehyde-free carpets, wall materials and flooring.
Some may consider it foolhardy to start a new company in the midst of a recession.
But the founders of BIS LLC in Anderson, Ind., have discovered that the worst economic downturn in decades hasn’t stopped manufacturers from producing environmentally friendly products or investing in “green” production practices, according to a news release.
“Consumers increasingly want ‘green’ products and manufacturers realize that they can tap into that market, even during a recession,” said Andy Crisp of BIS LLC, whose consulting firm has developed an Eco-First Building Program to help manufacturers become certified green builders.
“Many manufacturers have already been taking steps in recent years to reduce their construction waste and to use water and energy more efficiently, so for many of them, becoming ‘green certified’ is not that difficult or costly,” Crisp said. “What we do is show them what they need to do to have their products and manufacturing processes certified to nationally recognized green building standards.”
BIS’ Eco-First Building Program is based on the National Green Building Standards, which have been developed by the American National Standards Institute.
BIS, which opened its doors in October, already has consulting contracts with several nationally known park model and manufactured housing companies, and Crisp said he hopes to eventually help some of the country’s RV manufacturers to go green.
BIS’s clients, for their part, are pleased with the company’s services.
“They are on time. They do what they say they are going to do. They make it easy,” said Donald Aheron, vice president of engineering for Martinsville, Va.-based Nationwide Custom Homes, which builds green modular homes.
Bob Holliday, founder and CEO of Chariot Eagle Inc., an Ocala, Fla.-based park model manufacturer, said he met Crisp during the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds’ annual InSites Convention & Outdoor Hospitality Expo, which took place in November in Orlando, Fla.
“We met with BIS representatives during the trade show and they offered to come to our Florida plant immediately to do an inspection,” Holliday said, adding that the BIS team has been “very efficient.” As a result, Chariot Eagle has achieved its green certification.
In Indiana, BIS is also generating business with Elkhart County manufacturers, including Country Log Cottages, an Elkhart-based park model manufacturer.
“The BIS team has given us great advice,” said Country Log Cottages National Sales Manager Carol Holdren. “It’s been an enjoyable experience working with them. They have taught us a lot.”
BIS offers four levels of green certification, including bronze, silver, gold and emerald. “Our manufacturers install low-flow water fixtures and use low VOC paints and sealants as well construction materials with a high percentage of recycled content. They also use manufacturing practices that maximize building resources and minimize the amount of waste that has to be taken to a landfill,” Crisp said.
For more information on BIS or for background on the latest trends involving green building, contact Crisp at (574) 527-0192 or visit the BIS website at www.eco-first.org.