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.
RVs are starting to go “green” in what could be an added incentive for consumers to lift the industry out of its doldrums. If the signs at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville earlier this month are any indication, “green” and “RV” can go hand and hand just fine, according to a news release.
Six RV and park model companies boasted products at the show with “Green Certified” insignia on them, provided by the independent certification firm, TRA Certification. TRA has developed a set of green requirements based on the ANSI consensus standard for new construction, which also fits the RV industry.
TRA Certification is a long-time, internationally accredited certifier of quality management systems. In recent months it has turned its attention to the RV and park model industries to implement a set of consensus green requirements from the construction industry that are modified to meet RV and park model construction practices. This is the first time such a program has been applied to the RV industry.
“Everyone has become more green conscious about everything,” said Tom Arnold, president of TRA Certification. “We know the RV industry has a customer-base that is particularly attuned to environmental concerns. This provides a tremendous opportunity for RV manufacturers and dealers to tout this special kind of added value – provided their claims are backed by some agreed-upon requirements that buyers can trust.”
TRA Certification anchored its show presence in the EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC booth, where TRA Green Program Manager Mandy Leazenby described the reception of their first appearance at the annual show as “overwhelming.”
“A lot of people were asking for our white paper on the topic and we had some very enthusiastic responses from dealers as well as manufacturers. RVers are looking for what’s new and this program fills that bill nicely. Especially since we can offer a third-party certification that takes into account companies who are doing right in terms of protecting the environment.
“The TRA green certification insignia we place on complying vehicles aren’t just someone’s opinion but are based upon the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) consensus standard, which is being applied fairly and uniformly throughout the industry,” said Leazenby.
RVs sporting TRA Certification insignia at the show included a top Emerald rating for EverGreen RV units, which were the only RVs to utilize an Energy Star rated roof. Other products receiving certifications from TRA included the Jay Flight travel trailer from Jayco Inc., the Autumn Ridge travel trailer from Starcraft RV Inc., and the Surveyor and R-Pod travel trailers from Forest River Inc. Park models from Woodland Park have also received certification insignias.
A sample of green practices used to make these products includes such things as:
- Cutting wiring to exact lengths to eliminate waste.
- Operating a separate recycling facility.
- Using eco-friendly insulation that is formaldehyde free and contains recycled glass and sand.
- Efficient installation practices for insulation.
- Recycling of vinyl siding.
“There are many ways in which a company can show its greenness,” said Arnold. “Often a company many not even realize what product or practices can be called green. That’s where we can help. Products like awnings, for example, not only provide campsite shade for RVers, but also for the RV, thereby reducing cooling loads.”
“We’re really just getting started with this industry,” said Leazenby. “We will be working with many more manufacturers in 2010 as well as educating dealers about the extra benefits they have to sell. Companies are recognizing the need to market themselves as green and gain the trust of potential buyers. This is yet another way in which the RV industry is growing more sophisticated to meet the demands of their changing marketplace.”
For more information, contact Leazenby, TRA’s green program manager, at (800) 398-9282.
About TRA Certification
TRA Certification is an internationally accredited certification organization which provides ISO 9001 and ISO 14000 certification for environmental management systems, an outgrowth of its parent company, T.R. Arnold & Associates Inc. Founded in 1967, T.R. Arnold & Associates Inc. is involved with every aspect of the industries it serves. With corporate headquarters in Elkhart, Ind., it serves all of North America, Europe, South Korea and the Pacific Rim.