How To Go Green Around Your Home
What is Green Building?
years have colors, lately it is green. From Wall Street to Hollywood,
from Madison Avenue to Main Street, everyone is talking “green”. “Green”,
as in an increasing awareness that what we do effects our environment,
often for the worse, and that by changing how we do things we may be
able to reduce or even reverse some of that impact.
what does “green” mean to construction and remodel projects? Simply
put it means designing and building in ways that reduce the impact of
the building on the environment during the construction or remodel and
for its lifetime. “Green building” has been around
as long as the modern environmental movement. Recently there has
been an explosion of interest in, resources for, products available and
media attention paid to green building. It can all be overwhelming. So
here is simple overview of some of the key points of green building.
paramount importance is energy conservation. The green approach
emphasizes building in ways that reduces the amount of energy consumed
living in one’s home. We are all aware of such practices
as using double pane windows and insulation in walls and ceilings. But
there are many other ways of reducing the amount of energy necessary
to heat or cool and light a home. Building orientation and roof
overhang are two samples of design considerations that can take advantage
of the different angles the summer and winter suns to reduce heating
and cooling costs. Relying on properly placed windows and skylights
can reduce lighting costs. Solar panels to heat water or generate
electricity will reduce dependence on public sources of electricity or
gas. The list goes of ways to design your home to reduce the amount
of energy it consumes is long. But that is only one aspect of conserving
energy related to building or remodeling a home. Green builders
concern themselves both with techniques to reduce energy costs during
the process of construction and with products that have less “embedded” energy – that
is that require less energy use in their manufacture & transportation
to the site.
important factor in green building is conserving natural resources.
Alternative building methods, such as rammed earth or straw bale construction,
as well as new approaches to traditional techniques, like optimum value
engineering and the use of engineered wood products, all help to reduce
the amount of lumber used in home construction. Another method
is to use recycled building products. Using fly ash (a bi-product
of pollution control at coal fired plants) as a substitute for Portland
cement in concrete, is an example of a cross over benefit. It
not only conserves resources, but it reduces energy consumption at
the same time. Many finish materials help reduce the impact of building
on our natural resources. These include the use of renewable
natural products like bamboo, cork or natural linoleum flooring or
recycled content finishes like rubber flooring, tile & carpet. The
list of building techniques and products that reduce our reliance on
natural resources grows every day.
in glove with resource conservation is the effort to reduce waste.
Deconstructing part or all of a building rather than demolishing it
is a way of steering the resulting materials to recycling and reuse
rather than into the landfill. Much of what we use in building can
be recycled and many building departments are beginning to require
it. Use of recycled materials such as recycled plastic lumber, recycled
content roofing materials, tile, carpet, flooring and so on supports
the recycle system as a means of reducing the amount of materials we
throw away. Deconstruction allows for the direct reuse of some materials
such as Cedar siding or exterior trim materials. There are many sources
of directly recycled finish lumber.
another major aspect of green building is indoor air quality. How
healthy the air we breathe in our homes is depends on how we access
and filter the air we bring in as well as how we heat or cool it. It
is also important to consider what else we bring into our houses.
What kinds of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) does the carpeting,
upholstery, sheet flooring glue, cabinet walls, etc. give off? What
does your vacuum cleaner leave in your carpet? These are all issues
of indoor air quality.
not new, the subject of green building is constantly changing and improving.
The concerns mentioned here – energy conservation, resource conservation,
waste reduction and indoor air quality – encompass much of what
green building is about, but we have only scratched the surface here.
A great resource for learning more about green building is the group
Build It Green accessible on the web at www.BuildItGreen.org.
Every little bit helps. If we keep it in mind, it often works out that
its just as easy to build it green.