Green building is an effort to develop more energy-efficient, healthier, and environmentally-responsible buildings. This includes saving energy, conserving water, contributing to a healthy indoor environment, protecting natural resources, and reducing buildings’ impact on the community. By incorporating various green building principles into a structure, the average home can save as much has 50 percent on their utility costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. If just 1 in 10 households incorporated energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, we could prevent more than 17 billion pounds of air pollution–which is equivalent to removing more than 250,000 cars from the road.
In addition, green buildings require less maintenance and repair, reduce short- and long-term costs, promote health among occupants, and improve worker satisfaction. Green building nurtures the environment locally and globally, for today and well into the future.
Your home will be more comfortable if it is insulated properly, using high performance doors and windows, efficient heating equipment, more natural ventilation, and better use of natural lighting. The goal is to use less energy, water, and resources in the construction of your home. Examples that may see more use in the future are solar energy systems for electricity and water heating.
In addition to using natural lighting, fluorescent (CFLs) and LEDs will use much less electricity. Energy Star-rated appliances and heating and cooling mechanical systems will also reduce the need for energy. Low water use toilets and plumbing fixtures and landscaping that is tolerant of droughts all help to conserve the limited source of water.
Healthy Indoor Air
Many of the materials used in construction have the danger of outgasing being harmful to our health such as lead and asbestos, as well as being potential breeding grounds for harmful biological organisms. Try to use paints with zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) and low-toxicity finishes such as water-based adhesives and finishes that don’t have synthetic formaldehyde resins. Use of proper natural and mechanical ventilation to alleviate the problems of unhealthy particulates in the air and excessive moisture will help to reduce environmental allergies and bacteria or mold build up.
Some examples of green floors are cork, oak, concrete, and tile. Vinyl contains PVCs and carpet, besides potential outgasing, gathers dust mites, mold spores, bacteria, and viruses. Remember to always have working carbon monoxide, smoke, humidity, and radon detectors.
TGood design incorporates the best of a building site’s features. Ideally a house will be located so that it can be passively heated by the sun, have protection from north winds, and blend in with the native landscape of the site. In urban environments, good siting is not always available and yet it should still feel in harmony with its surroundings.
Proper structure and order (construction and design) will help to ensure that a building is safe and enjoyable to live in. Wherever possible, use natural materials that are sustainable, non-toxic, and can be recycled. Plan for energy conservation, natural ventilation, and natural daylighting. Work to reduce material consumption and impact on the natural environment by building no larger than needed: less is more.
By building green, we nurture the environment locally and globally.
Material Durability and Resource Efficiency
As just stated on the Healthy Indoor Air page, green floors include concrete, but Portland cement, which is required to make concrete, requires a lot of energy to make. Photovoltaics, which use the free energy of the sun, are an example of resource efficiency. Products that originate in your local area require less fuel transportation costs. Wood products from sustainably managed forests, certified according to the principles of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), will prevent the clearcutting of the rainforests in South America and Indonesia, for example.
Examples of products that are durable but harmful to people and the environment are pressure treated or creosoted lumber. Products made from sustainable and renewable materials are always the best choice. Using salvaged products is also a desirable option. Recycled content materials such as engineered wood products, fiber cement siding, and shingles from recycled tires are examples of green technology.
Assessing the impact of materials through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) ensures that we understand a product’s impact from resource extraction to manufacturer to installation and lastly, to disposal.
Environmental Buildings News, the longtime standard of the green movement, has a database of approximately 2,000 environmentally-friendly building products based on third party testing procedures by groups having an interest in green building.