A Home Builders Common Sense Approach to Green Building4 min read
Green building is an idea of building homes smarter, there are several different steps in defining “green.” Starting with practicing “green” carpentry, this simply means looking for ways to construct houses in a way that will save on lumber without compromising the structure or longevity of the home. An example of which is using a double 2×10 header (common practice) on a non load bearing wall… Doing so wastes not only lumber and money, but robs the insulation value of the space above the window. This is just one example of “green” carpentry.
Another issue is wasted materials on the job site. If you own and contract your work out, see to it that your crews utilize the “ends of the board” or “cut-off” pieces; also using scrap lumber and sheeting as corner backers and bracing. Another way to practice “green” is the construction waste: Separating the construction waste by demolition materials, recyclables, and actual garbage. The proverbial “job site dumpster” will not be found on a true green builders job site. It is amazing how much cardboard comes off a job site!
Practicing “green” excavating and landscaping: The goal is simply to upset as little soil as possible while utilizing the resources on site. It’s always nice when there isn’t a need to haul soils in or out of the property. With creative excavating you can often can make simple but effective water run-off situations while eliminating the need for retaining walls. When possible the top soil is scraped and cleaned before it is pushed in a pile. That dirt can then be re-used once the site is ready for top soil. Trees and other landscape materials are also preserved and utilized.
Another common “green” practice is the use of renewable building materials. When it is prudent and sensible choose a product that comes from a renewable source, over a product that does not. As a green builder, you will be put into situations where you must make those decisions where renewable materials may be overpriced; or may use more fossil fuels in production and shipping than it’s worth.
Sometimes “green” is defined by using non toxic materials. Paint, treated lumber, insulation are just some examples of materials that have been known to have toxic properties in them. Pay attention to this issue and avoid any known products and materials that can be dangerous in a home.
Other times, “green” is referring to carbon emissions or the carbon footprint. I have done years of research finding ways to make homes more energy efficient. If you want to build a beautiful sustainable home look into building a single level home, using radiant heat as the heating source. You will have very little emissions due to the fact that this type of home utilizes an electric boiler with thermal storage, with the benefit of off-peak pricing. Electricity is an excellent, clean and affordable energy source. “Green” most definitely has a place when it comes to energy efficiency. Choosing “energy star” rated products and materials are also very important when going “green.” Insulation, windows, light fixtures, appliances, heating & cooling systems, sun exposure all come into play.
Renewable energy sources are yet another example of “green.” Building your home with a thermal storage system that provides affordable heat & cool storage. Ground source heat pumps, wind power and solar power are all excellent renewable energy sources. Currently the issue with them is the front end cost. Hopefully as time goes on the initial costs will come down and they will be a more viable option for the mainstream market.
Another example of “green” is building with materials and products that will stand the test of time. Building materials, fixtures and appliances that are more durable and longer lasting, save on the environment as well as your pocketbook. Steel roofs are just one example. The challenge here however is the front end costs. Another issue is the fast changing demands of the industry. I can still recall the $800 microwave that now sells for under $50.00. Point being your expensive latest and greatest could quickly become a dinosaur.
The size, footprint and design of a home can be “green” as well. It is seemingly coming to a realization that the big “McMansions” are a thing of the past. A modest, conservative floor plan that uses all of the homes square footage is becoming more and more of a focus in the new home market.
Finally, “green” can be about saving money. That’s right! Going “green” can save you some green! The concept is simple, choosing the right materials, appliances and making smart decisions are all about “green!” Making smart choices will stretch your dollar as well as save on our planet.
Whether we like it or not, “green” is here to stay. Before building your next home be sure to plan with “green” in mind. Be a creative home builder, constantly researching the latest and most innovative ways to build homes. By following these guidelines, you can rest assured that your home will be built in alignment with the “green” movement.