Green building methods are gaining popularity with home and corporate building manufacturers. There are many benefits to homeowners and builders who employ green techniques when erecting their eco-friendly abodes and offices.
Going green encompasses all areas of your life, including the structures in which you work and live. Green building, contrary to popular belief, can be affordable. There are green builders out there who are concerned about the environment and have savvy, sustainable design tips and techniques for their clients. So if you are in the market of building your own home, read up on eco-friendly building techniques to help save the planet (and save you loads of money too).
What Does Green Design Really Mean?
Green design includes low-flow toilets, aerated faucets, and ENERGY STAR appliances.
- Low-flow toilets use less water (while still getting the job done). Advances in recent years have greatly refine flushing technologies with more power and less water waste. How much less? Up to 50% less! And installing low-flow toilets could save you up to $500 per year!
To save even more money, search online for rebates from your city, town, or local water company for replacing water-wasting toilets with high-efficiency toilets. Click here to see if your local water company participates in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rebate program.
- Aerated faucets are those who have a simple screen (kind of like a filter) on the inside that reduces the amount of water you use, but increases the pressure of the water flow. It will cost you about $4 per faucet, depending on where you live and can save you thousands of gallons of water per year.
- ENERGY STAR appliances are certified by the U.S. Department of Energy to be efficient in their use of electricity. Buying appliances which have earned the ENERGY STAR will help protect the environment and may save you $75 or more a year on energy costs too!
But there is more to the green story than the elements listed above. The real key to green buildings is to design it “green” upfront. Get involved with a green architecture firm—one which specializes in green design and practices sustainable business methods. Ask to see some of their previous green designs to see if they can articulate your green vision. More and more, construction companies are modifying their manufacturing approach to promote sustainability and to meet the growing "green" demand.
Why Employ Green Building Techniques?
- Save boatloads on energy costs
- Increased resale value
- Prevent debilitating diseases
- Improve your health
And those are just a few reasons why green building techniques are so important.
The energy savings are a big plus. Green buildings will save you money over the long haul, i.e. lower costs for indoor climate control, energy efficient appliances and fixtures, etc. If you build your home or corporate office green, it may see a larger resale value. Concerned citizens recognize that going green is more than a passing trend—it's a way of life and the way of the future.
Also, if you invest in green, sustainable homes or offices, you may prevent some debilitating diseases.
Go green! Your health may depend on it.
What's Health Got to Do with Green Design?
More than you know.
Personal health is everything.
Think about it. Most of us spend 90% of our time indoors. Whatever is in the atmosphere, the walls, floors, etc., is absorbed by our skin and lungs. Asthma and other respiratory diseases are a nasty bunch.
How important is your health?
“The greatest wealth is health.” --Virgil
“If you haven't got your health, then you haven't got anything.” --Count Rugen, The Princess Bride (1987)
We may hear these quotes over and over again, but they still ring true. If you are down, out, and sick, you're probably feeling pretty miserable. There are literally thousands of diseases, ailments, and disorders that exist today to plague people from all walks of life. But did you know that 80% of your health depends on lifestyle choices? Only 20% of your health is attributed to genetics and family history.
With that said, it is important to surround yourself with structures and materials that will aid, not deteriorate, your precious health. Saving the planet is a big job for one person...so why not start with your personal environment, your individual health and the health of your family? You can make a big difference by choosing to build it green and keep it green.
It's not just the planets health we are concerned about, it's yours too! If you aren't healthy and feeling your best, you probably won't be much in the mood for helping anyone else (or saving the planet for that matter). It is imperative that you breathe easy and obtain optimal health for yourself and your family. If you are fortunate enough to design your own home, make it a green building.
If you can't start from scratch and build your own home, there are still a ton of things you can do that will make a difference. Click here to learn more.
Building Materials, Asbestos, and Mesothelioma
Sustainable development depends on using materials that are produced from renewable, natural resources. When buildings are manufactured with such materials, our risk of exposure to asbestos and other harmful fibers decreases dramatically.
Up until the 1970's, building manufacturers used materials containing asbestos for its thermal insulating and fire resistant properties. Asbestos, undisturbed, poses little health risk. When damaged, moved, or deteriorated, however, asbestos begins to release its fibers into the air, which can be inhaled and absorbed into the lungs.
Once these microscopic fibers make their way into your lungs, it can cause an increase in your risk for lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity), and asbestosis (scarred lungs from the fibrous tissue).
Background on Asbestos
Unfortunately, when people are first exposed to high levels of asbestos, the symptoms of such diseases do not manifest until 20 to 30 years later. This makes it all the more important that you live in a place that is built with environmentally safe materials for your health's sake.
After the 1970's, companies stopped using asbestos when manufacturing home-building materials. There are a few products which still contain asbestos, but they are required by law to be labeled as such. Furnace ducts may be covered with asbestos blankets or asbestos paper tape; cement sheet used as insulation; soundproofing or decorative material sprayed onto walls and ceilings; and automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings, and gaskets are all common products or materials which may contain asbestos. Refer to the EPA website for more information.
Build It Green!
How To Conserve Energy
- Design your home or office to maximize daylight. Properly place windows (and maybe even an atrium) to bring light into the dimmest places in your space. This will minimize the amount of electricity used on lamps and overhead lighting.
- If possible, orient (positionally angle or elevate) your home or building to the sun to maximize/minimize direct sunlight to seasonally cool or warm your residence. Not sure what this means? Ask your green architect for more information.
- Depending on the type of climate that you live in, build your home or office with solar control glass with high performance glazing. Glazing refers to the coating put on window panes.
If you live in a colder to moderate climate, install windows that have solar control low-E coating/glazing. The type of coating on these windows prevents heat loss, while still allowing natural sunlight to filter through.
If you live in a warmer climate, install windows that have Low-E2 coating. The type of coating used on these windows limits solar heat gain (actual heat or warmth), while maximizing the available visible light (actual sunlight, minus the heat).
- Install motion sensors in desired spaces where you want to conserve energy. The sensors recognize when someone enters the room and will turn the lights and equipment on and off as necessary.
- Install a Smart Strip LCG3 Energy Saving Power Strip with Autoswitching Technology. Basically, the way it works is you plug all of your devices (mostly computer, monitor, printer, speakers, etc.) into the strip. When you power down one device, it automatically shuts down the other devices plugged into the strip! Devices draw electricity, even when they are in the “off” position. This strip saves you boat-loads of money, helps the environment by reducing the amount of energy consumed, and makes shutting all of your devices off fast and easy. These strips use very little energy and protect against surges too.
Use Sustainable Building Materials and Practices
Keeping Your Air Clean
- Use carpeting that is made from recycled fibers. If you later change carpeting, the old carpet will be recyclable. Also, use organic carpet cleaner. About 30% of the cleaner stays in the carpet. If it isn't organic, it is likely laced with toxic materials you wouldn't want to expose your pets, yourself or your children.
- Use textiles dyed with recycled inks and fabrics woven with recycled fiber materials.
- Use wood that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Materials that are FSC certified are taken from self-regenerating forest eco-systems.
- Try to always use recycled (preferably certified sustainable) and environmentally safe, toxin-free/lead-free materials, products, and finishes.
- Build underfloor air supplies (ask your builder or architect for more specifics) to assist with heat fluctuations and indoor air quality.
- Pollen, dander, smoke, and mold enter our bodies through our lungs. Supply your most frequented spaces (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living area, office) with a HEPA Quiet Air Purifier with Permanent Filter. This unit is a high-quality, no-filter air purifier. Improve your air quality and leave the messy filters behind. Beautiful!
- Atrium's provide natural air filtration. If possible, build an atrium into the structure. If this isn't your style (or an option), ensure there are household plants in each room.
- Plant trees that will shade your home. This will reduce cooling costs in the summer and provide environmental benefits like biodiversity and oxygen production.
- Plant a garden. Create a compost pile. There is nothing greener than planting and harvesting your own fruits and veggies.
- Design a structure that catches rainwater run-off from the roof. Use the run off to water your garden.
If we, as a society, move forward employing green building techniques and keep the environment in mind when manufacturing buildings, homes, restaurants, corporate offices, and other structures, we will:
- save money on heating, lighting, and other energy costs
- help the environment by using organic, renewable resources
- improve our air quality by filtering what we put into the atmosphere
- provide longer lasting, sustainable homes, green homes, and offices
- improve our health by constructing our dwelling places with safe, sustainable materials
Building it green, breathing easier.
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