There has been a lot of talk around “healthy” and “green building” practices for years now, but what are the actual benefits?
THE MANY BENES
Besides benefiting the environment, the builder and the community at large, green building and remodel projects give the homeowner the following:
- better durability of the overall completed project
- energy savings
- water savings and,
- improved indoor air quality
Overall, green building and energy efficiency is a different way of thinking, especially in construction.
Let’s start at the beginning…
WHAT IS GREEN BUILDING?
Green building, also called sustainable design and development, employs the practice of using healthier and more resource-efficient land planning, construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition.
Today, the term is far more comprehensive and far-reaching than the original, perhaps narrow, understanding of simply incorporating recycled materials into the creation or remodel of a home.
As we understand it and implement it, green building focuses on five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
WHAT IS A GREEN REMODEL?
A green remodel uses an approach to home improvement with the goal of not only making your home look better but work better—for you, your family and the environment.
Want a healthier home? Lower utility bills? Reduced maintenance? A cleaner planet?
With careful planning and creativity, your home can be beautiful, efficient, comfortable and convenient with health and conservation at its core.
Here’s a closer look at each of those benefits, plus the green building materials and practices typically used to achieve the results.
There’s more to it than just…
Successful green building means more than just using green materials.
It’s about the performance of the home. How much energy does the home use? How comfortable and healthy is the indoor environment for the homeowners? The majority of the homes in Seattle do have some sort of insulation and air sealing, but to achieve maximum energy efficiency for the home it must be reworked and utilized as an integrated system (making sure that all materials, design choices and installations are done correctly.
As you go through these points keep the above questions in mind.
All right, on we go!
1. HEALTHIER INDOOR AIR (IAQ)
To put it simply, green homes have better indoor air Quality than conventional homes, making the indoors physically healthier and more comfortable for homeowners.
How does green building achieve better indoor air quality?
- Minimization of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. By using safer products, including low-VOC paints, cleaners and adhesives, in the home the air quality improves. How? The use of these products reduces the homeowner’s exposure to formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.
- Elimination of mold potential. Mold can cause homeowners respiratory and other health problems, a well-known fact here in Seattle, right? A properly sealed and ventilated building prevents unwanted moisture in the home and enables effective drying for those parts of the home that do get wet (e.g. kitchen, bath, laundry).
Eliminating water issues will also prevent mold growth.
- Installation of radon-mitigation systems. Radon-mitigation systems typically are set in the foundation and allow harmful radon gas from the surrounding soils to be vented to the home’s exterior. This system installation significantly reduces the homeowners’ level of exposure to radon, which the Environmental Protection Agency estimates may be the second-leading cause of lung cancer.
This is a big question.
In another post, we shared the 5 Energy Efficient, Money Saving Remedies for Your Home, covering more about the quality of green products and whether they are worth the money.Here are a few takeaways.
When it comes to assessing quality, many are hesitant about the durability and life span of greener choices, but they shouldn’t be.
As our technology and knowledge increases, so does the quality of the new and updated products in development. Even cleaning products are now better quality than they have ever been before.
“People aren’t going to use products over and over if they’re not getting the stains off, if they’re not breaking up the soils,” says Samara Geller, a database and research analyst with the Environmental Working Group, or EWG. “They have been demonstrated to be just as effective at tackling various cleaning chores as traditional cleaning products.”
What about cost?
In many cases, “it is worth it, for the peace of mind associated with purchasing a product with higher standards for ingredient safety and transparency.” She adds, “… you’re paying extra for environmental protection benefits as well.” What about durable building materials?
Whether it is a “greener” floor or paint, you will know that the ingredients are less toxic and are safer.
In the end, as with everything, you absolutely will get what you pay for. And if you are smart about it, you’ll find quality durable options that are affordable too.
Green building materials that foster durability include:
- Durable roofing materials. Some have 40- or 50-year warranties.
- Recycled-content decking. Made of recycled plastic mixed with wood-waste fibers, this decking can last up to 5x longer than traditional wood decking, and it never needs to be treated or painted.
- Chemical-free pest controls. Discourage termites and other pests by separating all exterior wood-to-concrete connections with metal or plastic fasteners (or dividers) and place all new plants at least 36 inches from the foundation.
A green home is actually a durable home.
For a homeowner, that means less effort and expense to maintain the home properly, and components of the home won’t need to be replaced as often, if ever.
3. ENERGY SAVINGS
One major selling point of green remodel is the added benefit of energy efficiency.
But did you know?
In addition to saving homeowners money through lower utility bills, an energy-efficient home may save some costs during construction too.
Plus, an energy-efficient home is a more comfortable home. Why? Better air flow.
Energy-efficient construction practices include:
- Construction of a tight thermal “envelope”. Sealing to reduce air leakage, designing and locating ductwork to minimize energy loss and choosing low-emissivity windows will all help to decrease a home’s heating and cooling requirements.
- Installation of a properly-sized HVAC system. A smaller HVAC system can be used when the thermal envelope is of high quality. Smaller HVAC systems can actually provide greater comfort and lower the homeowner’s energy costs. Smaller equipment can also be less costly upfront, which may save the homeowner money during the construction process.
- Advanced framing techniques. Framing the home with 2-by-6 studs spaced at 24 inches allows the use of more insulation than conventional 2-by-4 studs spaced at 16 inches. This one change saves heating and cooling energy, improves overall comfort and may allow the downsizing of heating and cooling equipment. What’s more, the 2-by-6 framing technique reduces wood use and labor costs, which as an added bonus may save more money during construction.
Looking for more? Check out the 5 Energy Efficient, Money Saving Remedies for Your Home.
4. WATER SAVINGS
Does is seem like someone is constantly in the bathroom at your house? Is the dishwasher, and washer/dryer, running daily?
You’ve probably already thought of ways to reduce your water bill: just use less, right?
Yes, and a couple of building practices can also help. Water-saving practices for both indoors and outdoors include:
- Installation of high-efficiency appliances. Installing Energy Star-rated water-use appliances such as dishwashers and clothes washers can significantly cut a home’s water and energy use.
- Efficient plumbing-system design. Reduced hot-water runs, insulated hot-water pipes and high-efficiency toilets that use 1.3 gallons of water or less per flush will reduce the homeowner’s water and energy use and costs. What do you know about heat pump water heaters?
- New-generation landscape watering. High-efficiency irrigation systems such as low-flow drip systems, bubblers and low-flow sprinklers minimize overspray and evaporation and reduce runoff. This can dramatically reduce landscape water use while preventing plant disease and minimizing weed growth. That’s called an “outdoor efficiency score!”
WERE THERE MORE THAN YOU THOUGHT?
There are myriad benefits to owning a green home. As our technology and knowledge improves and increases, so does the quality of the new and updated products in development. The key to encouraging more green building is education (i.e. that going green can also mean a more durable, more energy- and water-efficient and healthier home for about the same cost as a conventional home).
ARE YOU READY TO REMODEL?
Do you know what it takes to complete a successful remodeling project? Do you feel your house or certain area of your home needs a makeover but not sure where to start?
If you’re entertaining thoughts of a remodel project for yourself, consider downloading our Remodel Reality Check worksheet.
Check out this post too:
3 Things to Ask a General Contractor About Residential Remodeling Dust
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