Every remodeling job is a chance to take your home to a new level of green. It can be very exciting.
It can also be a major hassle, expensive, time consuming and disruptive. Green goals or not, tearing into a home while you are living there means tearing into your lifestyle as well.
Just remember, the basic fundamentals of going green are the same for any project. The idea is to end up with a space that includes the smallest environmental impact possible and to aim for high levels of self-sufficiency and sustainability. This doesn’t change if you are building a new home or re-doing a bathroom or a kitchen.
This is a field in which the available options and the information are growing daily. Before you get started, scout around for latest ideas and chat it up with friends and professionals. Scan through magazines. Take a tour of a building that is green certified. Gather the latest information.
There are hundreds of options – maybe thousands. Have you considered adding heat to the flooring to cut back on energy needs? Have you thought of insulating curtains to slow heat leaking out of windows? Have you considered low-impact lighting in general? What about low water use toilets?
Every system in a home can be challenged, from the depth of the walls to the type of materials used. There are homes being built into the sides of hills to cut back on energy use and homes built with almost any recycled material imaginable.
Thanks to Google, you can quickly find answers to questions like, “Strange building materials.” One list includes a home built with empty beer cans and one – a fairly elegant-looking one at that – built from a discarded airplane fuselage. Others have been built from plastic jugs. Newspapers and tires. Even corn cobs and salt.
Scan the Internet for green products. I was surprised to find out recently that there is a certification process for clothing companies that wants to produce garments that meets international standards for sustainability. Green clothing – of course. It had just not occurred to me; for some reason it slipped under my radar. But clothing made with organic cotton by a company that meets certain standards for low environmental impact with their manufacturing, shipping and packaging is sanctioned by the industry. So, OK. So, now I know.
People spend a large percentage of their time in the kitchen. Is it possible not to only renovate your kitchen, but to move it to a southern side of the house, so that its heating demands decrease? Maybe yes and maybe no. But our planet is in trouble, so all bets are off; anything is worth considering.
Yes, glad you asked: There really is an Environmental Protection Agency Web site dedicated to informing the public about the basic steps of creating green buildings. Page one discusses “Choosing Green Materials and Products.” You might as well start with green materials if you want to build a green structure.
Why go green? Buildings account for 39 percent of the country’s energy use, says the EPA. Buildings account for 12 percent of the water consumption. Sixty-eight percent of the electricity consumed in the country involves building operations. In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, 38 percent involves emissions from buildings, says the EPA.
What does going green not do?
It doesn’t make the project easier. It might not make the project cheaper. It probably won’t help your children do better in school. But it might help you sleep better at night.
At a glance, costs for going green appear daunting, even if tires are cheaper than milled lumber. Triple pane windows are a good bit more expensive than single or double pane. But, triple-pane windows, one Web site points out, will not only cut down on your heating bill for years to come, it may also help you avoid having to install a heating vent in that portion of the home, making the payoff more immediate.
In the accounting world, there are fixed expenses – costs that don’t change very often, like a monthly mortgage bill.
The same applies to projects. Contractor insurance coverage needs are not going to change if you are asking a builder to use tires, newspaper or cinder blocks. Someone can get hurt swinging a tire just as they can swinging a hammer. You need insurance for that.
In looking up cost comparisons for green buildings versus traditional structures, there are many, but they pit one specific option against another specific option – traditional tile versus a green roof, for example. You would have to look up each comparison on as needed basis.
For some reason or another, of course, some people can’t afford to go green with the style or commitment they would like. The cultural norm for traditional homes still dominates the market place. Going green is still, at this point, one home at a time.