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What is green building?

Also called sustainable building, its is a very complex paradigm. Top priority is to reduce the environmental effect of the building. An energy efficient house will reduce the long term energy cost. Use of environmentally friendly materials reduces the impact of the production of the material on the environment.

How do I get an energy efficient house?

Use high levels of insulation, high performance windows, and tight construction. Use of on demand water heaters (also known as tankless) heat water only when you need it. Use high efficiency heating and cooling equipment, lights and appliances.

How does design affect the sustainability?

There are several ways that design can help make the building green. Smaller buildings use fewer resources, but getting all the functions and space you would like to include in a small house can be difficult. A good designer can help to keep the size down.

Orientation of the living spaces to the south adds daylight, reducing lighting costs during the daytime hours. This orientation also adds some heat to the space, reducing heating costs. With overhangs sized for our latitude, the south facing glass is shaded during the summer months to avoid heat gain. Addition of concrete or tile floors will add a thermal sink to store heat which is absorbed during the day and release it after dark.

To optimize material use designers can minimize waste by designing with standard ceiling heights and building dimensions. Using durable materials and a timeless style extends the life of a building.

What about materials?

Use durable products and materials because manufactuing is very energy intensive, a product that lasts longer or requires less maintenance usually saves energy. Durable products also contribute less to the landfill. Use materials with a low embodied energy as long as they are durable. Buy locally produced products or those made with recycled materials.

Another aspect of green is the pollutants that can be off gassed from a material once it is installed in your home. Solvent based finishes, adhesives, carpeting, particle board, plywood adhesives and many other building products release formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Many new products are available to reduce these chemicals in your environment.

How can I get a healthy home environment?

Urea formaldehyde contributes the most to unhealthy off gassing and is found in many adhesives and insulation. Medium density fiberboard (MDF)is used for trim and in some cabinetry. That product and many particle board and plywood products contain high amounts of urea formadehyde. Use of solid wood, wheat straw board or other formaldehyde free products for interior trim and cabinetry will reduce off gassing. Some insulation also contains formadehyde and those products should be avoided if possible.

Synthetic carpeting is another source of off gas pollution. Substitution of wood floors, bamboo, cork, tile, concrete or natural fiber carpets will reduce exposure to the compounds found in synthetic carpeting. Vinyl flooring not only has and off gassing problem but also creates bad air conditions for the workers during manufacture.

How can Sue help you?

I am currently a member of the Sustainable Building Network which meets each month to share new developments and educate ourselves in this ever changing field. I am very concerned about saving our environment and making your home a healthy one. I also will research into new areas as the need arises.

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