Thursday, January 04, 2007

What is "Green Building" anyway?

The first thing I think of when someone mentions "green building techniques" is the old bi-level house in our neighborhood that sported the beautiful green aluminum siding so popular in the early seventies (the 20th century). You probably remember the era when the cars wouldn't fit in the garages because they were the size of large boats and the coal delivery guy showed up several times in winter. I remember how grateful I was that we had oil heat when my friends had to haul coal ashes in the middle of winter.

"Green building techniques" have nothing to do with the color of the aluminum siding (or any other siding) on the old houses back in the day. According to the B.E.S.T. Green Building Primer green buildings:

Green Buildings are really resource efficient buildings and are very energy efficient, utilize construction materials wisely -- including recycled, renewable, and reused resources to the maximum extent practical -- are designed, constructed and commissioned to ensure they are healthy for their occupants, are typically more comfortable and easier to live with due to lower operating and owning costs, and are good for the planet. The overall environmental impact of new building and community development and the choices made when we either reuse or demolish existing structures is very important.

Green Building Construction Techniques:

1. Create minimum site impact

One wouldn't clear cut a lot prior to building a home. Selective cutting and site planning are considered. Water containment and run-off are minimized. Solar consideration is given when considering solar heat availability throughout the day. Shade availability is considered when thinking about additional cooling in warmer months.

2. Use renewable, recycled, or reused building materials.

Construction materials including insulation, framing, sheathing, and some roofing material are manufactured using recycled, renewable, and reused materials in concentrations ranging from 25% to nearly 100% in their overall content of recycled materials*

3. Maximize energy efficiency

Insulation is used in every available space. There are new renewable insulation sources builders can apply including a soy based foam insulation product that fills all cracks and crevices as it expands during the application process. An agent is added to deter rodents and other critters from "lunching" on the insulation. Caulk is applied to gaps and crevices in the framing of the home.

Energy efficient lighting, windows, furnaces, appliances, and boilers or heat pumps should be implemented in the design build.

Geo-thermal heat pumps should be used when they can be implemented within the overall design. Consideration should be given to the responsible use of the additional water available from the geo-thermal heat pump.

4. Use water efficiently

Low-flush toilets, well insulated hot water piping, low-flow shower heads and faucets, and dishwashers and clothes washers that have "water-miser" features are all important to lower home water use*

Water conservation should be carried outside the home into the landscape as well. Plant material and placement should be carefully planned based on the water needs of the exterior site plan and environment.

5. Indoor air quality

Certain air quality issues such as Radon gas and Mold have been addressed by the state of Pennsylvania. Other items to be addressed inlcude excesive moisture, mildew and dust mites.

6. Use local when possible

Green builders use local materials when available because they reduce transportation costs and environmental effects of transporting materials great distances. Many local building products are renewable or are second time use (recycled).

This is a brief overview of the green building process. Believe it or not there are no national standards that the industry has developed and adhere too when considering green building. There are several organizations that are working toward national standards and certifications so it is a matter of time before the industry takes this important step.

For additional information please check the green building link.

*Material provided by

No comments: