Thinking of selling? Green renovation projects can also increase the value of your home. According to recent research by McGraw Hill, people looking for a green home were willing to pay over $18,000 more (realtytimes.com, "Green Home Buyers Pay, Save More").
Building and Remodeling: What Does Green Mean? ~ Despite the absence of a universal standard (it's coming), greenbuilt projects do tend to have a number of features in common. If you want your own project to create a positive impact -- on the environment, on your comfort and health, and even on your utility bills - you now have more choices than ever, in eco-friendly designs, methods, and materials. here is a lot of chatter, these days, about "going green" in homebuilding and remodeling, but what does "green" really mean? House hunters and homeowners wanting to make a positive environmental impact are finding that green can mean virtually anything a marketer says it does. As with every other growing consumer trend, a variety of marketers have discovered the sales boost a green claim can give, and it's sometimes difficult to distinguish facts from hype.
No universal standard yet
It would certainly be helpful if there were an "official" definition for what makes a building, project, or product "green," but, at this point, there isn't. At least, not yet, but it's coming. The National Association of Homebuilders is working on a national greenbuilding standard, and they have certified several hundred contractors in greenbuilding practices. There are also organizations that provide levels of certification for homes and remodels built with green features, such as the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council with its LEED certification program. Similar certification programs exist in many states, and even in some municipalities. For consumer appliances, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the ENERGY STAR™ rating system. However, the "green" field is so wide, that with many products and materials, and even with some supposedly "greenbuilt" homes, consumers are still on their own in determining the legitimacy of green claims. The caveat here is the same as with any other type of consumer purchase: whether you're purchasing a new home or planning to remodel your existing home, doing thorough research up front will help you make choices you'll be satisfied with, not just when the project's done, but for years to come.
Common features of greenbuilt projects
Despite the absence of a universal standard, greenbuilt projects do tend to have a number of features in common. If you want your own project to create a positive impact -- on the environment, on your comfort and health, and even on your utility bills - you now have more choices than ever in eco-friendly designs, methods, and materials. Generally speaking, if your project can incorporate one or more of the following features, you're on the right track.
Site the project in such a way that:
The new structure will make use of natural heating and cooling principles such as shade and passive solar.
The construction process and the building itself have a minimal adverse impact on the site.
Reuse an existing structure rather than build a new one.
Deconstruct rather than demolish, if all or part of an existing structure must be replaced.
Reuse materials from the old structure where possible.
Consider using salvaged materials from other sources.
Use materials made from recycled content where possible.
Recycle as much project waste as possible.
Use building materials efficiently.
Use energy efficiently:
Incorporate insulation into structural members (e.g., structural insulated panels) as well as walls and attic.
Use low-e (low emissivity) windows.
Use a high-efficiency heating/cooling system.
Design to recycle waste heat.
Design-in lighting fixtures that utilize fluorescent or halogen bulbs, rather than incandescent bulbs.
Choose materials and products with low or no toxic emissions (e.g., wall board, cabinets, carpets, paint and other finishes).
Choose sustainably harvested natural products (e.g., wood products that are certified sustainably harvested, bamboo flooring, carpets made of natural fibers).
Choose materials, where possible, that come from local sources (e.g., local quarries for stone, or anything that didn't have to get shipped long distances).
Use water efficiently:
Use water-saving appliances, such as low-flow or dual flush toilets and a tankless water heater.
Design to recycle wastewater (greywater systems).
Design to capture and store rainwater (sometimes called rainwater harvesting).
Choose landscaping that is climate-appropriate (e.g., if you're living in a permanently arid climate, consider xeriscaping instead of sod).
If you choose landscaping that will need irrigation, design-in a drip, soaker, or emitter system controlled by a climate-sensor and timing device.
Choose what's right for you
There's room for flexibility. "Going green," says energy writer Marilyn Lewis, "can mean anything from where and how you build a home to the appliances and materials you pick, to strategies for cutting water and energy waste." Whether you're planning a whole house remodel or a one-room project, if you can't do as much as you'd like because of budget or other considerations, heed Lewis's advice: it's OK, you can be "a little bit green." Know what you want out of your new space, and do your "homework." Even a few carefully chosen features can help lower your operating costs, improve your family's comfort and health, and increase the resale value of your home.
Whatever your reasons, if you're thinking about a green remodel, we're here to help with with useful articles and other resources for ideas, materials and methods.
Get Tax Credits for Green Upgrades! With the expanded American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, you can receive tax credit for up to 30% of the cost of certain energy-efficient doors, windows, roofs and more. Visit energystar.gov for more information.
Here are some items we can help install to help make the home of your dreams more environmentally in mind:
Bamboo Flooring Basics ~ By using bamboo as your flooring of choice, you are choosing one of the strongest and most durable products available that still provides you with a luxurious finished product that will last for decades and has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly. Bamboo makes an excellent flooring product. Although it is usually classified within the hardwood family, bamboo is not a hardwood - it is a grass. The features and benefits that make it an excellent flooring product are:
Strength and Durability
When looking at a cane of bamboo it may seem flimsy in appearance, yet its surface is actually 25 percent harder and it is just as strong as Red Oak the hardwood most often used in flooring. Its durability and impact resistance is unmatched as Bamboo has a harder surface than Rock Maple.
Installed bamboo contracts and expands 50 percent less than most other hardwoods making it a perfect floor in most environmental conditions.
Colors and Grains
Bamboo has two primary colors. Its natural color is a blonde hue that highlights the unique grain characteristics, and growth patterns. In order to create an amber tone bamboo, the product is smoked allowing the carbonization of the grains which then take on a caramel or amber hue throughout the cane.
Bamboo is milled both in the vertical and horizontal direction. When milled in the vertical direction the individual nodes (the characteristic joint in a bamboo cane) are not as bold providing a very even grain and coloration consistency. When milled horizontally the individual nodes, are highlighted creating an aesthetically enhanced grain pattern.
Because bamboo is a grass not a tree, its growing cycle allows for harvesting every five years. Harvesting bamboo does not kill the plant it is the same process as cutting your grass, unlike the harvesting of a tree, which does kill the plant. Bamboo is considered the fastest growing plant in the world. It provides a yield more than 25 percent higher than any hardwood species.
An extremely hardy plant, bamboo grows in areas that have been overgrazed by animals and does not require modern day agricultural techniques to ensure its continuous survival.
By using bamboo as your flooring of choice, you are choosing one of the strongest and most durable products available that still provides you with a luxurious finished product that will last for decades and has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly.
Condensing Boilers - A More Efficient and Inexpensive Way to Heat Your Home ~ Need to replace your boiler? A condensing boiler can achieve up to 98% thermal energy efficiency and save you up to 40% on your home heating billis by recouping energy that conventional furnaces and boilers lose. Payback is 2-5 years at US 2007 oil and gas prices, depending on where you live.
A condensing boiler is a home heating system that is designed to recoup energy that conventional furnaces and boilers lose. Most houses have small pipes that discharge excess heat out through the roof - they often look like small chimneys. Condensing boilers capture this excess energy and put it to use. The reason for the name is that a condensing boiler literally condenses the water vapor produced by the consumption of gas or oil in the boiler condenses back into water. This condensation, in turn, allows the latent heat involved in the vaporization of the water to be used usefully in heating your home.
As of 2007, condensing boilers are now often replacing "conventional" systems in Europe. The Netherlands led the way, but now other nations, particularly those with aggressive "green" goals or high fuel costs, have also joined the rush toward the use of condensing boilers. In the United States there has been a more recent serious look at these furnaces on a large scale, particularly as gas and oil prices have skyrocketed.
So, what would the conversion to a condensing boiler system mean to your home? First the scientific explanation: A condensing boiler achieves up to 98% thermal energy efficiency. The system you have now, assuming it's a conventional system, probably only has about 70%-80% efficiency. What does that mean for your bill? You could see a difference of between 30-40% on your home heating bill by installing these systems. And all the while you will be reducing your and your family's "carbon footprint," helping reduce problems such as global warming and reliance on foreign oil.
In order to get the maximum benefit from a condensing boiler, a precise control system should be installed. A basic room thermostat will not be enough to ensure you are saving money and reducing emissions. A better method, for example, is to use an outdoor weather sensor to enable the boiler to heat the home only to the temperature needed. This and other controls can also signal the boiler when to run in the "condensing" mode.
Right now, condensing boilers are up to 50% more expensive to buy and install than conventional types of furnaces and boilers. However, state and federal grants and rebates might help offset that additional cost. Even so, the extra cost of installing a condensing boiler could be recovered in about 2-5 years at US 2007 oil and gas prices. Of course, this depends on the climate where you live, but it's a given that after a relatively short period of time, your condensing boiler will be saving you money every day you heat your home!
Cork Flooring Basics ~ Cork trees are a variety of the oak tree species. While most other wood or grass (bamboo) flooring materials are made by utilizing the stalk of the plant, cork is the outer layer of bark. Harvesting the bark of the cork tree is environmentally friendly, as it does not kill the plant.
Cork trees are a variety of the oak tree species. While most other wood or grass (bamboo) flooring materials are made by utilizing the stalk of the plant, cork is the outer layer of bark. Harvesting the bark of the cork tree is environmentally friendly, as it does not kill the plant. In fact, cork trees grow a fresh layer of harvestable bark every six years. The cork tree can continue to grow new bark for decades if not centuries. Very little of the harvested bark goes to waste.
No other material has the visual detail that is found in cork flooring. It is an excellent flooring material in both homes and offices. Cork has been used as a floor covering for many centuries because of its durability and appearance.
Durability and Resilience
Cork provides resilience and comfort. Unlike many of the ceramic flooring materials, standing on cork does not lead to sore and stained calf muscles. Many people believe that cork is soft, elastic, can be compressed, and hence should not be used if you want a long life floor. This not correct and the proof is that there are many century old European estates that still have their original cork floors. When cared for properly, as is necessary with any hardwood flooring, it is capable of providing decades of service.
An excellent flooring material for both kitchen and bathroom floors, cork is extremely resistant to any penetration by a liquid and it provides a non-slip surface (somewhat dependent on how it has been finished). Note: Cork should be sealed when installed as a kitchen or bathroom floor.
Cork is naturally hypoallergenic and antistatic. Homeowners who are concerned about the allergenic effects of any building materials should consider cork as it resists the growth of mildew and mold and will not attract pollen or dust particles. Cork floors are easy to maintain and do not release fibers nor do they emit any toxins into the air making it an excellent flooring for individuals with respiratory ailments.
Cork has outstanding insulation characteristics. Its naturally low thermal conductivity provides a barrier to excessive heat or cold. It reduces energy costs in both heating and cooling. Its thermal properties make it an excellent flooring over above or below grade cement subfloors. Even without under floor heating a cork floor is warm to the touch. An excellent solution to cold, basement, family room floors.
Insulate Your Home With a Coat of Paint! ~ With the high costs of energy anything that increases the "R" factor of your home's insulation saves you money! Now you can paint and insulate at the same time.
What is the best material to use for heat and cold insulation in your home? The fact is that the material that the insulation is made from is not what provides the heat and cold barrier. It is the air that is trapped in the insulation that provides the thermal barrier that keeps you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Each type of insulation, whether it is a foam product, fiberglass batts or shredded paper provides different sizes and numbers of air pockets within them. That is why crushing insulation or pushing insulation into a crevice is counterproductive, it removes the air pockets, which is what provides the thermal barrier.
Now you can paint and insulate at the same time!
A relatively new product to enter the market provides air pockets within paint. The principle of the product is based on a complex blend of microscopic hollow ceramic spheres. Each ceramic sphere has a vacuum inside it, similar to mini thermos bottles. By mixing the ceramic spheres into paint it creates a product that provides enhanced insulation and saves you energy and money.
The paint, with its ceramic additive has proven to increase the "R" insulation level of walls and ceilings. While use of the product on interior walls is extremely beneficial, its use on exterior walls is even more dramatically effective since it blocks the extreme heat of the sun.
The ceramic materials have unique energy savings properties that reflect heat while dissipating it. The hollow ceramic microspheres reflective quality affects the warming phenomenon called "Mean Radiant Temperature," where heat waves from a source such as direct sunlight cause a person to feel warmer even though the actual air temperature is no different between a shady and sunny location. It is the molecular friction within the skin caused by the sun's radiant energy waves, which makes the mind think that the body is warmer. The ceramic microspheres in the paint refract, reflect, and dissipate heat.
The performance of the additive when mixed with light colored house paint can reduce exterior solar radiant heat gain into a home and interior heat loss from a home by over 20%. Summer heat gain through a building's exterior walls can be reduced by over 20%. Winter heat loss through interior walls can drop to the point where a once chilly room is now a pleasantly comfortable one - making your home more comfortable in the winter, and summer!
The product is available as a premixed paint or it can be purchased as an additive.
Landscape Remodeling - Think Green ~ As with all landscaping projects, good planning is the key to success and cost efficiencies. If you plan green, you will obtain a wide range of additional benefits that include, comfort and convenience coupled with beauty and efficiency and all of these will be structured on environmentally sound conservation principles with a view to increasing the health of you and your family.
When we say, "think green," we are not talking about the color of the pressure treated lumber that you will use for the deck in your landscaping project! A "green" remodel is an environmentally friendly approach to any home renovation project. Thinking green not only improves the look of your home but creates a healthier home with less maintenance and lower utility costs. Plus, you are contributing to a making our planet a better place for future generations.
As with all landscaping projects, good planning is the key to success and cost efficiencies. If you plan green, you will obtain a wide range of additional benefits that include comfort and convenience coupled with beauty and efficiency and all of these will be structured on environmentally sound conservation principles with a view to increasing the health of you and your family.
Every landscaping project is made up of two aspects - installation and maintenance. If you only consider the initial installation and not the ongoing maintenance, you are not "thinking green." Always choose products and materials that have low levels of toxicity initially and require minimal maintenance in the future.
Consider the overall ecological impact of the landscaping plan. Does your plan:
absorb, or retain storm water or will it create run-off?
conserve water, use drip irrigation techniques?
utilize materials and products that contain toxins that will leach into the ground, water table or air?
utilize materials and products made of recycled materials?
utilize materials that are harmless to the environment when disposed of?
require a lot of maintenance?
As an example, the use of landscaping fabric to control the growth of weeds and grasses in gardens, decks, walkways and patios will increase the initial cost of the project. But in the long term you are avoiding the use of costly toxic materials and the time and effort involved in removing the unwanted plant growth.
When considering the cost of your project include future maintenance. A lot of products can have a lower initial cost but if maintenance is included and projected over the expected life of the item, it may actually cost a lot more. In landscaping projects, products and materials usually have to stand up to extreme environmental conditions. From extreme swings in temperature to the sun's UV rays, ice, rain, wind and snow, all are factors that must be considered when choosing materials and products to complete your landscaping project.
The Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters ~ Are you interested in purchasing a tankless water heater? If so, then you want to make an informed decision based on both the positive and negative information regarding them. A tankless water heater is going to cost you more money than a conventional water heater. Are you willing to make the investment for the added benefits?
Are you interested in purchasing a tankless water heater? If so, then you want to make an informed decision based on both the positive and negative information regarding them. A tankless water heater is going to cost you more money than a conventional water heater. Are you willing to make the investment for the added benefits?
The obvious reasons for getting one is that it will save you money as it uses less energy. Some models can cut your water bill by up to 50%. Keep in mind that it is going to take some time to reap those savings because a tankless water heater costs anywhere from three to ten times what a conventional water heater costs. You will find them between $500 and $1,000. However, some tankless water heaters qualify for a Federal tax deduction of up to $300. You can discuss eligibility for this credit with your tax preparer. Keep this tax credit in mind if you are in the market for purchasing a tankless water heater as this can really reduce the overall cost of the purchase.
The other obvious pro is that tankless water heaters offer an endless supply of hot water. This is great if you have a large family with plenty of showers taking place. I know nothing gets my day off to a bad start than not having enough hot water to enjoy my shower. The water won’t start getting warm until you turn on the faucet. While it does heat up rapidly, water is often wasted while you wait for it to heat up. However, keep in mind that a tankless water heater can only produce a set amount of hot water at one time. For those of you who like to multi-task, you will find it difficult to have the shower, washer, and dishwasher all operating at one time.
A tankless water heater doesn’t take up much room, so storage room isn’t a big concern. Many people find attaching their tankless water heater to the wall is an excellent way to maximize the space they do have available. Since there is no tank to worry about, you also won’t have to deal with coming home and finding that your conventional water heater tank has sprung a leak.
The decision to install a tankless water heater is a personal choice. While it is an expensive investment, it is certainly one that will pay for itself over time. You will also have the convenience of always having plenty of hot water. The downside is you won’t have the supply to operate several water demanding appliances at once. Some people already find that to be true with their conventional water heater, so it won’t be considered a negative feature.
It takes a lot of dedication and commitment to change your home and it is a lifestyle change to go green. Let Precision Concepts Construction help make it easier to transition to a greener home today!
Agricultural fibers ~ Fibrous materials resulting from agricultural operations. Cotton fibers, for example, are beginning to see use in insulation applications.
Air-sealing ~ The sealing of cracks and holes in a home's envelope to prevent uncontrolled movement of air.
Compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) ~ A compact-size fluorescent light bulb designed to fit into the same socket as a regular incandescent bulb. Fluorescent bulbs last 8-10 times longer than incandescents and use 3-4 times less energy.
Cotton insulation ~ Insulation made from recycled cotton-textile trimmings that is treated with a fire-retardant (non-toxic) and sold in the form of batting sized to fit between framing studs.
Deconstruction ~ When an existing structure cannot be reused as is, the traditional practice is to demolish it and cart the collapsed remains off to a landfill. Deconstruction, on the other hand, is the careful disassembly of the building into its component parts, which allows many of those parts to be reused or recycled.
Double-glazed window ~ a window with two panes of glass separated by an air space. Some double-glazed windows contain a gas between the panes that further increases the window's insulative value.
Drywall ~ Wallboard made with gypsum. You can now find drywall products made with recycled gypsum content.
Dual-flush toilet ~ See Toilet.
Energy Star ~ A program sponsored jointly by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency that promotes energy-efficient products and practices for homes and businesses. The program rates certain consumer products for energy efficiency (via the Energy Star label), and makes tax credits available for certain home improvements and certain high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment. Tax credits are also available to consumers through the program for certain cars, solar energy systems and fuel cells. The program also provides tax incentives to residential and commercial builders for incorporating energy saving products and practices into their projects.
Engineered Wood ~ A range of derivative wood products made from fibers, chips, strands or veneers bonded with adhesives to form composite materials. Engineered wood products include structural members such as I-beams, floor and ceiling joists, framing studs, and sheet products such as fiberboard or particleboard.
Envelope ~ The boundary that separates a building's conditioned and unconditioned spaces. The term is usually used when referring to heat and air transfer, such as through walls, windows, and the roof. All of these are part of the building's envelope.
Formaldehyde ~ Chemical symbol: CH20, formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas or liquid with a wide range of uses that gives it a ubiquitous presence in our everyday lives. It's used as a tissue preservative in medical labs and embalming fluid in mortuaries; it's produced by burning wood, kerosene or natural gas; it's present in automobile exhaust and tobacco smoke; it's also used "as a preservative in some foods, and as an antibacterial ingredient in cosmetics, household antiseptics, medicines, dishwashing liquids, fabric softeners, carpet cleaners, lacquers, and wood products. It is used as a preservative in some paints, paper coatings, and cosmetics; in the permanent press coating on fabrics; in carpets; and in some foam insulation materials." It's used industrially, in "the manufacturing of other chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, latex rubber, photographic film, and preservatives; in glues and adhesives for pressed wood products such as particle board and plywood; in leather tanning; and as an industrial fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant." The National Toxicology Program lists formaldehyde as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Long-term exposure is linked to cancer of the nose and throat. Exposure to high levels of formaldehyde, whether through ingestion, the lungs, or the skin, can cause a variety of severe reactions, from severe allergic reactions, to convulsions and death. Exposure to even low levels of formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems, aggravation of asthma, and in women, menstrual disorders. Formaldehyde is also referred to as a VOC (volatile organic compound). See VOC in this glossary for more information.
Green building ~ Also known as sustainable building or environmental building. According to Wikipedia, green building is "the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water, and materials, and reducing [the impacts of buildings] on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal - the complete building life cycle." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_building)
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ~ Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED® is a "voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings." There are LEED ratings (project certification) for commercial and residential construction, as well as for specific applications such as "neighborhoods, and specific applications such as retail, multiple buildings/campuses, schools, healthcare, laboratories and lodging. The LEED Green Building Rating System™ standards emphasize "state of the art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality."
Low-E (low-emissivity) window ~ Allows daylight to pass through the window but reduces the flow of heat through it.
Offgas ~ The release of vapors (VOCs or other chemicals) from a material through evaporation or chemical decomposition. Many buidling materials and furnishings offgas, such as some structural panels, paints, cabinetry (walls and veneers), carpets, upholstery, and wall coverings. That "new home" smell is usually attributed to offgassing and, in fact, can represent less than optimal indoor air quality. More and more manufacturers are offering low-or no-VOC alternatives.
Passive solar ~ See entries for active and passive Solar heating, below.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) ~ Used extensively in building and consumer products and in industrial applications, PVC is a family of plastics derived from vinyl choride. The issue of PVC manufacturing and disposal continues to generate controversy.
Reclaimed materials ~ Materials that are no longer needed where they are that are reused in a new location or for a new purpose, for example, wood and other materials that are salvaged from a building under demolition or deconstruction and used in the construction of a new building.
Renewable energy ~ Energy generated from renewable resources such as sunlight, wind, and agricultural products.
SEER (seasonal energy efficiency) ~ Energy efficiency rating for air conditioners. The higher the SEER number, the more energy efficient the air conditioner.
Siting ~ The process of selecting where and how a proposed structure will be situated on the land. This process is as important as the components of the building itself and should, ideally, take into account such factors as landscape, soil, vegetation, water supply, and the position of the sun relative to the site at different points during the day. Good siting avoids unnecessary disturbance to the environment during and after building, and among other factors, takes advantage of natural light and existing vegetation for interior illumination and temperature moderation, requiring much less energy use over the life of the structure.
Solar heating, active ~ A heating methode whereby heat from the sun is absorbed by a collector and pumped to a storage unit for controlled distribution, or to the interior of the structure directly.
Solar heating, passive ~ A design approach that considers factors such as siting, window placement, and wall and floor materials to allow a building to collect and store heat from the sun, and then release that heat gradually to help warm interior spaces.
Solar water heater ~ A method of heating water whereby heat from the sun is collected into a storage unit (see Solar heating, active); the heat is conveyed to the building's hot water system via a heat exchanger.
Sustainability ~ As defined by the World Commission on the Environment and Development, "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Toilet, Dual-flush ~ A toilet that conserves water by the use of two-different settings, one that uses less water for liquid waste removal, and another that uses more water for solid waste removal.
Toilet, Macerating ~ A toilet that uses a rapidly rotating cutting blade to liquefy human waste and toilet paper. The waste is then mixed with flushing water and pumped into a sanitary sewer or septic system as a fine slurry. Macerating toilets are used where a conventional gravity flow installation is not workable, such as where the main drainpipe is too far away or the toilet will be situated below the drain line (i.e. garages, basements). Macerating toilets use very little water (less than 2 gallons) per flush.
VOC (volatile organic compound) ~ A class of organic chemicals found in a wide range of building and home-furnishing products that readily release vapors at room temperature and upon exposure can cause reactions such as eye and throat irritation, headaches, and nausea. Also see Formaldehyde.