Building Green and Sustainable Homes
You no longer have to procrastinate. You can now build a green, sustainable home. Many people wish to build a new dream home while others choose to retrofit their existing homes to co-exist with the general environment.
Regardless of the kind of home you want to build, building a green and eco-friendly home will give you a smart, functional, and cozy home. Rather than waiting longer, it’s something you can do now.
Luckily enough, you don’t have to compromise on comfort to build a sustainable home. As the world changes, often in undesirable ways, you can still make beneficial changes to the environment. These changes can start in one important area that you have control over, and that’s your home.
One of the best ways to make a positive change to the environment is by building a sustainable home. A green, sustainable home will give you a perfect chance to do something right for the environment.
It can be constructing a new home, a renovation project, adding an extra floor, or any other addition that’s designed to be green.
Building a green, sustainable home requires doing three major things including:
1. Use sustainable construction materials
The kind of construction materials you’ll use to build your home will determine its level of sustainability.
Essentially, using sustainable construction materials will make your home green and eco-friendly.
While there’s no single material that’s universally considered sustainable, you should consider a material that scores highly in being eco-friendly.
Sustainable materials include:
- Reused or recycled materials – Reused construction materials are those used as whole materials but with some repairs such as cabinets, flooring, plumbing fixtures, windows, and doors. Also, you can reuse copper pipes. Recycled materials are those that have been reprocessed such as making flooring out of rubber tires or recycling plastic bottles to make benches and fences.
- Quickly renewable materials – These are materials that renew quickly. For instance, bamboo is great for flooring since the plant grows quickly. Bamboo is a type of grass and renews faster than wood. Other renewable materials include cotton, cock, and natural linoleum like Marmoleum, wheatboard, strawboard, and wood.
- Sustainably harvested materials – These are materials that are sourced from properly-managed forests whose harvesting for commercial purposes is certified and documented. For instance, wood can be sustainably harvested from properly-managed forests.
- Locally-sourced materials – If possible, source materials locally rather than sourcing them from longer distances.
- Non-allergenic and non-toxic materials – Black mold and formaldehyde are found in allergenic and toxic construction materials. Thus, avoid using such materials and consider non-allergenic and non-toxic materials.
However, it’s not always possible to get completely sustainable construction materials. While bamboo is perfect in being renewable, it’s not always possible to source it locally.
In most instances, it has to be transported from far locations. Thus, there’s always a downside.
Regardless, your ultimate goal should be using materials that score highly in terms of being green.
2. Include energy and water efficiency in your building plan
A green home shouldn’t consume lots of water and waste excessive energy. Instead, it should be smartly built to be energy and water-efficient.
Energy efficiency involves installing energy-efficient appliances, installing more windows and skylights to maximize natural light, and enhancing insulation in your home.
Water efficiency involves collecting rainwater, water-saving measures such as investing in low-flow toilets and showerheads, and reusing gray water from sources such as laundry, dishwasher, or sink runoff.
3. Put more emphasis on air quality in the indoor space
Choose construction materials that promote air quality in the indoors. That way, you’ll minimize or eliminate using materials that add allergens and toxins to the indoor air.
For instance, water vapor contributes to the development of black mold, which is quite toxic. Formaldehyde is another toxin found in some non-sustainable construction materials.
When choosing paints, consider those that have low volatile organic compounds. Choose floor covers made of sustainable/natural materials such as woolen carpets or wooden flooring rather than man-made or vinyl carpets.
How to Achieve Water and Energy Efficiency in Your Home
Most homes misuse water and energy. Energy resources include gas and electricity. In earlier years, water and energy were seen as renewable resources.
However, today they’re less renewable. Thus, it’s important to use these resources wisely.
Here’re some tips that can assist you to fix or remodel your home or build a new green home to use these important resources wisely.
How to Maintain Water Efficiency
- Consider modern low-flow toilets.
- Install low-flow showerheads.
- Use the rainwater that collects in cisterns to irrigate your garden.
- Try xeriscaping and do away with water-hungry plants.
- If you like having a lawn on your landscape, replace grass with artificial turf.
- Invest in water heaters that don’t have tanks such that water is heated from the source instead of having hot water running from a water heater installed remotely.
- Read the water meter regularly and keep track of your water consumption.
- Invest in water appliances that have a high water efficiency rating.
How to Maintain Energy Efficiency
- Invest in electrical appliances that have an energy star rating.
- Before construction, ensure the façade is designed to face the sun.
- Ensure outdoor lights have a timer to turn them on or off automatically. If not, only turn them on when you need light.
- Ensure your HVAC has a thermostat.
- Insulate the attic.
- Repair or replace any damaged windows.
- Draw blinds during winter and summer to enhance the insulating effect of windows.
- Clean the furnace filter regularly and change it as needed.
- Turn off the lights any time you’re not using them.
- Reduce the temperature of the water heater. Preferably, keep it at 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Seal any air leakage around your home with weather stripping or caulk.
- Set your washing machine to cold water when washing clothes.
- If possible, line-dry your clothes.
How to Improve Air Quality within Your Home
The quality of the air we breathe is extremely important. Before people started building green homes, only a few homeowners, architects, builders, and designers considered the air quality within a home.
Today, there’re more artificial materials that enter the home, including toxic chemicals. Thus, it’s extremely important to emphasize the importance of air quality in your indoors.
When refurbishing a home or constructing a new home, it’s important to consider these key areas:
- Floor coverings- Generally, carpets harbor dust. Thus, they’re not the best choice for enhancing air quality. If you can’t do away with carpets, consider those made of natural materials like woolen carpets.
- Paints- Most latex or acrylic paints available today contain little or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Avoid paints that contain high amounts of VOCs.
- HVAC filtration- In case you have a furnace or central air conditioning system, it means that all the air within your home passes through a filter. Ensure you’re using a HEPA filter. In case you don’t own a central air conditioning system, then invest in an air filtration unit.
- Moisture- Moisture contributes to the development of mold. Mold can be toxic. Install ceiling fans in the laundry room and bathroom to ensure that water won’t collect on the walls, thereby discouraging mold from growing. Also, inspect remote locations such as attics and crawlspaces regularly to ensure there’s no mold growing in the spaces.
- Construction materials containing formaldehyde- Particleboard and plywood often contain formaldehyde. Luckily, natural wood doesn’t contain formaldehyde. Thus, consider formaldehyde-free construction materials when building your home.
- Radon- Radon, a type of air-borne and radioactive gas, is known to cause lung cancer. Test whether the site has radon in the atmosphere before construction.
Questions You Need To Answer To Have a Greener Home
Regardless of the kind of sustainable home you’ve built, you can improve your green strategies by answering the following questions:
- Are there any computers turned on right now but aren’t being used? Why not turn them off?
- Can I replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs or CFLs?
- Why not buy an affordable insulation blanket for the water heater?
- Why not shower for just 5 minutes instead of 15 minutes?
- Why not allow my dishes to air dry inside the dishwasher? Can I just live without a dishwasher?
- Are there any unused electronics that are plugged in and wasting energy?
- Is the damper on the fireplace open whenever there’s no fire?
- Is it really necessary to set my thermostat high? Why not set it a few degrees lower and wear a sweater?
- Why not switch off the lights whenever there’s no one in a certain room? Why not install timer lights to save energy?
- Are the spaces around electrical outlet boxes caulked to prevent air leakage around them?
In conclusion, building a sustainable and green home is all about using sustainable construction materials, improving water and energy efficiency, and improving the air quality in the indoor space.