If you are planning to build a sustainable home or renovate an existing home now is the time to investigate sustainable building options as there are many “environmentally friendly or “green” products that can reduce the cost of power bills, water bills heating bills and more.In building or renovating a sustainable home be sure to investigate thoroughly the products you wish to use. In particular aim for products with low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). Volatile organic compounds contain chemicals that can affect human health as they increase toxins in your environment. Unfortunately VOC’s are everywhere – from PVC’s, adhesives, building materials and the list goes on…. Always check the label, and always check with your supplier that your product has as low a level of VOCs as possible.Kitchen and Bathroom DesignChoose bench tops that are made from recycled materials such as reconstituted concrete. This type of product is polished to a high gloss and comes in a wide range of colours and style patterns to choose from. They look simply stunning. I have this type of bench in my remodeled kitchen.Bench tops made from recycled glass is another option to consider as they will add a unique feature to your kitchen or bathroom bench tops. They too are available in a wide range of colours and styles.For kitchen and bathroom cupboards and cabinetry consider using recycled timbers. When finished and sanded, recycled timber products provide magnificent grains running through their veins and when finished with natural oils look stunning.Timber shutters also make an ideal solution to kitchen “drapes”. They can be installed so as to retract back to the sides of windows and so let in full light into the room. If you purchase shutters that close, this will provide insulation against cold or heat coming through windows or doors. Keep in mind that if your shutters retract you make the most of natural light flowing into your room.Pelmets above window shutters or drapes can also prevent drafts from coming into your home.Flooring:See if you can salvage timber flooring from homes that are being demolished, as they too look fabulous when installed, sanded back and finished with a natural oil.Keep in mind that every bit of recycled material you can use in your new sustainable home building or renovation is one more item that is not going to end up in landfill.Next week…Next week in Part 2 of this series I will discuss sustainable building options around solar energy, insulation, home painting and lighting options for you to consider.
I’m sure you’ve heard the argument that building an energy efficient, green home costs substantially more than a home constructed using traditional methods. Until fairly recently this was a true statement but builders specializing in green construction are now able to build efficient green homes that are approximately the same cost as standard constructed homes.Heather’s Home is one such an example. Built by Ferrier Custom Homes – it is a three bedroom, 2000+ square foot, (get this part) affordable green built home near Ft. Worth, Texas. This home is very energy efficient as it rates in the top one percent of Energy Star home built in the United States today. That translates into major savings when it comes to utility bills – how does around $15 per month sound? For Texas, where the summers are very hot, that’s pretty incredible.Heather’s Home is the first home in the United States to be certified under the new and more strict American Lung Association’s Healthy Home guidelines. Additionally, it was built under the NAHB Green Home Building guidelines and has been accepted into the Building America Program sponsored by the Department of Energy. Even more accolades include being the first Texas home to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and the third home in the country to receive LEED’s Platinum certification. Heather’s Home was also awarded the top most honor (Gold) in the Energy Value Housing Awards by the United States Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Lab, and the National Association of Home Builders.Following are some of the high performance and green features that went into the construction of the home…o Passive Solar Designo Proper Shading of Doors and Windowso “Thermo-Siphoning” Attic Fano Organic Landscapingo Metal Roofo Rainwater Harvestingo Fiber Cement Sidingo Non VOC Interior Finisheso Green Sustainable Products – Counter tops, Trim, Floor Coverings, Finishes, etc.o CFL and Flourescent Lightingo Energy Star Windows, Doors, Lighting, Applianceso Solar Hot Water Systemo High Efficiency Heating and Cooling Systemo Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS)Passive solar design principles are an integral piece of the overall efficiency of Heather’s Home. For Texas, this means minimizing sunlight exposure in the summer months and maximizing it in winter months. A reversed scenario would be typical of a high performance design for homes built in more northern climates.Water is heated by solar panels on the roof. Heating hot water typically accounts for approximately thirty percent of a home’s utility bills. Solar systems that power an entire house can be expensive, however, solar hot water systems can be installed for as little as $3,000.Quality control is ensured using a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) test. The testing occurs during and after construction to make sure that the home meets the stringent guidelines of the EPA for energy efficiency. To ensure that the house is airtight, a duct blaster test is also performed as well as the review of a checklist for thermal bypass.Heather’s Home not only looks great, it’s affordable – proof that a high performance, green, and modern home can be economically pragmatic. Thanks to the innovations of Heather’s Home there is no reason that more builder’s shouldn’t be building green homes for the general population. Shout it from the roof tops – you don’t have to sell the farm to build a green home.
Our economy, for good or ill, is largely driven by the notion of home ownership. Ever since the notion of an American dream was construed to mean owning a home, residential development has driven the economy. With so many industries involved in such construction, one key is the availability of commercial drywall.One measure of local economic health is the number of housing starts filed for by area developers. This is logical when one considers the enormous amount of material, services and skills required to transform open ground to a residential community. It begins long before any ground is disturbed or trees removed in the targeted area.First companies have to determine if there is a need for additional housing in a specific area. This often includes considerable analysis of current and future industry predictions. In areas where continued growth is predicted, the next piece of this puzzle is to determine which areas are physically capable of sustaining the development, and if there is adequate infrastructure availability.Once this initial assessment is completed with positive results, the next step is the intricate business of applying for and attaining permission to begin construction. This process is laborious, intricate and lengthy, and must take into consideration all the needs of the potential population. This will include adequate power supplies, water and roads.At the same time, it is imperative that the development company have an encompassing knowledge of local laws and regulations, especially where the environment is concerned. The impact on the land, water and air, both during construction and after the development is populated has to be protected. The process by which this comes to pass must be laid out in advance, in detail.Presuming this process is successful and permission to begin is granted, the next step in this gargantuan endeavor is to make sure the raw material is available, and if not, how it will be moved in keeping in mind the environmental impact. This process will involve the selection and contracting of a wide array of businesses which will work in concert to first, prepare the area, and then begin construction.Preparing an area for construction of a residential community is more than just bringing in the heavy equipment and laying the land bare. Before the first big machine begins its work, the entire infrastructure has to have been laid out. Roads, power lines, cabling for communication water and sewage all have to be coordinated not only for their existence, but so they can be repaired, cleaned out or added to and improved.When the construction phase begins, additional businesses like framing, carpentry, commercial drywall, electricians and a host of others must be contracted. A general contractor is usually in charge of these myriad subcontractors, and they usually have a pretty good handle on which ones are reliable enough to depend upon. In good times, this effort can be a tremendously powerful economic positive on the community, the down side is when demand drops, which can be devastating.