Need a new addition to accommodate your family’s new addition? Thinking green while remodeling or adding on to your home can improve the air quality, energy efficiency, and comfort of your home while saving you a fortune on future energy, water, sewer, and maintenance bills.

It’s also important to reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that are released into your home from the building supplies and materials used in construction. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, contractors that use products containing VOCs “expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed." Green building techniques minimize the emission of VOCs and other pollutants so that you, your baby, and your contractor can all breathe a little easier.  Here's how it's done:

  • Start green. Don’t wait until the construction has begun to start thinking green. Ask your designer or architect to incorporate green building into the design of the project to make the best use of energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, and use of recycled materials.
  • Minimize disruption. Heavy equipment and other vehicles compact the soil and destroy vegetation, so look for ways to minimize the disruption they cause. Limit machinery to areas that are or will be paved or built over.
  • Salvage what you have. If you’re remodeling your bathroom or kitchen, seek out ways to salvage the materials that you already have. Old floor tiles could be used as the backsplash behind your range or as part of a decorative counter top. Salvaging material saves you money on materials and keeps these resources out of the landfill.
  • Banish toxins. Conventional building materials emit toxins that are dangerously toxic to the environment and your family. Keep these toxins out of the air by avoiding formaldehyde-based adhesives, as well as toxin-emitting paints, carpeting, and finishes. Breathe easier by replacing these solvent-free adhesives, water-based wood finishes, and low-VOC paints and carpets.
  • Reuse and recycle construction waste. After your new room is finished, keep extra materials out of the landfill by making sure they are reused or recycled. In many cases, your contractor will be happy to take the materials off your hands for use on a future project. If not, post an ad on Freecycle or contact your local recycling facility or builder’s exchange to ensure that extra materials are put to good use.