We all have the best of intentions when we start a project that can help our space become a little greener. If all goes well, we may end up using sustainable materials and perhaps adding green components that improve energy efficiency.
To help ensure a successful project, here are a few tips for green building that can aid you in your plan to enjoy a healthier environment and, hopefully, a significant amount in savings.
Get an audit
A great first step toward a greener home is an energy audit conducted by a Building Performance Institute (BPI) auditor.
Tim Croman, Efficiency Department Manager for Greenspring Energy, serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the Carolinas explains that making your current or new home more energy efficient doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposal.
“When we come and do an audit, we look at everything and create a prioritized list that can be done to improve efficiency; some as simple as caulking or insulation,” says Croman. “These fixes don’t all involve major construction.”
Beware the envelope
Croman stresses that claims from window companies that say they can save you 50 percent, but 50 percent on what, he asks.
“The most important factor for energy efficiency is your envelope, or the shell that contains everything in your house. If you fortify your envelope, all the systems in your home will run more effectively. This is a green concept because your HVAC system can be smaller and use less energy because it doesn’t need to overcome a leaky shell.”
Another easy way to start on the green path is by buying local. Charlie Taylor, Project Manager for Delbert Adams Construction in the Mid-Atlantic region stresses that buying local shouldn’t just be a consideration for asparagus and goat cheese, but for building supplies and craftsmen.
“Using reclaimed lumber is not so green if it has to be shipped across the country,” Taylor explains. “Even if the product is green, fuel costs can negate the positive steps you are taking.”
Taylor also suggests that you get to know the various groups that give out green and energy efficient certifications. “For example, the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) supplies raw lumber sustainably harvested, and certified by a third party, and it is now available in most of the big box stores,” says Taylor.
Looking for labels
Another important label to look for when choosing carpet is Green Label Plus, given by The Carpet and Rug Institute which lets the consumer know when they are getting the best carpet in terms of air quality. The chemicals given off by your average wall-to-wall carpet can have a serious effect on the air we breathe.
Taylor also warns of green washing or the act of making false or skewed claims about the earth friendliness of certain products. “We suggest that you do your research before investing in products that are supposed to last much longer than previous materials, or are made from 100 percent recycled materials,” he says. “Even if the product is made with recycled materials, those materials still might not break down in a landfill.”
Lighting is a quick and easy way to save energy. Patrick Rowe, president of Rowe Electric, Inc. in Baltimore explains that even though LED lamps are more expensive than the standard bulbs of the past, over time, they make sense.
“In terms of your utility bill, wattage is what you pay for,” Rowe explains. “For example, if you are used to using a 100 watt bulb for a fixture, you will be able to use an LED of much lower wattage, saving you money. The LEDs also have a much longer life, and are cooler to the touch.”
Got other tips for green building? Leave us a note in the comments below.
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