Use recycled or recyclable materials:
Many of the materials used to build are also available from recycled material. This means that fewer raw materials are required to produce them resulting in lower impact on the earth. Many products found at a moving sale or re-use store are in excellent condition and will drastically reduce the cost of furnishing your home. Additionally, finding furniture suitable to be reupholstered can give you the exact style you want for less money and decreased raw materials.Build recycling centers in homes- Recycle and compost all waste. Exchanging your large garbage cans for smaller ones can easily create a recycling center at home. Designating a bin to glass, bottles, and cans, one for paper, one for trash and another for compost will make recycling easy. These tasks will reduce your impact on landfills.Use renewable resources, especially energy- Incorporating a renewable energy system into the design of your new home can result in a zero-energy home. By using solar, wind and geothermal power in conjunction with your energy-conserving home you can easily offset 100% of your utility bills. Situating this equipment strategically on your property will maximize the efficiency and value of your renewable energy system.Create safe, healthy living spaces.

Building your home with materials that do not off-gas will make your living experience more comfortable and reduce the risk of sickness. As discussed earlier, properly sealing your home will help reduce the pollutants entering your home. Incorporating natural daylighting will generate the best light and help elevate the spirit. Building a home that is free of outside noises and pollutants will improve the well-being of its occupants.Use materials with low embodied-energy- Choose materials that require less energy to manufacture. For example, cellulose insulation made mostly from recycled newspaper has an embodied energy of 3.3 mega joules per kilogram (unit of energy over unit of weight) - while fiberglass insulation has 30.3MJ/kg. In other words, the amount of energy involved in producing the cellulose from newspapers is far less than developing fiberglass which requires furnaces and massive amounts of energy. Build community- Try to build your home in close proximity with the town, walking distance to public transportation. This will minimize the amount of driving, reducing your gas expense and pollution and give your family the opportunity to walk or ride a bicycle encouraging health and physical fitness.Who will help me?Green builders use equipment and software to test and simulate a building’s performance. Finding and utilizing the resources of a green building professional will make your green building experience a positive one. Going to conferences such as Building Energy will help you learn more about the latest technologies and give you opportunities to meet professionals in your area.

Try the following resources to learn about green building programs, professionals and incentives or 866-NJSMART The New Ecological Home, A Complete Guide to Green Building Options, by Daniel D. Chiras is a valuable book.What's stopping you from being green?

Leia Sims is certified with the Building Performance Institute and owner of Bright Alternatives, a green building consulting firm. She can be reached at 732-996-0179. Email questions to

Why green building?
Energy used by the building sector has great impact on our current energy crisis and concerns about global warming.Buildings have the largest impact on energy usage and waste worldwide. The charts below are from the US Energy Information Administration. Buildings are the largest current user of energy. They will also be making the largest demand on future energy and be the reason for the construction of the majority of new power plants.By modifying our building techniques, the amount of wasted building materials going to landfills can be cut. The EPA estimates that nearly 40% of the total weight disposed at landfills in the US comes from construction and demolition waste.The benefits associated with green building are huge. Green building techniques applied to a living space result in improved indoor air quality, a healthier living environment, a more comfortable home, reduced utility bills, increased value of the building and reduced impact on the earth.Eliminating chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) found in standard paint, carpeting, adhesives, cabinets, etc., improves indoor air quality. These materials continue to off-gas for quite some time. Many paints off-gas 50% of their toxins in the first year after installation. Some of the toxic smells are quite noticeable while others are not. These poisons can fill your home and subsequently enter your lungs.Implementing proper airsealing in your home will prevent allergens from entering and reduce the dust and pet dander that is airborne in a poorly sealed home. Airsealing will also prevent mold from developing.Properly sealing the home and controlling airflow with a whole-house filter improves the home’s health. Living in a healthy house can decrease your risk of illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, allergic reactions, muscle pain, headaches, fatigue, etc.Insulate your home to the recommended levels for your area. A properly sealed and insulated home reduces drafts and inconsistent temperatures in the home. The combination of a sealed home and properly sized HVAC system will efficiently get the conditioned air to where it is needed and keep it inside.Green building will make you money. Many green building practices reduce and in some cases eliminate your monthly utility bills. In addition to saving you money each month, the value of your home will increase. When appraising and selling your home, the benefits of green building will have a positive impact.

The many benefits of green building are easily definable and real estate professionals can convey this value to a prospective buyer.How can you incorporate green building?It is helpful to first determine your goals. Are you or your family sick? Do you want to reduce your utility bills? Are you concerned about the state of the environment and interested in protecting it for future generations, for your children or grandchildren? Many of the green building options will help resolve more than one of these dilemmas. Specific goals for your own home help determine which methods are most appropriate for you.General Green Build Recommendations: Don’t overbuild- Building to meet the needs of you and your family will reduce the cost of building and reduce the cost to operate and maintain your home. This will greatly reduce the impact on your finances and the environment. Design with minimal waste- Building a house using two-foot modules will help reduce waste. Most building materials are manufactured in two-foot increments, so using value engineering will reduce the amount of material waste. Producing less waste on-site will result in lower disposal costs.

A simple and effective framing technique developed by the National Association of Home Builders Research Center suggests framing at 24-inches-on-center rather than 16-inches-on-center.This technique alone will save about 30% of the framing studs, while retaining the optimal two-foot increment. Placing the water heater and HVAC unit centrally in the home will reduce the amount of material needed to carry the heat and water to its destination and will increase efficiency of the units by reducing the amount of energy to get it there.Make homes efficient – Besides using materials efficiently, designing to conserve resources during the life of the building is considered green. Use the maximum amount of insulation recommended for your geographic area. Follow guidelines for window to wall ratios by strategically placing the windows consciously on the side of the house that will optimize heat gain/loss. Utilize existing site features such as trees to help with seasonal shading. Use water-saving fixtures. Having a rainwater collection tank on-site to irrigate your property will have a big impact on reducing the amount of water used. Alternatively, landscaping your home with plants native to your area can eliminate the need to irrigate. Efficiently designed homes will reduce the utility bills by at least 30%. With utility costs rising 15%-30% annually, and the average home utility costs currently averaging $2,000 annually, this will save you thousands of dollars over the life of your home.

What is green building?
Green building has become popular over the last few years. Green, i.e., sustainable, environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient, healthy and other catchphrases, are widely used, yet the actual practice of this type of building is vastly underutilized.A green building would use fewer resources, eliminate toxic materials and incorporate the surrounding environment and community while minimizing its impact on the occupants and environment.Building Green involves techniques that result in an added element of comfort due to the reduction of pollutants used during construction, and the mitigation of their ability to infiltrate over the building’s life.A variety of green building alternatives exist, suiting your needs and budget, from simply using compact fluorescent lightbulbs and ceiling fans, to installing cork flooring, geothermal heating and straw bale construction.Green building uses a comprehensive approach encompassing systems both inside and outside the living space. This means, that when deciding on the type and size of heating unit installed, for example, the insulation, windows, shading, building materials and the surrounding environment are taken into consideration. During the design process, additional thought and research will drastically enhance the end product. Acknowledging that most of your time and resources are spent at home, the added value will be priceless.

How We Can Use Green Building to Save our Planet

By Leia T. Sims


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