Environmentally conscious lifestyles have become increasingly popular over the past decade. Part of the spotlight on consumption reduction involves green building materials that not only reduce consumption but also save homeowners on energy costs. In fact, 62 percent of firms that build new single-family homes, and 54 percent of those building new multi-family homes are going green more than 15 percent of the time. By 2018, the numbers are expected to increase by more than 10 percent.
Building green involves planning materials and resources that reduce environmental harm while helping to renew their original environment. Firms must consider:
- Conserving materials from the design phase to the finished product
- Choosing environmentally-preferable materials, including those grown sustainable, biodegradable and/or renewable
- Reducing and managing waste by recycling and reusing when possible
- Considering energy efficiency when selecting building placement as well as windows and other materials
Green Building Materials
When people think about green building, they typically consider green roofing materials, solar panels landscaping choices and environmentally-friendly paint. However, there’s an entire world of green building materials that can be used to reduce a home’s consumption rate and environmental impact.
Below are a few items that pack a green punch:
- Flooring: Not all wood flooring is bad for the environment. Bamboo, for example, is an abundant and rapidly renewable resource when compared to other hardwood materials. Cork, which is hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, is made from tree bark and does not require the tree itself to be cut down. As a replacement for vinyl tiles, which release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), try linoleum made from materials including jute and flax.
- Insulation: Certain insulation materials are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource that’s extremely difficult to recycle. Other options come from nontoxic and/or renewable materials. Cellulose insulation, for example, uses the highest amount of recycled content among all insulation choices with about 75 percent made from recycled post-consumer paper. Cellulose also costs about 25 percent less than insulation made from fiberglass, and it does not significantly affect a home’s air quality. Hemp fibers and recycled cotton are other eco-friendly insulation choices.
- Nuts & Bolts: Fasteners are extremely important, as they literally hold a home together. Though they may be tiny, rusty screws, nails, nuts and bolts could mean the need for replacements down the line. Zinc coatings and galvanization help slow corrosion and prevent rust, so fasteners last much longer.
- Windows: Window frames with superior thermal performance, when combined with glazed or insulated glass, can greatly minimize a home’s consumption rate regarding heating and cooling.
- Walkways: Open patterns in concrete walkways and driveways allow plant life to grow in the spaces in-between. In addition to reducing the overall amount of concrete needed, the grass and plants in these pockets can greatly improve storm water absorption and drainage. Further, “concrete” can also be made from hemp fibers, a fast-growing renewable resource. The lightweight material also means less energy spent in transporting it.
The Rise of Green
While firms and builders may be making the leap to green choices with new homes, not everyone can afford to make monumental changes to their existing home to make it more environmentally-friendly. But even small steps, such as composting, planting trees and replacing appliances and windows with energy-efficient ones, can have a big long-term impact.
With new homes, there’s no doubt that green is becoming the new norm. Thankfully, the prices of eco-friendly materials will drop as they become more widely used, making them even easier to obtain. As time goes on, huge savers like solar energy panels and rainwater harvesting systems will become less novel and more normal.
Megan Ray Nichols loves discussing the latest scientific discoveries with others on her blog Schooled By Science. You can follow Megan on Twitter @nicholsrmegan.