"Green building is the term given for all the practices that can go into making a your home, or any building, one that is healthier to live in, and one that is healthier for the rest of the planet to live with. It's kind of a no-brainer: design and build a home so that the rest of the planet is improved, as the home is improved." ~Mark Bachelder
What is green building?
Green building is the term given for all the practices that can go into making a your home, or any building, one that is healthier to live in, and one that is healthier for the rest of the planet to live with.In short, there are three aspects of green building:
1. Choosing the materials that have the least impact on our shared environment, both by their extraction, or processing, and using them well. For instance: Choosing woods taken from forests that are well cared for, using concrete made from industrial by-products instead of energy-intensive common cement, re-using materials salvaged from the same house that is being improved (often the wood salvaged is better than anything one could buy today).
2. Building the home to be as resource efficient as possible. For example: Well insulated and sealed from drafts, orienting the windows to take advantage of winter sun, or cooling breezes, and natural light, and installing appliances and lighting that use minimal amounts of energy.
3. Maximizing indoor air quality. Many homes have worse air inside, on a regular basis than Los Angeles air on a bad day! This is due to the products it’s made with, (non-toxic or least-toxic materials and finishes) as well as the things used inside (such as cleaning products, and deodorizers). It is also important to be vigilant about avoiding the conditions that create mold inside the structure. As we build houses more and more air-tight, any small amounts of moisture that used to evaporate away in yesterday's old drafty houses, may get caught, and allow the growth of mold and mildew.
Green building also means making wise use of the "waste" from building or taking apart a project—like "deconstructing'' so the materials can be used somewhere else, and then taking them to somebody that will make use of them; and recycling everything you can, from broken concrete to salvaged wiring, and everything in between.
Why build "green"?
Our houses will be with us a long time. We want to build them so that they are appropriate to the environment, both local and global. We want to build them so they are appropriate not just to the moment, but for our future, and our children's future a well.
Since the early '80's, human impact on the planet has exceeded the living environment's capacity to absorb that impact. We are degrading most of the living systems of our planet and it will not last. Green building is an opportunity to adopt restorative practices in at least this sector of our lives—building and improving our own homes.
Green building also means building a house that is more pleasant to live in: it is naturally warm, well-lit with lots of natural light, and makes optimal use of ventilation, both forced, and again, natural.
A green house just plain feels better.
Does green building cost more?
Up front, maybe yes, but not much. Higher quality products usually cost more (I think of buying selectively-harvested woods kind of like buying organic vegetables—they just taste better!). Some products, like high-fly-ash concrete, don't cost any more to buy or use. And in some cases, like re-using or recycling materials, they can cost less. Up front costs of a "green" project may be only a few percent more than a conventionally built project. But you want to consider your long-term costs as well (what they call life-cycle cost analysis). A well built home uses less energy and water. Better materials last longer and need less maintenance. And the value of a healthier home is hard to put a price on.