Home Renovation

 

Green Renovation


Going Green – What is it?

Green building is the term used to encompass use of design and construction materials and techniques that are:

  • environmentally responsible
  • encourage energy efficiency
  • conserve natural resources
  • create healthier interior environments for homeowners.

Not into environmental responsibility? Read on anyway – there’s more to it than that – advantages in cost, among other things.

Green building is a trend which began first in commercial building in the 1970s, and in residential building in the 1980s. Green renovation is picking up steam in the remodeling industry as well.  In certain parts of the country - California, Georgia, Minnesota – green building is becoming more prevalent. In Atlanta, for example, the Earthcraft House Program (www.earthcrafthouse.com) offers information on the advantages of green building, showcases the results, and helps homeowners and contractors learn about what’s involved.

The advantages of going green are many, including:

  • Lowered ongoing operating costs
  • Improved personal health and comfort
  • Marketability at time of resale.
  • Helping the planet!

Going 'Green' can save you money on the
operating costs of your home


How are these advantages achieved?

  • Your home will be more energy efficient, reducing your monthly utility bills.
  • Improved building techniques and products reduce upkeep and repairs.
  • Superior air sealing and ventilation improve air quality.
  • Foam insulation is more effective against air leakage.
  • Alternative paint and floor finishes are less toxic at application, and over time.
  • For those who are sensitive to chemical particles, dust, or other materials, a cleaner living environment not only means greater comfort, but may mean reduced medical bills.

For the savvy marketer, lower utility bills, lower maintenance costs, and healthier environment are all great selling points.

According to Carl Seville, green remodeling expert and former VP of Sawhorse, Inc., a design/build firm in Atlanta, “Green encompasses two main areas of home construction or renovation – home performance and material selection. Home performance involves making a house efficient and healthy – lowering energy bills and improving indoor air quality. Material selection involves choosing products that are either good for the environment (recycled, sustainably-produced), or healthy (no offgassing of toxic materials) or often, both.”

But Will Going Green Cost More?

Top Green Products

1. Caulking, for superior air sealing, improved energy efficiency

2. Spray foam insulation, for performance and health  

3. Duct sealing mastic, for performance and health  

4. Advanced framing techniques to allow for better insulation of walls, for improved energy efficiency, and reduction in material usage

5. Paints and other finishes with reduced levels of toxins, for health and comfort

6. Energy efficient appliances for kitchen, and whole house use

Renovating green is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Some materials may be cost neutral, and save you money over time. Others may incur a slight increase initially, but yield both direct and indirect savings over time.

In fact, an October 2003 California study, in collaboration with the US Green Building Council, concluded that upfront costs for going green result in only a 2% increase, with an average operational savings of 20% of the total construction cost. This is a tenfold return on investment, largely the result of savings on energy, maintenance, and upkeep.

(Source: October 2003 report to California's Sustainable Building Task Force, Capital E, in collaboration with the U.S. Green Building Council)

Seville explains that the real value of green remodeling is achieved over time, in lower operating costs and providing a cleaner, healthier environment, both inside your home and out.

Use of CFLs (compact florescent lights) for example results in energy efficiencies that add up over time. Caulking is another example – applied around baseboards, and holes in the floor and ceilings. It keeps cleaner air in, and is more energy efficient. 

How to Assess Green Renovation for Your Project?

Ask your contractor or renovator about using environmentally-sensitive products, especially if you suspect you have allergies. These options include low VOC paint (less toxic), or water-based polyurethane to finish floors. The cost may be a wash, and if you’re staying in your home during renovation, the application of these materials is typically less uncomfortable to those who may be sensitive to fumes.

Ask about application of spray foam insulation, which is a superior air sealant to traditional fiberglass insulation, and may not irritate lungs or skin for those who are sensitive. And for the long run, superior air sealing not only means reduced energy bills, but it means a better job at keeping air pollutants out of your home.

Ask about more energy efficient appliances, fixtures, sealants, materials, and less toxic finishing products. Over time, a healthier house means greater comfort and reduced medical bills. Your architect and contractor may be able to accommodate if they are aware of your interest or need. And any additional dollars on the table may be quickly recouped. In projects like an attic renovation, the cost benefit is very favorable, with better insulation results, smaller HVAC units required, and consequently, lower energy costs.

For additional information and resources on going green, check out these websites:

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