Home Concepts: Green Building 101
November 7, 2008
Question: I want to be environmentally conscious, but my head is dizzy with all the green building products out there. Can you get me started on the basics?
No longer considered a passing fad, a myriad of green building products ” from formaldehyde-free insulation to earth-friendly house paints ” have infiltrated the mainstream market. More than anything, savvy green homebuilders must do their homework and research how the products stack up both environmentally and monetarily.
In particular, the building industry has responded to the green trend with lumber that adheres to certain criteria.
“Basically it’s all about good forestry protocol, it needs to be good for the community, and milled and farmed in an environmentally friendly way,” explains Andrew Cross, of Truckee Tahoe Lumber Company.
LEED and SRI are terms that are frequently tossed around in green building circles.
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An acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED promotes the transformation of the mainstream home building industry toward sustainable practices, which involve good forestry protocol and stewardship.
Like LEED, SRI, which stands for Sustainable Forestry Initiative, is based on the premise responsible environmental behavior and sound business decisions can co-exist. SFI program participants practice sustainable forestry on all the lands they manage. They also influence millions of additional acres through the training of loggers and foresters in best management practices and landowner outreach programs.
Lumber that bears either one of these accreditations is typically higher in cost. However, don’t be discouraged if your building budget doesn’t accommodate added costs.
“Even if you can’t afford these sometimes costly wood products, you can still look for companies who respect the integrity of the environment and strive to minimize the impacts,” Cross adds.
Many people, especially those with young children, choose to concentrate their green building dollars on green products that also make the indoor air as healthy as possible. They shop for products that release few or no toxins into the air. Ultimately these products are healthier for the family and the environment.
Case in point is standard fiberglass insulation containing formaldehyde, which off-gasses into the air for years. There are a lot of options, from insulation made of soy to recycled blue jeans. These may be costly, but there are formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation options. These cost about the same as regular insulation, but are much healthier for the air we breathe, both inside and outside.
Mainstream companies are now offering VOC-free paints. VOC stands for “volatile organic compounds,” which are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short-and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors than outdoors. The paint is more costly, but many people think the health exchange is worth it.
“It’s a little more, but it’s doable,” said one Truckee mom. “For instance, if you can’t afford to paint the entire house with this paint, maybe just paint the kid’s rooms with it.”
In the end we can all consider doing just a few things ” some small, some big ” to help make the environment healthier.
” This column was drafted by the Home Concepts sales team, a division of Truckee Tahoe Lumber Company, which carries LEED certified lumber. Visit Home Concepts on the web at http://www.homeconceptstruckee.com, call 582-2119 or visit the showroom in person to learn more.