GREEN BUILDING: Resource Efficiency
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David K. Horvath, GMB, CAPS, CGP, LEED-AP
General Manager, Certified Builder
Office: (615) 791-5678
Cell: (615) 319-0000
Most—but not all—of the environmental impacts associated with building materials have already occurred by the time the materials are installed. Raw materials have been extracted from the ground or harvested from forests; pollutants have been emitted during manufacture; and energy has been invested throughout production. Some materials, such as those containing ozone-depleting HCFCs and VOCs, continue emitting pollutants during use. And some materials have significant environmental impacts associated with disposal. When selecting materials, consider:
- Specify materials with low embodied energy (the energy used in resource extraction, manufacturing, and shipping).
- Specify materials salvaged from other uses.
- Avoid materials that unduly deplete limited natural resources, such as old-growth timber.
- Select materials that are recyclable, or created from recycled products.
- Sort construction and demolition waste for recycling. Some low-value materials can be ground and recycled on-site; for example, clean wood waste can be used as an erosion-control material, and drywall as a soil amendment.
- Donate reusable materials to nonprofit or other community groups that would use them for building or improving local housing stock.
- Use durable products and materials: Because manufacturing is very energy-intensive, a product that lasts longer or requires less maintenance (painting, retreatment, waterproofing, etc.) usually saves energy. Durable products also contribute less to our solid waste problems.
- Buy locally produced building materials: Transportation is costly in both energy use and pollution generation. Look for locally produced materials. Local hardwoods, for example, are preferable to tropical woods.
- Seek responsible wood supplies: Use lumber from independently certified well-managed forests. Avoid lumber products produced from old-growth timber unless they are certified. Engineered wood can be substituted for old-growth Douglas fir, for example. Don’t buy tropical hardwoods unless the seller can document that the wood comes from well-managed forests.
- Avoid materials that will offgas pollutants: Solvent-based finishes, adhesives, carpeting, particleboard, and many other building products release formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air; these chemicals can affect workers’ and occupants’ health as well as contribute to smog and ground-level ozone pollution outside. Avoid materials that offgas HCFCs, such as extruded polystyrene and polyisocyanurate foam insulation.
- Minimize use of pressure-treated lumber: Use detailing that will prevent soil contact and rot. Where possible, use alternatives such as recycled plastic lumber.
The embodied energy required to produce and transport building materials as well as their affects on your home's living environment should be considered in setting your project's green goals.
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