Green building materials benefits

Green building materials benefits

Our early ancestors built their dwellings from natural materials they found in their environment. Wood, bamboo, mud, and palm fronds provided what they needed to construct their earth-friendly shelters, which they built without polluting the environment or creating harmful greenhouse gases.

How green buildings can help fight climate change?

Today, however, construction and maintenance of buildings accounts for 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, and 39 percent of total energy use in the United States, according to the EPA.

Fortunately, there are myriad ways that we can reduce the carbon footprint of our homes and other structures. The first step of building green is looking for sustainable, recycled, and recyclable materials.

Recycled or refurbished materials are preferable, as the energy used to manufacture building products equals five to seven percent of U.S. energy consumption, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Agencies like the EPA and the U.S.The Green Building Council offers resources to educate us on creating greener, zero-emission structures.

What are the benefits of sustainable architecture?

“Green” buildings use less energy, water, and natural resources, translating to lower energy and water bills for you and reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the environment.

Whether you’re designing, remodeling, or demolishing a building, you can incorporate eco-friendly ideas. A good starting point is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design(LEED) Green Building Rating System. Their guidelines help you to determine your existing structure’s environmental impact and provide direction on how to build a greener home, office, or commercial property at a cost comparable toc onventional buildings.

LEED-Certified buildings are exceptionally green buildings, and it takes considerable effort to achieve this honor. An example of a LEED-Certified building is Helios House in Los Angeles, a concept gas station from BP which incorporates green building materials ncluding “cradle to cradle” (made with waste-free production) stainless steel, recycled glass-in-concrete flooring, recycled scrap metals, 90 solar panels, and farmed wood from renewable sources. They also have a green rooftop to help with insulation and cooling, and a structural design for maximum natural lighting to reduce energy consumption.

The NRDC office in Santa Monica is one of the rare buildings in America thatbhas received a LEED platinum rating. Some of its features include light colored roofing to absorb less heat, a grid-connect solar electric array, extensive natural lighting, 95 percent recycled gypsum drywall, Forest Stewardship Council(FSC)-certified wood doors, and bamboo laminate flooring.

Its designers used recycled materials including mineral fiber ceiling tiles, glass tiles, composite countertops, and nylon carpeting containing roughly 30 percent recycled nylon scrap. The restroom flooring contains fly ash, a byproduct of coal burning, andthe elevator interior panels contain wheat straw, a byproduct of wheat harvesting.

The exterior and interior siding is made from Hardie Plank, a durable wood substitute made from cement and sawdust that doesn’t shrink or expand, so it can hold paint three times longer than wood. And a final impressive detail: the restroom partitions are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyethylene milk containers.

The movie set of Evan Almighty provided an excellent example of recycling building materials after demolition. Director Tom Shadyac attempted to producea completely carbon neutral film, which was fortunate due to the tremendousbamount of building materials used to create the giant ark and houses on the set, all of which were built from scratch. After production, all of the lumber, landscaping, windows, flooring, hardware, and other reusable materials from the ark and the houses were donated to Habitat for Humanity (a group that builds houses in partnership with people in need), instead of being scrapped.

The carbon emissions from building and production were also counted and offset by planting 2,050 trees.

In your own home-building or home-buying adventure, reducing your construction-related carbon emissions begins with being aware of your options.

From the floor up, choose materials that are easy on the environment. Green flooring materials include cork, bamboo, and eucalyptus, all considered renewable materials because they take less time to grow than traditional hard woods.

Earth-friendly and affordable alternatives to wood include linoleum,recycled-content tile, and non-VOC (volatile organic compounds) carpet. Using carpet squares makes cleaning and replacement easier and saves the energy and expense of replacing the entire carpet when a portion of it gets stained.

The squares are easy to install and do not need to be backed by toxic padding like traditional carpet.bThere are a number of excellent green-minded flooring companies.

EcoTimber sells sustainably harvested and reclaimed wood products.

Flor and Shaw manufacture green carpet materials, made from recycled carpets and plastics.

Forbo offers petrochemical-free flooring from natural materials.

And Interface,Inc. is the world’s largest carpet manufacturer of modular carpet, carpet tiles, and carpet squares. When choosing wood for walls and cabinetry, be sure to look for wood products harvested from sustainably managed forests; such as those certified bybthe FSC.

Home Depot sells more FSC-certified EcoTimber than any other retailer.Their new Eco Options brand consists of more than 3,000 products store-wide with less of an impact on the environment than competing products in terms ofenergy efficiency, water conservation, and sustainable forestry.

Buying locally sourced products when possible also cuts down on carbon emissions associated with transporting heavy building products from farther away.

Once you’ve purchased your eco-friendly building materials, you’ll want tokeep the rest of your building green by paying attention to the details, including paint and furnishings. Paint is commonly made with petrochemicals that off-gas for the lifetime of the paint, potentially causing harm to inhabitants while adding to the global warming effects caused by petrochemicals.

BUsing a low-VOCpaint, available from most major paint brands, can keep unnecessary globalwarming-producing pollutants from escaping into the air.

When decorating your home or building’s interior, consider using refurbishedmaterials. Every time you buy furniture from a second hand store, or renew old furniture with eco-friendly wood oils and paints instead of buying new pieces, you cut down on your environmental impact.

Look at sites like and www.ecofabulous. com for morensuggestions on how to create great green interior design. Greening the buildings where we live and work will improve our health and give us greater harmony with our surroundings.

By taking this step, you will also help to save forests and continue to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

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