April 29, 2017

Go Green & Go Home—6 Tips for Sustainable Construction.

With my intent not to create harm to the environment and to live sustainably, I recently decided to adopt a greener lifestyle.

This never-ending journey of eco-friendliness makes me feel good about my place on Earth everyday. I am happy when I see how more and more people are warming up to “going green” and, most importantly, putting this critical movement’s thoughts into action.

My personal green story started small with planting vegetables in my garden, recycling at home, and limiting my car usage when possible. By making small changes, I soon reaped the benefits of these new and peculiar habits.

Looking at things twice before tossing them in the trash bin and finding ways to use them has inspired a certain spark of creativity in me. Picking fresh vegetables from my garden opened up my eyes and taste buds to what a real, healthy diet looks like. By not using my car as much, I shed the extra pounds I was carrying without paying for a gym membership. Perhaps the most surprising benefit, though, is a big cut in my monthly expenses.

We spend most of our time indoors, so this is where most of our wastefulness occurs. Therefore, it makes sense that our homes and workspaces should be the first place we lower our negative impact on the environment. Creating sustainable living spaces should be the main focus for individuals and families, as well as for communities who are planning large-scale housing developments.~

Here are the fundamental steps to building a sustainable home:

Check the facts:

Lately I’ve seen several trending articles about how to build sustainable homes for free, but at this stage in our culture, nothing is free. Houses are built on land, so unless you inherited a family plot, your first investment would be to buy one. Researching county ordinances is a great place to start to make sure your eco-housing plans are supported locally.

Plan right:

Meeting goals without prior planning is difficult to do, so the research and planning stage of sustainable home building is critical to our success. We must consider our budgets, local climates, and personal needs. Looking into the building regulations for the desired area will spare potential future disappointment.

If the physical appearance of the house is just as important as sustainability, then one might consider creative architectural solutions. The type of material going into a sustainable home will also depend on the climate and where the construction takes place. Recycled materials are not hard to come by and can be inexpensive. A great example of homes built with recycled materials are Earthships.

As technology evolves, building sustainable homes becomes more accessible. For example, WikiHouse is an open source system that enables one to design and build a house online. WikiHouse is constantly being developed by architects, designers, engineers, inventors, manufacturers, and builders who strive to offer the best sustainable building technologies for anyone to use and improve upon.

Create a solid foundation:

A good foundation is key to having a secure, family-proofed home. If a construction area does not have environmental factors that are harsh on the house itself, then choosing an eco-friendly foundation is within reach. Some green homes get built on a conventional foundation, because they offer a sound defense against subsidence and water damage, however, it is possible to use less conventional foundation materials that are better for the environment. Straw-bale constructions like Rammed Earth and Rubble Foundations are among my favorite options.

Consider your overhead:

The construction process for sustainable roofing is the same as the conventional route, but the materials differ greatly. Reclaimed and recycled woods are the most common materials, but in snowy or rainy areas they can warp and crack from too much water exposure. In that case, metal sheets and recycled shingles are durable options and and have high fire safety ratings. Other sustainable options include the Green Living roofs and clay or slate tile roofs.

Put your walls up:

The key to building functional walls is finding good insulation. Earth Block, straw bale, and structural insulated panels are some examples of sustainable materials for building green walls. When inserting windows, keep in mind that the more natural light a house gets the less artificial light is needed. By placing the right sized windows in strategic places, natural light will shine through and limit electricity usage over time. Double-glazed windows also have a significant impact on your home’s energy efficiency.

Consider these bonus tips:

There are various components, inside and out, that affect a home’s environmental impact. Here are a few to keep in mind:

>> Solar power, wind power, or microhydro can be implemented to cut electricity costs.

>> A rainwater collection system offers a natural water resource solution.

>> When decorating, low toxicity paints and floor finishes are best.

>> A grey water treatment system or diversion pipeline to an outdoor garden is great for outdoor water recycling.

>> Appropriate sizing of rooms cuts energy use and contributes to the tiny home movement.

>> For cooling, install ceiling fans.

>> For heating, consider a fireplace.

>> Choose energy-efficient appliances, especially when buying dishwashers, fridges and stoves, which have a high impact.

>> Remember to use LED lighting throughout the house.

Weighing the costs:

The reality is that quality construction costs more than sloppy construction. When you choose to build sustainably, you are choosing quality. In my experience, changing my home to be more sustainable cost me a bit extra in the beginning, but it is saving me money in the long run. When searching for a contractor, keep in mind that prices will differ depending on the materials they use.

If building a new sustainable home doesn’t fit your budget, here are two other great options:

1. Build a smaller house:

Determine is square footage or sustainability is the priority. Green builders can save a lot of money by building smaller, simpler homes. There is always the option to expand over time.

2. Recycle an old house:

Gradually improve the energy efficiency of an older house, starting with good insulation and new windows. Using salvaged materials to fix up a house often adds character without the cost of a full-scale remodel.

To see people around the globe taking environmental action is remarkable. It exhilarates me.

Imagine a world where people are free from the clutches of consumerism and can live a stress-free life, knowing they have become independent and self-sustaining. This almost seems unreal, but thanks to online resources we can research and share ideas to make this shift with ease.

I hope these tips inspire a greener future for all.


Author: Matt Reilly 
Image: Oliver Wendell / Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell

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