Your Eco-Friendly Home: Building or Remodeling Green
By Lana Hawkins
The scope of green home improvement projects varies widely, from applying a coat of VOC-free paint to tearing down walls and gutting houses down. One of the main dilemmas when pursuing a green living is the one between renovation and building from scratch. The two strategies may be guided by the same principles, but their consequences for the environment, your budget, and health can be drastically different. In both cases, there is a lot of ground to cover and various key decisions to make.
Birds of a feather
Remolding and building green differ, but the goals are the same: energy efficiency, conservation of resources, and healthier indoor environment. Also, the path to these objectives is paved with the art of sound planning and designing. Still, note that despite the similarities, remodeling is inherently much more sustainable and way more affordable than building. After all, you are merely upgrading rather than replacing the old with new materials.
In any event, the best place to start is to test the waters and do a home energy audit. This step allows you to pinpoint the deficiencies, and identify the best greening opportunities. It is the cornerstone of your green plan, a great way to get your priorities straight. Typically, a detailed inspection uncovers problems such as shabby insulation, rotten sills, damaged roof, air leaks, equipment inefficiencies, and structural faults.
These problems must be addressed before the remolding can get underway. In the next stage, you try to figure out how the modifications will shift the dynamics of how the building functions. Shopping around can be a breeze, but bear in mind that many companies have jumped on the green bandwagon and offer “killer” products. Only some of them have real value to offer, while others seek to capitalize on smoke and mirror ploys.
From the ground up
The main advantage of new construction is rooted in the benefits of integrated design. Everyone involved in the project is on the same page regarding goals and works hand in hand. Hence, one can facilitate a synergy between building processes, materials, energy-efficiency features, and eco-friendly construction tools like aluminium scaffolding. This tactic makes so much sense because the systems approach is at the very essence of green buildings.
Furthermore, when choosing building blocks for your home, you should pick natural paragons in the league of rammed earth as well as some innovative solutions such as recycled denim. You want to maintain the optimal temperature without employing toxic and polluting materials. Those who would like to go an extra mile can check out novelty trends like color-changing roof tiles or recycled-waste construction.
Contrariwise, when carrying out green remodeling, you already have an existing building, for better or worse (more often than not, it is the latter). As you may know, many structures that still persist today were not built with sustainability in mind. So, how to weave the old and the new into a functional whole? Well, it is usually better to bring the toxic, energy-devouring dinosaur down that to try to change its ways. In its place, you can raise something that is more than an uneconomical sum of unrelated parts.
The green mold
This is not to say that renovation does not make a difference. Much of the remodeling efforts are rightfully aimed at the envelope of the building and discovering weak links around doors, windows, or in the attic. When it comes to windows, you have nice options like wood, vinyl, and aluminum. Another common project is investing in green flooring and implementing materials like use cork, bamboo, hardwood, linoleum, carpet tiles, etc.
Along the similar lines, heating and cooling are areas where major battles for energy efficiency are fought. Highly-efficient HVAC systems and smart design (passive solar design, for instance) go a long way in minimizing energy losses and maximizing your comfort. One can replace old staples like natural gas with new capacities like solar panels for heat and air conditioning. The list goes on, and to materialize your vision, opt for certified (EPA, Energy Star…) products, that are always a safe bet.
Make it happen
With all the products and options in the market, homeowners have little excuse to stick to their old wasteful way of living. So, you first have to look back and then think ahead. Educate yourself and overcome the initial learning curve. Next, assess how the changes will affect home’s energy performance and take strides towards sustainability. Design, build or remodel your home to embrace sustainability at its best and plant the seeds of a better tomorrow.