Many people today are concerned about preserving the environment during their building projects. They want to make choices that are environmentally responsible and conserve precious resources. However, building a new ground-up “off the grid” home is not realistic for most of us. Can you improve your home and make a difference? The answer is Yes! There are many green building construction methods that can be integrated at any time to any home and may be easier than you think. There is a wide spectrum of options for every homeowner’s goals and pocketbook.
Sustainability entails consciously supporting long-term ecological balance. The old adage, “waste not, want not” is surely a reference to preserving our natural resources. It is easier and more ecologically mindful to reduce demand than create more supply by generating new energy through new power plants, solar, geothermal or wind power. You can gradually improve energy efficiency, for example, wait until your appliances need replacement and then invest in energy efficient ones. Combine installing those new solar panels with a timely reroofing project. Wait until just before the rainy season to renew the landscaping in your yard. Simply reduce and recycle. For larger changes, approach your options in terms of cost and feasibility. The good news is that your capital investment may provide a return from reduced operating costs. Focus on ideas with a return on investment of 7 years or less for best economic value.
There is a wide spectrum of options for every homeowner’s goals and pocketbook. Each brings social and environmental benefits and carries differing financial costs.
- Replace old appliances with new Energy Star appliances
- Replace old windows with energy efficiency and renewable energy units
- Upgrade to a programmable thermostat
- Install high efficiency LED lighting and exterior fixtures with motion sensors and low-level site lighting
- Reroof to reduce energy for heating and cooling or install a “cool” roof that reflects the heat of the sun in hot climates
- Install solar hot water systems or photovoltaic solar panels
- Install low-flow faucets & shower heads
- Install a tankless water heater
- Turn off the water when doing dishes, brushing your teeth or soaping up in the shower
- Plant drought tolerant native species or a xeriscape that thrives with little water
- Replace or install new sprinkler heads with new high efficiency drip irrigation system with controllers
- Reduce the amount of turf in your yard
Environmentally Friendly Materials
- Utilize environmentally friendly building materials whenever possible
- Use home improvement products such as paint and stains with low VOCs and no hazardous toxins
- Reuse or recycle building materials – Habitat for Humanity ReStores offer recycled appliances, furniture and building materials in over 900 communities nation-wide
- Refrain from using toxic chemicals around the home and in the garden – choose environmentally friendly alternatives for pest and plant disease controls to protect biodiversity and ecosystems and improve air and water quality
Reduce Pollution – Less Waste and Environmental Degradation
- Reduce, reuse and recycle to keep waste out of landfills
- Install eco-friendly pervious concrete and pavers for hardscape to filter run-off
- Install bioswales for storm water filtration and retention to reduce pollution run-off and environmental degradation.
- Conserve and restore natural resources
- Reduce dependency on fossil fuels – consider an electric or hybrid car
Indoor Air Quality – For Better Health and Well-Being
- Ensure your ventilation and air conditioning equipment is properly installed and maintained to reduce operating costs, optimize life-cycle economic performance and contribute to better health, comfort and indoor air quality.
Simple Steps Make a Difference
No matter where or how you live, your decisions and choices can make a positive contribution towards reducing energy and environmental impact, improving the quality of life and making our world a better place for generations to come.
Please see our article Green Construction and the LEED Process for more information on LEED construction and green building options.