Is building Green an all-or-nothing proposition?
Who would have guessed a few years ago that “green building” would be one of the most vogue topics of conversation in 2008. “Green” living in general seems to suddenly be of great interest to the masses. Perhaps Al Gore should get some credit with his astonishing success in getting the public to take a sincere look at global warming. Or maybe the skyrocketing energy costs have finally reached a level that is noticeable on the household budget. In any case, Green living and Green building seem to be here to stay.
So, now that everyone seems to want to build a green home, I wonder if people know what building green really means. As a builder, I can tell you that many of our clients say they want to build green, but they don’t really know how to go about it, what it will cost, or even what it will look like. And how should they? Every time we pick up a newspaper or magazine there is at least one story about building green. But how does one navigate such a new and broad subject on their own? Isn’t there a simple, easy to read guide to building green? Not that I have found.
But the good news is that there is not necessarily a right or wrong here. For those who are afraid to build a house that is not green for fear of social or political ridicule, there is nothing like a high-efficiency boiler or some added insulation to clear the conscience and set the social record straight. A few affordable energy upgrades can add some instant karma at a good value. This home may fall on the light green end of the “shades of green” scale, but it is off to a very good start in the world of green building.
For those who need enough karma to take them well into the afterlife, there are plenty of old tires and aluminum cans to go around. From straw bales to rammed earth, humans have come up with some very creative ways to build a house. These would be the forest green houses, very green.
But for most people, the right formula lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, in the realm of green building, there are “shades of green.” And for what seems to be a majority of homeowners, a nice, affordable, understandable medium green house would do just fine.
So what does medium green look like? I’ll boil it down to three basic categories:
- Energy Efficiency – High efficient heating and cooling systems, tight thermal envelope (no more drafty homes that can “breathe”) and upgraded insulation.
- Indoor Air Quality – Active fresh air circulation system and use of products that don’t offgas pollutants into the home.
- Sustainability – A well built, Low maintenance home. The longer a house lasts, the better the use of the resources that were used to build the home. Certified sustainably harvested timber products are also cost effective and easy to find.
As I think about the shades of green, my hope is that soon most people will realize that not only can they afford to build a medium green house, but that they can’t afford not to. It’s time we stop thinking of the uniform building code as a high standard of achievement and more of bar set low. And for those of you who are willing to take it a step further and include a solar array or recycled flooring, I salute you. You are ahead of the curve and will have a long and prosperous afterlife, and you deserve it.