Americans are now spending up to 160 billion each year on remodeling their homes and businesses. A fraction of this money has been focused on what is known as “green construction”. Green construction or remodeling is using energy saving, recycled products, and is experiencing nothing less than a renaissance or rebirth. You can help restore a significant portion of the world’s ecosystems by using “green construction”. Such a practice can also help create a healthier indoor environment for your family.
Green remodeling is simple, but many homeowners interested in green building and remodeling have no idea what it involves and are therefore confused and intimidated. They think it consists not only of excessive expenses, but difficulty in getting the appropriate green products. Some also have misconceptions about the aesthetics of a green house. Some concern themselves about the misconception that they will appear to be living like hippies of the 1970’s. But it is merely a process through which you can redefine the way you live, a clean slate on which you can express your visions, dreams, and principles. The process offers a vehicle through which you can manifest and integrate your core values into your sacred space.
The hardest part for a homeowner is deciding just how “green” they want their rooms or homes to be. When it comes to green remodeling, you don’t have to do everything green, but anything you do will help. Are you updating an antiquated home? Have you outlived the functionality of your current design? Are you adding more space because of a change in lifestyle? Are you simply tired of your interiors and want something new?
The most important thing to remember is to pick and choose among the many options; design features and green building products that will best serve your interests. If you are purchasing new materials you can choose organic, low-impact, and healthy products such as bamboo flooring, natural fiber carpeting, natural plasters, low VOC paints and stains, as well as non-synthetic, natural furnishings and accessories, such as bedding, linens, and cleaning products.
You can use products made with high levels of salvaged (natural stone, lumber), recycled (fly ash in concrete), or agricultural byproducts (wheatboard and linoleum) content. These types of products reduce resource demand and help keep waste out of landfills. Choose products that are durable and low-maintenance; these are desirable because they need to be refinished and replaced less often, they save you money and save energy.
Try to use products that are locally or regionally produced. Local products support the local economy and may have lower levels of embodied energy, meaning that they require less energy and fewer resources during the production process (including the acquisition of primary material, manufacturing and handling), and especially in transportation.
There is no such thing as a right or wrong set of products. Building green is a thinking process, not a contest to see how many green things you as a homeowner can incorporate into your home. Do what you can within your budget and motivation.
As for the cost of taking on green remodeling, some green building elements may cost more, but many eventually will cost less. You will benefit from their use in energy saving costs for a long time to come, therefore making them a savings to you over the years to come. When it is part of the initial process of setting goals for the project, it becomes matter-of-fact. Many have found that the real cost is in the learning curve, not in the actual implementation of the building process.
The outward and even interior appearances of most green buildings don’t look any different than other conventional buildings. The majority of green element differences can be seen only as improved energy efficiency and air quality, which are all built within the structure of the home.
Most recycled products look the same as their conventional counterparts. Most materials have a high recycled content and are non-toxic. Some examples include: recycled red oak and bamboo floors (both consist of water base finish), recycled tile floors, recycled exterior doors, and natural plaster with integrated color. Paint manufacturers are now offering paints low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at typically less than .00 per gallon. For kitchens, you can also find Silestone countertops (which has a high recycled content and is anti-microbial), and you can even find formaldehyde-free cabinets.