Environmentalism has made its way from the activist's picket line to the architect's draft board: a relatively new and increasingly popular field known as "green building" blends the worlds of ecology and home design.
Research has shown that green building strategies create structures that offer important environmental, economic, and social benefits. These building methods are being applied to an increasing number of residential construction projects. Many homeowners find that sustainable architecture is an appealing way to help preserve natural resources while creating a better overall quality of life for their family.
What is "Building Green"
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, green building is "the practice of creating healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, and demolition". Key elements of green building include energy efficiency, water management, the use of eco-friendly materials, waste reduction, and the improvement of indoor atmospheres.
One of the key principles of green building, environmental (site) impact, is often all but ignored in conventional construction. Buildings that preserve and make use of the site's natural characteristics, rather than "imposing" the building on the site, disturb as little of the natural environment as possible.
Build Green Without Burning Cash
The decision to build green doesn't mean you have to liquidate your savings and start buying solar panels. While green building costs tend to be slightly higher than conventional construction, many principles of green building can be incorporated in even budget-conscious home construction projects. Building with recycled or reused materials is both ecologically and economically sound. An energy efficient floor plan places primary living spaces on the warmer south side of the house, relegating storage and utility rooms on the colder north side.
Natural lighting and shading, key elements of a green home, can be more easily accomplished with well placed windows and skylights. Stringent insulation and Energy Star appliances, while more costly upfront, will result in savings far greater over the life of the house.
The improvement of indoor air quality is another of green building's core aims. An open floor plan that emphasizes natural airflow can improve the health and productivity of the home's occupants. A mechanical ventilations system that provides a constant stream of fresh air is necessary to remove air pollutants.
Incorporate some Green into your current home's scheme
While incorporating green methods at the design stage of home construction yields the most significant benefits, there are many ways to make an existing home more eco-friendly. Replacing light fixtures, appliances and thermostats with Energy Star qualified equivalents can greatly lower your home's energy consumption and subsequent utility costs. Remodeling projects can incorporate green principles by using recycled, local materials. Consider re-using materials such as lumber and glass in projects rather than destroying or disposing of them.
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