Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Building It Green: What Price Eco-Friendly?

How Do You Build 'Green'?

There are many ways to incorporate eco-friendly materials and techniques into a remodeling project. Some are commonly and easily done, such as low-e double pane windows, or adding jacket insulation to your old or new water heater, which reduces heat loss by about 10% or more and is an inexpensive and easy retrofit.

Other elements of green building are more costly, such as solar roof panels that can provide enough electricity to your home to get you off the utilities company grid. Still other elements are downright esoteric, such as a sod roof, literally a green, grassy roof that sports a garden of growing plants while cooling the house underneath it naturally.

Interview with Neighbors Who Built Green

We have neighbors who really went to green town on their remodel/addition. That included recycled glass tiles, beautiful and environmentally correct, but much more expensive than regular ceramic or porcelain tile. They also put in radiant heat: pipes filled with water that get heated and radiate warmth into the space above through the flooring.

They used 'sustainable' wood, which is certified as not old-growth and replaced quickly by new planting. It's more expensive, but as Michael F. sagely pointed out to me, non-sustainable wood should be more expensive because of the damage that is done to the environment. "Damage to the environment is the real cost", he said, "so let's invest now for the future."

Budget Balancing Act

Michael also said that homeowners can balance out the expense of some sustainable, more costly items with recycled and re-usable less expensive items. For example, he and Irene choose a bathtub and variety of bathroom accessories, doors and medicine cabinets from Urban Ore in Berkeley. Michael vouched for the quality and the savings. They also re-applied existing redwood siding to the wainscotting and paneling in their new dining room, beautiful old-growth redwood that would have been prohibitively expensive to purchase new and a shame to toss in the debris box.

Green building and remodeling encompass many aspects impossible to cover in one short blog. I will be blogging about it again in the future. Look forward to:

How Did On The Beam Become Green Certified?
The latest savings on solar panels
How Green Is My House? LEED Certification
On The Beam's conserving/recycling/reusing practices

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