Sunday, April 17, 2011

What does it mean to be green?

Here's a question I get asked all the time by everyone. What does it mean to be green?
In an era of buzz words, there is no bigger word that causes more debate in the construction industry then “Green”.
A little back ground for you, the construction industry has always had a section that considered itself green. It was just never called that, it was referred to as “best practice”. What you need to understand is when it comes to construction you have to pay the green to get the green.
The products and practices that create your green project usually cost more and take longer to install or build. But in the long run they save you money with energy efficiency and longevity.
Here are some factors that I as a builder look for to help clients to determine if the product is to be considered green:

  • If the product claims to save energy, does it save enough energy to justify the extra cost. Because money spent on this item may restrict you from buying something later.
  • Spend your money on your heating/cooling system. Its the biggest cost but has the biggest impact on your monthly bills and your “carbon footprint”. If your in a rural setting installing Geothermal ground source heat pumps instead of propane or oil is one way and if your in a urban setting installing a high efficiency natural gas furnace is another.
  • Insulation, Insulation, insulation. When it comes to insulation there a million different options. Adding a little insulation to the walls or the attic above the standard 5 1/2 inchs of pink in the walls and ceilings will go a long way to reducing heating and cooling costs. Foaming around windows and doors, foaming of rim joist and insulating basement floors will help. But the amount of insulation should not exceed the potential return in energy efficiency.
  • Your flooring should come from a recognized green supplier. Your flooring choices are an area where you have the choice of going with a greener products. But be careful that you don't get caught up in following trends, you need to investigate the product. Flooring from the big box stores might be cheaper but can come with a cost. Hardwood flooring can come from places that don’t re-plant trees. Some flooring products like bamboo can have chemicals in it like formaldehyde or finishes that off gas for a period of time after there installed. Wood products from Canada usually come from suppliers that are by law forced to re-plant forests or use other methods like selective cutting that have less impact on the wilderness.
  • In a global world were products are shipped to our shores from all over the world, a simple thing to do is buy Canadian, even buying from the United States has left of an impact. Also safety standards are higher in North America with respect to what chemicals are used and how they are produced compared to places like China and other developing country’s.
  • Water conservation. The picking of your plumbing fixtures as in shower heads and toilets can be a simple way to save on water and should not cost you to much more then the conventional ones.
  • Hot water. From replacing your old hot water tank to installing tank-less hot water or water on demand, you can potentially save money over many years.
  • Roofing, simple fact in today’s roofing is to stay away from asphalt shingles altogether. Asphalt shingles are made from petroleum and have a limited life cycle. Products such as steel roofing or composites that are made from environmentally friendly products are a better way to go for the environment and for longevity. A steel roof will last 50 yrs or more and is completely recyclable at the end of its life.
  • Something most people don't think about when they are building or renovating is where there trim comes from. If you are installing wood trim a little research goes a long way in being green. Instead of going down to the local big box store look around for a trim supplier. The good ones will be green certified, to the point were they can tell you where the wood that made the trim came from. If the place it came from has been selectively cut or if it was clear cut and replanted. Also what they do with there wood waste? Do they use it to heat the buildings? Or do they compress it into wood pucks and sell it to gardeners.

If you are truly wanting to be green a well educated and well researched contractor can help you go along way to creating a wonderful space for you to live in and is easy on the planet.

For more help in this area give me a call at 866 877 3202 or

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

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