Residential homeowners and companies of every size the world over are starting to afford more attention to green building techniques and strategies, both for the sake of the environment and the wallets of the building’s ultimate occupants. The good news is that enough time has now passed to evaluate exactly which initiatives have proven to be valuable.
Builders are increasingly turning to advanced framing techniques to help reduce their overall building costs, and to significantly lower their carbon footprint. This advanced construction has the same overall structural stability and integrity as most standard construction techniques, but up to a third less lumber is used, and framings are quicker to assemble. The savings are then put toward the incorporation of greater insulation (and other green building strategies), which can lead to overall energy savings at minimal extra cost to the builder or homeowner.
Many warehouses and retail outlets are now stocking 50-100% reclaimed materials for new-builds and home repairs. Not only does the use of reclaimed materials and building supplies prevent the unnecessary use of natural resources, but the products are cheaper across the board (while still maintaining top quality).
Becoming the standard of new buildings across the country, rainwater collection systems can be built-in to provide free and reliable irrigation to the owner’s garden. As these features grow in popularity, the necessary collection tanks, filtration units and delivery systems are becoming incredibly affordable and result in massively reduced water use. While non-drinkable, the collected water can safely be used for almost any other purpose.
Another increasingly common feature used to create today’s green building are low maintenance materials for exteriors and outdoor features. For example, the use of fiber-cement siding immediately rules out the chance of rot, while at the same time greatly reducing the frequency of painting/ touching-up. Likewise, the use of composite materials for decking and other outdoor features reduces the need for occasional resealing and varnishing – excellent for the pocket and the environment.
The efficiency of buildings as a whole will always be influenced by the size, quality, number and position of windows installed. Dual-pane windows are always effective at helping to reduce energy consumption for HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), thus lowering electricity bills. In addition, it is perfectly possible to reduce lighting and heating demands exponentially by the use of cutting-edge technology with newly installed, or retrofitted, windows. Using Electrochromatic Smart Glass for windows enables you to determine the amount of light you may want to block. Since you can regulate the amount of light, you will not have to depend greatly on air conditioning to cool rooms. Developers of this glass for use as windows indicate that the glass can reduce HVAC costs by over 25 percent.
It is essential for a building to have its own self-reliant source of energy. Today, solar and solar thermal can do the job excellently, however are examples of large capital costs; up-front costs that do take a while to recover. Recently though, there have been dramatic breakthroughs in solar energy that will help further the mainstream use of photovoltaic (PV) technology, bringing solar closer to cost parity with fossil fuels as a viable energy source.
Geothermal heat pumps are a piping system placed below the ground which circulates hot or cold water to augment HVAC, without excessive use of fossil fuels for energy. Heat pumps instead use the earth’s natural energy. This significantly reduces energy bills as well as saving energy. Use of geothermal heat pumps have routinely cut heating bills in half, while running with more than double the efficiency of traditional HVAC systems.
Cool roofs lower surface temperatures in bright sunlight compared to a conventional roof. This is usually done with greenery, white vinyl or a solar reflective coating. Finishing with a cool roof is a highly recommended strategy since, for example, during summer, air conditioning requirements will decrease leading to reduced energy costs.
Most people can actually attribute their high energy bills to poor insulation. Insulation technology, both with new and recycled material, has improved dramatically recently. While insulation with new materials, especially state of the art insulation, still represents a higher efficiency, some insulation materials today are recycled products that are cheap, readily available and still represent the latest in insulation technology. Cellulose (mostly from shredded newspaper), recycled denim and even some plant and waste materials are now used for insulation, in addition to fiberglass, polyurethane and other materials. Having a properly insulated building will reduce energy costs.