Green Building
What Everyone Should Know

Green building or “sustainable” building is the practice of keeping the protection of the environment above all other building considerations. This ideal of environmental concern in building new structures and improving older ones, is more pervasive now, and often guides companies and homeowners alike to make eco-friendly construction decisions.

Green Building
For new structures, the point of being sustainable is not to only use sustainable products, such as bamboo, and recycled and repurposed building materials. From lights to flooring and from the bones of the new building down to the plumbing and electrical, the top construction leaders are embracing this sustainable movement.

Isn’t Green Building Expensive?

This is one of the most widely misperceptions in the construction industry. Building green isn’t expensive. Not only in the short-term financial output, say for materials, but for the long-term benefit by saving overall utilities costs.

Habitat for Humanity International (HHI) is one of the first and leading organizations that embraced the green building movement before it became a regular and expected practice. Since the organization provides low-cost homes for those disenfranchised, it recognized the cost-benefit of building green and using sustainable products.

From radiant heat flooring to using recycled glass counter tops, Habitat for Humanity International embraced the green movement because of the cost effectiveness for not only their own building costs, but to provide a house that kept the homeowners’ costs to a minimum.

Building green, sustainable homes and buildings is more cost effective now than any other form of building. Further, the United States government, specifically the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “rewards” sustainable building by offering tax incentives and grants.

Not only does the EPA recognize the importance and long term impact of sustainable building, so does the United States Green Building Council (USBGC). From city redevelopment, new builds and residential home improvements, the USBGC also provides financial incentive to build sustainable.

Numerous government agencies, private organizations and foundations supplement the cost of building green. Nation-wide – even worldwide – understands the imperative to provide a clean environment for future generations.

Why Are Green Structure Improvements Critical?

Many homeowners of older, aging and often beautiful homes tend to be do-it-yourselfers (DIYers). Not only are these homeowners looking to save money and time, they understand the importance of maintaining the character of their home but also to make modern improvements.

For homeowners, similarly to new builds, have a financial incentive to go green, including tax breaks. As these intrepid DIYers tackle projects in their older homes, they often run across deadly and extremely toxic materials: from asbestos to lead paint, these well-intentioned homeowners run the risk of being exposed while doing home improvements.

Many of these well-intentioned DIYers do not recognize the underlying risk of these toxins, often putting themselves in harm’s way unknowingly. Especially in older homes dating from the turn-of-the-century through the mid-century, deadly building materials were used in construction. From plumbing to sealant and insulation, by simply doing green improvements, these homeowners run the risk of asbestos exposure among other toxins.

Though current cases of mesothelioma are traced back to the heyday of asbestos production, it isn’t known yet what these homeowners, and quite frankly, builders repairing older structures are exposed to. Currently, there are mesothelioma treatments; precautions must be taken in any improvement project.

Education is paramount to keep those keen eco-supportive homeowners safe from deadly toxins like asbestos and lead paint. Many agencies are offering tips for protection during any improvement process.

The bottom line is that green or sustainable building is considered a best building practice: from major developers to homeowners, by using eco-friendly building tactics and materials is not only cost effective but extremely necessary.

-Barbara O’Brien

Return to "Going Green" from "Green Building".

Return to "Recycled Building Materials" from "Green Building".

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