Green construction fills an important need; it offers a much-needed alternative to the status quo, which is essential, given the current state of the climate, new environmental protection laws, and rising costs. Additionally, natural resources are becoming scarcer and more expensive, squeezing already tight margins. Despite these challenges, humans are looking for increasing levels of comfort in their homes.
Green construction is a method of constructing homes and buildings which utilizes environmentally friendly techniques while creating a sustainable and energy-efficient final product. The advantages are many, including long-term savings and numerous benefits for the home owners. Perhaps most importantly, it gives homeowners an active role in protecting against climate changes and preserving natural resources for future generations.
There are many benefits to a green home:
- Reduction of greenhouses gases (GHG) protects the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions are one of the primary drivers behind global warming. Buildings and structures contribute a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. By building green, GHG emissions are reduced, which will assist in the rebuilding of the ozone layer.
- Reduce operating cost. Green homes are built with energy saving features, heating and cooling loads are lowered by using high efficiency equipment, higher levels of insulation, reduced air leakage, high performance windows, energy efficient lighting, passive solar, thermal mass, daylighting, integration of renewable energy and other techniques.
- Hedging against the future costs of utilities. Because of the sustainable nature of buildings created utilizing green techniques, most utility costs will be dramatically reduced. This is particularly important in a world where power and water bills are rising not only year to year, but also month to month.
- Green homes are more air tight and thermally comfortable. Due to the design considerations, these homes are able to maintain better air quality and even temperatures throughout. Through green construction techniques, this air leakage can be minimized, thus lowering costs across the board.
- Improve indoor air quality. Green homes have exceptional indoor air quality. This is achieved through careful selection of material and finishes that produce very little or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Green homes employ advance heat recovery ventilation systems (HRV or ERV) to provide a continual supply of fresh air while ventilating the interior air space. Advance air filters will reduce dust, pollens and other outdoor air pollutants.
- Green homes are, generally speaking, more durable than their counterparts. Because these buildings are created using natural materials and more care is put into putting them together, they last longer.
- Reduce use of water. Green homes employ water efficient fixtures and other strategies. Conservation of water isn’t only saving the resource itself. When potable water is wasted, all the energy that goes into processing and delivery to your home is being wasted as well. Reduction in hot water use also saves the energy required to heat it.
- Green homes reduce noise from the exterior. Green homes have higher level of insulation and better quality windows which helps to isolate the interior from exterior noise. E.g. triple glazed thermos.
- Green homes provide better daylight and views. Windows in green homes are strategically sized and placed to provide occupants a connection between indoor spaces and outdoor through the introduction of daylight and views.
- Green home use less materials. Construction techniques that optimize the use of material and reduces job site waste, use of panelized construction, recycle and reuse thus diverting debris from landfills. This reduces demand for virgin resources and in turn reduces environmental impact.
- Green homes location. Green homes are generally built in development patterns and neighbourhoods that allow for walking, biking or public transit; this minimizes dependency on personal automobiles and their associated environmental impact.
- Green homes will have higher resale value. The value of a green home relative to similar conventional homes should increase every time energy cost increases. Reduction of utility costs should translate to higher market value.
- Green home owners are happier. When you have the opportunity to save on your energy cost, improve your health by providing amazing indoor air quality & excellent ventilation, reduce respiratory and immune system distress, enjoy better daylight and views all within the walls of your own home, it’s no surprise that green homeowners are happier. They also secure bragging rights and enjoy general peace of mind.
Some green builders go above and beyond by providing additional benefits:
- Mold free basement construction;
- Radon resistant construction – basement is built to reduce radon and other soil gas entering the home;
- Home future proofed for technology changes including electric car charger in garage;
- Installing solar shades which allow for passive solar in winter and solar shading in the summer naturally.
One of the most common concerns about green construction is that it will cost more money. This is a misconception. While some costs may be added at the beginning of the process (this is because of the costs of the materials themselves) the savings that will be received over the long-term more than compensate. Energy and utility costs will be lowered over time and health bills will go down. Not only will it benefit your budget, it will benefit the overall quality of your life.
Green building should ideally be viewed as an investment in your future (and the future of the environment itself).
For more information on green construction or to find out how you can utilize these techniques in your next project, contact your builder or renovator.
By Roy Nandrom, president, RND Construction