Oh, the joy and pains of home ownership
My wife and I have owned two different homes, one in College Station and one in Chicago. In both cases we purchased these homes in order to “put down roots” and be close to work and schools for our children. And, of course, there are those federal tax benefits. As homeowners we’ve had the “privilege” of coughing up money for maintaining our home. Until more recent times, we would not have imagined that we could update our home and still do something good for the environment.
What are some potential benefits of remodeling your home or office in an eco-friendly manner?
- Increased energy-efficiency
- Improved appearance
- Financial savings over time
- Healthier indoor air quality
- Personal satisfaction of reducing your ecological footprint
How can green remodeling help the environment?
- Greater energy efficiency reduces dependence on fossil-fuels
- Reusing existing building structures saves natural resources that would otherwise have been have expended with new construction
- Environmentally-friendly materials reduces indoor pollution
Here are several ideas that can be incorporated into your next home or office building remodeling project:
- Repainting with non-toxic paint. Through some friends we learned about a new kind of paint that isn’t harmful to the environment. Over the last year we’ve repainted many rooms in our house with “Zero VOC” paint. VOCs are essential volatile organic chemical compounds that are contained in much of the paint, carpet, and plastics that we normally purchase. These toxic substances can negatively affect our health, causing headaches and dizziness or worse; they are also hazardous to water and land resources when disposed of. As a rule, my wife is quite chemically sensitive. Since we began remodeling with these non-toxic paints, the fumes no longer bother her, our paint contractor is no longer sick after painting, and we have improved the indoor quality in our home. Many building supply and hardware stores now supply this eco-friendly paint. Ace Hardware in Fredericksburg, Texas now carries Zero VOC paints.
- Replacing appliances with ENERGY STAR rated equipment. Over time it is possible to realize considerable energy savings which benefit the environment AND save money.
- Switching to water-efficient, WaterSense appliance in the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen WaterSense goods are certified by the U.S. Departments of Energy and Environment to be more water-efficient (they typically about 20% less water than current standards). With rising water charges across the nation, the financial advantages to this decision can be considerable.
- Purchasing gently-used and recycled materials and minimize dumping to the landfill. It is now possible to buy recycled materials for counter tops, tiles, etc. at your local building supply store. In Chicago, one can purchase re-salvaged goods at “Salvage One” and “ReBuilding Exchange“. “ReBuilding Exchange” will also accept many of your old building items. In the Fredericksburg/Comfort/Kerrville area check out “ReStore“, affiliated with Habit for Humanity. Seek out contractors who have environmentally-friendly work experience in painting, reusing, deconstruction, and recycling. If you’re having trouble finding one, ask for referrals from environmentally-friendly supply businesses.
- Buying sustainably-grown wood products containing the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Wood products with this seal of approval have been harvested in socially and environmentally sensitive ways. Those products have been tracked at every step in the process from the forest where the trees were grown, the logging practices, the lumber mill, the manufacturing, all the way to the finished project. Even the major building supply stores, like Home Depot now carry their products.
- Weathering your home can mean huge energy savings! In the Midwest, heating bills can be lowered as much as 18-30 per cent with appropriate use of weatherstripping, insulation, energy efficient windows, and reflective roofs, etc.
- Recyling your unneeded building supplies, paints, etc.. Either drop off these items at a place like “ReBuilding Exchange” or at your community’s recycling centers.
- Saving money on your taxes. Do your homework and you may see a considerable reduction in future tax bills. In essence, these tax savings function just the same as rebates (although a bit delayed) that you normally received on special purchase items.
Some ideas for this topic came from a seminar presented by Meghann Maves, LEED AP, Consultant presented on April 18, 2009 at Greenmaker Building Supply as part of City of Chicago’s Environment series: “Green Home Remodeling Series”.
Your Green Home by Alex Wilson
Suggested web links:
National Association of Homebuilders has a invaluable section on home remodeling.
The GreenSpec directory is sort of like the “Consumer Reports” for green remodeling.
“Green Home Remodeling Series: Building Envelope“. Chicago produced this free guide which covers every conceivable aspect of remodeling and offers objective pros and cons of different techniques and building materials utilized.