Homes being built these days must meet certain criteria that homes of earlier times did not. As society progresses and we realize that old building practices may harm the earth by diminishing resources or harm people by introducing toxins into living environments, we seek out and develop better ways to build homes.
Building sustainably by making homes more energy efficient is one way of protecting the earth. When a home is more energy efficient, fewer resources are consumed in the home’s daily operation. But, at a more fundamental level, just being more mindful of the products we use to build homes will go a long way toward developing more sustainable homes and building practices for the future. A good “green” contractor can be a valuable resource. It is a good idea to learn a little more about sustainable materials on your own, too.
The following are some examples of green building materials that can be used now to create more sustainable homes for the future:
Amazingly, homes can be constructed from a range of materials that you might not imagine such as adobe (bricks made of mud) or straw bales. Structures can be built using composite or waste materials. For example, finger-jointed studs are studs made from piecing smaller pieces of wood together. They are considered a good replacement for regular studs because they will not twist. Sheeting materials can also be made from recycled or waste materials such as oriented strand board. OSB is made from by-products of the lumber industry and is widely used in construction.
Insulation is essential to every home, no matter where you live. The right insulation can keep your heating and cooling bills to a minimum while helping to keep you and your family comfortable. It can be created using a wide variety of materials and techniques. You could insulate your home with rigid foam insulation made from plant-based products. Hemp insulation is naturally pest resistant, so it not only insulates your house from the weather but from pests, as well.
You could insulate your home with recycled materials made from shredded newspaper or denim. The great news about those products is they do not out-gas toxins. In fact, some naturally sourced insulation poses so little threat, you do not even have to wear a mask when installing it.
Roofing is important because it not only protects a structure from the elements, it helps to keep a structure insulated. A good roof can prevent heat transfer which means that you are spending less money to cool your house in summer. Roofing tiles can be fabricated from recycled plastic and rubber which prevents a lot of usable materials from going into landfills. Although, if you are looking to cover your roof with more natural and sustainably sourced products, you might consider clay tiles or wooden shakes. Both can be attractive alternatives.
The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the windows are the eyes of the house. Low emissivity windows (or Low-E for short) feature a clear coat of metallic oxide that helps to prevent heat from getting out during the winter or in during the summer.
If you are trying to keep toxins out of your home, look for paints with low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds). These are usually found in the odors you smell just after painting.
No matter what your green building goals for your home– whether it is using more sustainably sourced materials, creating a less toxic environment, creating less waste by using recycled materials, or some combination of the above– there are products and techniques that will help you achieve them. Starting with ecologically inclined builders and contractors who know about the materials and how to use them should be the first step in creating a sustainable home that will carry you into the future.
About the author: Bob Gorman is a contributing writer for Realty Biz News