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What is Green?
I have my own areas of green building that I am particularly inspired by, however as a contractor, I am in the service industry so what green means to you is my primary focus while building your house. This page is designed to describe some of the specific concepts that fall under the general category of green and sustainable building. Through many discussions we would establish which elements are the most important to you and how we can incorporate them into your project.
My background in construction goes back further, but 19 years ago I decided to fully devote my efforts to building homes that were as sustainable as possible. The needless squandering of our non-renewable resources and pollution created by our homes was (is) a problem and I wanted to be part of the solution. My background is in molecular biology and biochemistry where I developed a love of research which has carried through to my career as a green contractor. I spend a lot of time researching building science, particularly where green building practices are concerned.
Here are some of the concepts and a brief explanation of their meaning. Some of these topics you may feel quite strongly about while others may not.
- Grey water: Capturing some portions of household waste water and re-using it for planters or exterior landscaping
- Rain catchment: Collecting precipitation and storing it for future use either in the household or for landscaping.
- Water conservation: Appliance, fixture and system design to use water more efficiently.
- Non-toxic materials: There are thousands of materials that go into a new home. Many of these materials contain some alarmingly toxic ingredients that you will be living with for decades to come. 19 years ago it was hard for me to find materials that didn't have a laundry list of harmful chemicals. Manufacturers and suppliers have listened to consumer demand and we now have many alternatives with no V.O.C.s, heavy metals or petroleum content. The book A healthy House along with several web resources help us wade through advertisers sales pitches to find materials that truly make your home a healthier place to live. Many of these alternative products are not much more expensive.
- Recycling: Planning for the recycling stream of products consumed in your home and re-use and recycling of building waste from the construction of your project.
- Embodied energy: The sum of all the energy required to produce, transport, and install a product. If you would like to minimize the environmental impact of building your home, the embodied energy of the materials used to construct it is an important consideration. We have researched most of the major choices of building materials and can advise you of which products take the least amount of energy to make it into your home.
- Life cycle analysis: A technique to assess environmental impact associated with all stages of a product from cradle to grave. This concept is very similar to embodied energy but considers environmental impact beyond energy use. L.C.A. Is a very rigorous and involved process. We rely on other organizations to provide this analysis and we incorporate their findings into our product selection. Here you will find a more in-depth discussion of the concept if you are interested.
- Local materials and suppliers: The closer you source your materials and services the less embodied energy and greater the benefit to the local economy and better the service. We have many sources for local materials and good professional relationships with local suppliers who are competitive with national sources.
- Cost of sustainability: Looking at the total cost picture of green/sustainable options. What is the return on your investment for you personally, both financially and health-wise. We can also look at the larger impact on our society and environment.
- Natural light: Both increasing the function and feel of your home as well as decreasing energy consumption.
- Home size: With a well designed home you can get more function out of a smaller package because it is designed to fit your lifestyle and eliminate spaces that you will not use.
- Passive Solar: Design that takes advantage of the daily and seasonal path of the sun and thermal characteristics of building materials to provide heating, cooling, and natural light. Passive solar can encompass a wide variety of design elements and fit into many different architectural styles.
- Active Solar: Systems that use mechanical and electrical components to operate and convert the sun's energy into heat or electricity.
- Heat Recovery Ventilator (H.R.V.): A mechanical system for exchanging air that incorporates a counter flow heat exchanger. An HRV provides fresh air, climate control while reducing heating and cooling bills. Some units also include a HEPA filter to reduce dust and allergens.
- Energy Recovery Ventilator (E.R.V.): Similar to an HRV but also function to keep humidity levels constant. In our climate an ERV is not necessary.
- Ratings: There are many organizations that offer certifications such as Passive Haus, LEEDs, HERS, BGNM, Energy Star, to quantify how "green" a particular building is. We have helped clients get these certifications and if you are interested we can explain the pros and cons of the process.
- Electromagnetic Field Reduction: An electromagnetic field is a force of both electric and magnetic components. Some clients are concerned that these fields are harmful, there are ways to greatly reduce the presence of these fields in your home and we have experience with these techniques as well as testing for their presence with scientific lab equipment.
- Diminishing returns: It is generally true that as one tries to make a home more and more efficient, the cost begins to increase more rapidly as you approach net zero. In other words, reducing your homes energy use from 100% to 90% costs a lot less than 10% to 0%. We will discuss with you where you would like to be on this theoretical cost vs. efficiency curve. (Please note that this is not a true model of the cost vs. efficiency curve, it's provided as a visual aid of the concept)
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