(ARA) - The American dream is no longer contained by a white picket fence. The dream is now green, and it is embedded in homes and lifestyles.
Ninety percent of builders are incorporating green ideas into residential design and construction, a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders found. Homeowners have also begun to seek environmentally friendly classifications, such as the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification, for their new construction and remodel projects.
"Building green is red-hot right now," says Paul Mackie of the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association. "Builders are continuing to find ways to make green look good, be cost-effective, and complement the style of a home."
Whether it is improving the insulation, installing solar power, or using environmentally sound and durable materials, building green is firmly rooted in today's construction approaches. Experts suggest planning, cost, design and materials are the most important green building considerations.
The first step to a successful remodel is planning. Homeowners should enlist help from committed professionals well-versed in green building techniques and able to navigate the subtleties of design and efficient heating, cooling and plumbing systems.
"The basics to building green include careful planning, efficient systems and environmentally friendly materials," says Mike McDonald, an architect experienced in green design.
McDonald is building a LEED-certified house in Oakland, Calif. The home intentionally blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor living. Western red cedar siding used on the porch continues into the house, fluidly transitioning from indoor to outdoor living, a green technique.
"The quality, richness and sustainable practices that Western red cedar providers are using helped me to decide to use that wood," McDonald says.
Cost is always a concern during a remodeling project. The perception is that buying and building green is more expensive. That is not always the case. Prudent consumers weigh the long-term costs of operating their homes against the cost of upgrading and the resale benefits realized from home improvements.
High-quality, sustainable materials often last longer and improve a home's design much more than thrifty alternatives. For example, some plastics or composites might be less expensive to purchase, but have shorter lifespan and greater environmental cost. Other options, like wood harvested from sustainable, certified forests, have far less environmental impact, offer natural beauty and long-lasting durability. Unlike all other building materials, wood stores carbon rather than releasing it into the environment. So using wood, rather than other material, significantly reduces a project's carbon footprint.
"There is no other commonly used building material that requires less energy to produce than wood," Mackie says. "Renewable and naturally insect- and decay-resistant wood, such as Western red cedar, is perfect for homes that deserve both elegance and environmental friendliness."
Environmentally conscious design and high-quality materials typically save homeowners money over the long run through improved resale value, energy conservation and lower maintenance costs. And, when environmental costs are factored in, green building is often a homeowner's best overall option.
Smart design makes all the difference in green building projects. If done correctly, homeowners can expand their living space, lower their energy bills, and reduce their environmental impact.
Approaches are often simple. Passive design strategies that consider things like the shape and orientation of the home, the amount of natural lighting and use of alternative spaces can be immensely valuable in green building.
Outdoor living spaces, which provide cooking and living areas tempered by the climate and open to the outdoors, are one example. The environmental cost and the price of building an outdoor living space is less than building a traditional room because less building material is required.
"Outdoor living spaces are critical for quality of life," McDonald says. "A beautifully designed outdoor space effectively increases the useable space of a home without using a large amount of building resources."
Building green is all about selecting higher efficiency, lower impact, recycled or reused materials.
Green building materials are made using techniques that avoid chemicals and environmentally harmful manufacturing processes. Products to look for include recycled, durable and renewable materials, and those that require low off-gassing of harmful air emission (such as low VOC paints).
Wood is often preferred over exotic hardware or stone that is mined or manufactured using large amounts of energy and chemicals. Courtesy of ARAcontent