Despite more awareness about green building, there is still a lot of confusion about exactly what green building is. For most experts, there are five main characteristics that define it.
Having an environmentally friendly site selection or “footprint.” Some of the factors involved are orientation of the house to maximize natural sunlight for heat and light, as well as shade for cooling. As a result, the home’s furnace and air conditioning don’t have to work as hard to maintain a comfortable house. Another goal is making a minimal impact on the area in which the house is built. Forget clear-cutting the entire lot; take down only the trees and bushes that would interfere with construction. The remaining trees can help cool the house in the summer and act as a windbreak in the winter. And locating the home near shopping and other services will keep the amount of driving down — a win for the entire environment.
Using energy efficient designs and materials while building a “tighter” home to prevent HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) loss. The use of sunlight and shade for heating and cooling is as old as mankind, but there are designs and materials specifically designed to keep the house nearly air-tight. With less outside air infiltrating the home, the indoor climate is much easier to control. LED lights use a fraction of regular incandescent bulbs, while Energy Star appliances are certified to meet strict guidelines about how much electricity they require to operate. Because higher insulation standards and Energy-Star-compliant appliances have evolved over the last few decades, energy efficiency is often the first place builders start when going green. Energy efficiency is certainly some of the low hanging fruit.
Reducing a home’s water consumption through low-flow fixtures. It’s true that the earliest low-flow plumbing fixtures caused problems for some homeowners, but today’s versions are as good — if not better — than the old water hogs. One technology is the incorporation of air into the process; the result is a low-flow shower that feels just as strong as the one using much more water.
Promoting a healthy indoor air environment. Yes, air-tight houses are critical to energy efficiency, but an unwelcome result is indoor air quality that is five times more polluted than the air outdoors. Green builders often use some kind of fresh-air ventilation to exhaust the stale indoor air to the outside, bring in fresh air and conserve energy.
Emphasizing material conservation and waste reduction while using sustainable products in design and construction. Engineers in the building-materials business have designed all kinds of products to save lumber by using optimal value engineered (OVE) joists and beams that require minimal trimming and boring for mechanical runs. Green builders can go as far as recycling job-site waste and using it for mulch in the newly planted yard.