Did you know that buildings (both commercial and residential) account for 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 39 percent of the emissions in the United States? The fuel used for heating and cooking is mainly to blame.
Buildings also have an environmental impact in the way they are built, the kinds of materials used to build them and the amount of wastewater flowing out of them.
Commercial and residential buildings can also have a serious effect on the people living and working within them. We know that asbestos is bad news, but did you know that the chemicals used in adhesives and insulations commonly used in construction can be harmful to your health?
Green, or sustainable, building can reduce — or even eliminate — harmful substances in your next building project. Let’s explore some of the benefits.
When people think of green or sustainable building, they immediately think of its benefits to the environment. There are a number of ways to incorporate this practice to make yours a low-impact and zero-impact building.
Using Recycled or Reclaimed Building Products
Recycled plastics and glass, reclaimed wood and stone from older buildings, even leftover or overstock materials from other projects can all help reduce the amount of waste and emissions needed to buy and install something brand new. And, according to Mary McKenna, owner of MMA Architects in Winchester, MA, it reduces a building’s carbon footprint. “This bridges all areas of building, with the most important being renovation through imaginative and creative adaptive reuse of building, home and landscapes.”
Reduced Energy Consumption
By choosing to build green, you can reduce your energy consumption in several ways:
- Insulation: Choosing the right insulation materials and ensuring your home is well-insulated cuts down on the amount of fuel you’ll need to heat and cool your home.
- Smart Systems: Smart technology like Nest heating and cooling systems and smart light bulbs you can control from an app reduce the amount of energy you use, as well. A smart thermostat can be controlled from anywhere to lower heat when you don’t need it and raise it when you do. Smart light bulbs can be turned on and off when you need them. No more forgetting to turn off the lights.
- Energy-Efficient Appliances: Installing EnergyStar-rated appliances will help reduce your energy use.
- Solar Power: Energy from the sun can be used in all sorts of ways around your house. Install solar-powered outdoor lighting. Or use it to power everything in your house.
These are just a few of the ways you can reduce energy use.
Reduce Water Usage
Green building will help you reduce your water use, as well. Low-flow toilets and faucets with motion sensors cut down on the amount of water you use in the kitchen and bathroom. Rain-water collection systems for toilets or outdoor water use take it a step further.
The National Center for Healthy Housing lists a whole host of potentially dangerous chemicals that are used in building materials, including phthalates from PVC and vinyl and arsenic in pressure-treated wood.
“Off-gassing [the release of hazardous chemicals in the form of gas] of building material is a silent health detriment in the built environment,” says Ms.
McKenna. “In my work I carefully select products and materials that do not emit chemicals or VOCs [volatile organic compounds] to the home or work spaces to create a healthy living and working environment.”
By choosing alternative building materials, you are reducing the number of potential health issues those materials can cause, including asthma and cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.
By building green, you’re also supporting your community. To reduce emissions caused by transporting materials, most LEED-certified architects will use locally-sourced materials. In doing so, you’re supporting your local economy.
And often, recycled and reclaimed materials come from local recycling centers and building projects, which means you’re helping to keep trash out of local landfills.
Have you decided to take the leap and build green? Do you have questions? Reach out and we’ll be happy to help!