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How to Build Green

Updated December 23, 2009

Energy Efficiency | Indoor Air Quality | Resource Conservation | Water Conservation

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is the cornerstone of every green building or home. Improving energy efficiency and using renewable energy sources are effective ways to reduce the potential of energy supply interruptions, improve air quality, reduce the impacts of global warming, and slow the rate at which we need to build new power plants. In addition, energy efficient building saves money by reducing utility bills and energy costs. The following are examples of energy efficient building techniques:

  • Upgrade insulation systems to prevent unnecessary air drafts
  • Install Low-E double-pane windows
  • Install solar water heating or solar panels
  • Install ceiling fans to reduce costs associated with running air conditioning units
  • Utilize compact fluorescent lighting
  • Install low energy-using major appliances
  • Plant shade trees

Indoor Air Quality

Poor indoor air quality is often caused by biological contaminants, such as mold, that grow as a result of moisture infiltration due to inadequate ventilation, poor design and maintenance, and other factors. In addition, building materials, including many paints, floor finishes, adhesives and sealants emit unhealthy volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The following are examples of techniques that can be used to improve indoor air quality:

  • Install permanent front door walk-off mats to reduce indoor dust
  • Use low- or no-VOC paint, wood finishes and adhesives
  • Install mechanical ventilation systems, heat recovery ventilation systems, or sealed combustion furnaces and water heaters to reduce air toxins
  • Use materials that do not off-gas dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde or other toxic substances
  • Ensure that gas appliances have their own exhaust fans to the exterior of residence

Resource Conservation

Conventional building construction and operation consumes large quantities of wood, water, metals, fossil fuels and other natural resources. Even though the majority of the materials used to construct buildings are put to good use, vast quantities of resources are wasted. The following techniques are ways to conserve natural resources:

  • Reuse and recycle construction and demolition waste
  • Divert project demolition and construction waste from landfills
  • Install advanced framing techniques to reduce lumber requirements
  • Use durable building products including:
    • Roofing materials with 40- to 50-year warranties
    • Renewable flooring: cork, linoleum, bamboo, natural fiber carpet
    • Exterior materials: recycled wood decking and ceramic tiles
    • Recycled indoor counter-tops for use at the exterior of the residence, including outdoor barbeque areas

Water Conservation

The ability to meet the needs of the growing population hinge on having adequate supplies of clean, fresh water. Homes and buildings constructed and landscaped to use water wisely make a tremendous contribution to protecting shared resources. The following are ways to conserve water through building and construction:

  • Install ultra-low flush or dual-flush toilets
  • Install plumbing fixtures with below standard flow rates
  • Use low-water or drought tolerant landscaping
  • Install high efficiency, "smart," or no irrigation systems
  • Install on-site water retention systems

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