Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What Makes it Green?

Often, products are used that are not green by themselves, but are used to help decrease the environmental impacts of the building as a whole. (Our air-tight windows would fit into this category.) On the other hand, people can use products already considered “green” in foolish ways that end in environmentally-irresponsible buildings. (We don’t want to be one of them!)

So, how do you know which material is better to build with from an environmental standpoint? Below is an abridged list from Environmental Building News which discusses the standards for making a building product green.

“In a well-thought-out building design…substituting green products for conventional products can make the difference between a good building and a great one,” the article notes.

We plan on incorporating into our home green aspects from each of these areas:

1. Products Made with Salvaged, Recycled, or Agricultural Waste Content
The materials used to produce a building product—and where those materials came from—is a key determinant of green. Look for salvaged products, products with post-consumer recycled content, products with pre-consumer recycled content and products made from agricultural waste material.

2. Products That Conserve Natural Resources
Aside from salvaged or recycled content, there are a number of other ways that products can contribute to the conservation of natural resources. These are products that reduce material use, products with exceptional durability or low maintenance requirements, certified wood products and rapidly renewable products.

3. Products That Avoid Toxic or Other Emissions
Some building products are considered green because they have low manufacturing impacts, they are alternatives to conventional products made from chemicals considered problematic, or they facilitate a reduction in polluting emissions from building maintenance. Incorporate natural or minimally processed products, alternatives to ozone-depleting substances, products that reduce or eliminate pesticide treatments, products that reduce impacts from construction or demolition activities and products that reduce pollution or waste from operations.

4. Products That Save Energy or Water
The ongoing environmental impacts that result from energy and water used in operating a building often far outweigh the impacts associated with building it. Try to include building components that reduce heating and cooling loads, equipment that conserves energy and manages loads, renewable energy and fuel cell equipment, and fixtures and equipment that conserve water.

5. Products That Contribute to a Safe, Healthy Built Environment
Buildings should be healthy to live in and around, and product selection is a significant determinant of indoor environment quality. Green building products that help to ensure a healthy built environment can be separated into several categories: products that do not release significant pollutants, products that block the introduction, development or spread of indoor contaminants, products that remove indoor pollutants, products that warn occupants of health hazards in the building, products that improve light quality, and products that help control noise.

Source: Environmental Building News. (2000). Building Materials: What Makes a Product Green? Retrieved from the World Wide Web, www.buildinggreen.com

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