It IS That Easy Being Green!
by Steve Batts, Batts Builders
We hear it all the time: “going Green.” But the phrase is vague, at best. For one, so many products on the market are touted as Green, but—Buyer, beware!—they aren’t necessarily. Second, Green covers a broad spectrum of practices as well as products. Sure, if you recycle cans, glass, plastic and paper, you’re Green. In terms of home building and remodeling, there are some basic, easy steps you can take to go down the Green path. Just remember: Green has multiple levels, and you don’t have to achieve them all at once.
The first place to start is with an accredited builder or remodeling contractor, who is a Certified Green Professional (GBC) through the National Home Builders Association (NAHB). Does this person have good standing among previous clients? Word-of-mouth is often your most reliable research tool. Once you’ve found someone to work with, he or she can give you direction on how to go Green. If you’re doing a renovation, one of the best things available is an energy audit on your house. Why? An average house today has enough cracks, leaks and penetrations equal to leaving a window open year round. With an energy audit, which can only be performed done by a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rater, you can learn through various diagnostic reports the following: the type of lights best for your home; the age of your heating system; the types of crawl space, insulation and ductwork that would work best. These reports can help you establish an energy-saving plan that shows how much of an investment you’ll need to make to shore up your house, and how long it will take to see a return on the investment.
Again, the steps you take to make your house more energy efficient can be done in stages. As for building new, EnergyStar buildings are likely better than Code, but you have to ask yourself: How far do I want to go? EnergyStar has three levels of Green building—gold, silver and bronze—so it would be wise to do some research first to find out what each level entails. The same goes for sustainable building materials. Bamboo flooring might be all the rage, but consider the transportation cost in importing it—usually from China. Were certain processes or finishes used on it that might have polluted the environment? Maybe locally grown hardwood—which has a long life—is the way to go. The point is, in the world of Green, there are tradeoffs, and it’s up to you to do some legwork to get the best value out of your home. Start with some reliable Web sites, such as www.energystar.gov and www.natresnet.org, or check out the book Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time, by David Johnston and Kim Master (New Society Publishers, $30).
The time you spend researching Green will ultimately save energy, and green in your pocketbook.
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