What does "green remodeling" really mean?

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ January 22, 2012

You've heard a lot about green remodeling. Many new homes are constructed with green building materials, appliances, windows and doors. Green, in short, means that the initial builder or homeowner making a sustainable home improvement is concerned with energy efficiency, indoor air quality, the conservation of natural resources and, ultimately, home value.

Let's look at the key elements of green building, one-by-one:

Energy efficiency

For new homes or additions, going green means employing advanced framing, a technique that uses up to 30 percent less lumber without compromising structural integrity. Next, green building relies upon the airtight drywall approach that builds the home's thermal envelope. Airtight drywall means using caulk or gaskets wherever electrical, mechanical or plumbing systems penetrate the wall. Now, you're tight and snug.

Energy efficiency is also dependent on the choice of efficient appliances that use less power or water to handle the job. While you're at it, choose a high efficiency water heater and insulate all water pipes that connect to it. Choose the right levels of insulation for your climate and, if you're truly going green, select sustainable insulation materials like fire-retardant cellulose.

Finally, change out all existing single-paned or non-insulated windows with replacement windows rated by ENERGY STAR for your local weather.

Green construction materials

Consider wood products certified by The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). An FSC endorsement means your wood was collected from sources that are responsibly harvested and renewable. Recycled or engineered wood - products that combine wood with non-VOC laminated fiber - are excellent choices over roof and floor trusses prone to splitting, warping and shrinking.

For painting, choose low-VOC and low-toxic interior paints that greatly improve indoor air quality. Carpeting certified as allergen-repellent or low-pile carpeting will also contribute to good air quality. Use tacking to hold it down, rather than slathering your indoor environment with toxic glues.

Conserving water

Many green home improvement projects in the kitchen and bath include the replacement of high-flow taps, showers and toilets with low-flow alternatives. High-efficiency dishwashers and laundry appliances cut both your power and water bills. Instead of that pesky lawn, choose native or drought-tolerant vegetation around your home that requires less water to maintain and thrives on natural fertilizer without requiring pesticides.

Renovating successfully means developing a realistic budget with room for overages and taking a range of bids from qualified contractors with sustainable experience.

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