Benefits across the board
Home Builders recognize that building according to eco-friendly criteria may appear expensive at the outset. This is because start-out costs in the green building approach are generally determined from cost analyses of a project’s entire life cycle. However, once construction is completed, the lower daily operating costs, being actually much lower than those of "traditional" constructions, compensate largely for the initial cost. For homebuilders on a limited budget, nothing prevents the introduction of just a few eco-friendly elements which can be done without significantly raising the costs. Everyone benefits in the end: operating costs are lower, the house and its occupants are healthier, and of course the planet benefits too.
The characteristics of green architecture
Constructions are said to be "green" or "eco-friendly" when they are built according to certain principles relating to choice of site, building materials and architecture.
Qualities to look for when choosing materials for green architecture have to do with the efficiency of the material itself, maintaining good interior air quality, ensuring energy efficiency, saving and re-using water, and overall affordability. Compliance with these criteria in a green building means working with materials that are beneficial to the owner, to the environment and to the building’s occupants, due to:
- Lower maintenance costs throughout the building’s lifetime
- Optimization and conservation of energy
- Better health for occupants and higher productivity levels
- Low-cost, efficient configuration of space
- Flexible design
With a little planning, you can do a lot for the environment and reduce your building costs at the same time. Rooms designed on multiples of 4 feet, for example, conform to standard-sized wallboard and plywood sheets and therefore optimize the quantities of materials used. Oriented strand board, made from engineered wood sheets and which does not require the cutting of mature trees for its manufacture, is a durable, resource-efficient material used in the roof and wall construction of most new homes.
Materials should be chosen for their ability to provide a comfortable environment inside the home, whatever the outside temperature. The secret lies in installing windows and doors made from intelligent, high-efficiency glass, capable of filtering the sun’s rays to maintain a comfortable temperature indoors. Durable roof coverings, such as steel or fibre cement, reduce the frequency of roof replacement. There are now also solar roofing products that integrate materials such as asphalt shingles, slate or concrete tiles.
You can also reuse and recycle materials salvaged from building demolitions or from the current job site. There are various materials made from recycled products intended for the structural elements of a home, as well as materials designed for the decorative aspects too. For example, some contemporary floor coverings made of rubber or polymer mimic slate admirably – and are also lighter in weight and easier to clean. Other materials manufactured for countertops, walls and floors are composed of 75% recycled glass and 25% concrete.
Wood is also often used in green architecture; it is an essential material in construction and renovation in general and is appreciated for its warmth and decorative charm. There are a number of new wood products on the market, and innovations are constantly being developed in response to the need to protect the earth’s forests. Lumber from endangered forests is increasingly being replaced by that of sustainably managed forests. In the same way, fast-growing species are being increasingly used; bamboo, for one, is enjoying a surge in popularity due to its aesthetic appeal and durability. Locally produced materials are also an excellent choice.
Recycled wood and plastic composites offer excellent resistance, are easy to clean and contain no harmful or toxic elements. Alternative flooring solutions include laminate, natural-fibre carpet or linoleum.
Vinyl is an excellent choice for exterior siding because it is low-cost and requires little maintenance. Fibre-cement siding is water-resistant and carries a 50-year warranty.
Walls, floors and ceilings are built with new types of insulated panels made of rigid Styrofoam insulation sandwiched between wood boards. These new products are recent arrivals on the building market but have already proven their worth as energy efficient products.
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