Going green is more important than ever and incorporating eco-friendly building materials into homes is just as important as recycling and using water-saving appliances. While sustainable construction still isn’t the standard across America, the use of eco-friendly building materials and appliances is catching on quickly, especially among millennial home builders and buyers.
But what does it take for a home to be considered ‘green’ and how can you take advantage of sustainable building for yourself? To better understand green construction and homemaking, let’s take a closer look at the core components.
What Makes a Building Green?
To be considered ‘green’, a building must be designed or renovated in a resource-efficient and eco-friendly manner. Green construction is meant to reduce environmental impact, protect the health of occupants, and use resources more efficiently. This can be done by utilizing building materials such as bamboo, recycled plastic, wood, HempCrete, and AshCrete. HempCrete being created from the inner fibers of the hemp plant, and AshCrete being created using the recycled ash from burnt coal. While traditional concrete can last upwards of 100 years, these alternative options can match that longevity while having a lower environmental impact. Materials like this can be used to create modern and stylish structures without using excess materials that aren’t sustainable.
Other materials that are considered green include:
- Steel Steel, particularly steel roofing materials are environmentally friendly because they can be constantly recycled and reused. Steel roofs can come in many different colors and can be highly durable making them perfect for green building.
- Natural Insulation Natural fibers such as wool and cotton can be used as good insulation for homes. Likewise, cellulose insulation, created from recycled paper waste, can also be used in the place of artificial insulation options.
- Non-VOC Paint Paints with low or no VOCs are better for both the environment and your body. Because they contain fewer volatile organic compounds, the chemicals responsible for pungent paint smells, you don’t have to worry about inhaling dangerous fumes. VOCs can also cause a host of problems such as difficulty breathing, headaches, and eye-irritation if exposure is prolonged.
- Natural Flooring Bamboo flooring or carpeting created from cotton and wool fiber can be much for eco-friendly than synthetic alternatives. Because they are natural materials that can be recycled, you don’t have to worry about them never breaking down in a landfill if you decide to replace them in the future.
In addition to the materials used to build and furnish the home, energy-efficient appliances and fixtures are equally important. The average American home can use upwards of 88 gallons of water every day. To combat this, dishwashers, showers, toilets, and washing machines should all be energy rated to use less water and help cut back on the waste. Likewise, energy-efficient lightbulbs, clothes dryers, and refrigerators can help reduce electricity consumption.
All of these aspects come together to encompass what makes a building ‘green’. While steps can be taken to make previously constructed buildings green, when tackling a new construction it’s important to consider every building material to ensure everything is as sustainable as possible.
The Benefits of Green Construction
By far the largest benefit of green constructions is their reduced impact on the environment. However, building green can also have surprising benefits for homeowners and property managers.
Because green constructions utilize less water and energy, they tend to have lower operation and maintenance costs. For example, by using energy-efficient appliances and less water, the cost of both electric and water bills will decrease significantly. This makes green construction not just beneficial to the environment but also to your bank account.
The quality of the indoor environment is also enhanced with green construction. The conditions can include better lighting, temperature management, and air quality. For instance, green homes tend to rely more on sunlight during the day, while also removing harmful elements like VOCs from the indoor environment. These improvements can help protect the health of occupants, improve the overall quality of life, and reduce stress levels.
Green construction can also be beneficial for those looking to flip houses for a profit, as eco-friendly homes can go for much more on the market. They are also likely to sell quickly due to their desirability. Green homes can also be the beneficiaries of many tax incentives that can help homeowners get more back for their eco-improvements.
Between benefit the health of residents, lowing environmental impact, and saving you money, it’s hard to find a downside to going green. Possibly, the only downside is the chance of higher costs during construction. Additionally, if you’re needing construction site clean up after building, HomeAdvisor estimates that you could be facing an extra $150 to $950 depending on what needs to be done. However, with the money saved in the long-term, the difference can be easily made up.
Are Green Homes Healthier?
In short, yes. Green homes have many notable health benefits when compared to traditional homes. A few of the largest health benefits are as follows:
- A Lowered Risk of Cancer
Because green homes do away with VOCs, radon, and combustion appliances, there is a noticeably lower exposure to known cancer-causing chemicals. In Illinois, for example, one out of every three homes contain radon, the second largest cause of cancer behind smoking. By using cleaner and more natural materials, these risks are reduced, if not eliminated making homes safer and healthier.
- Reduced Respiratory Issues
Improved heating and cooling solutions, coupled with improved airflow, helps to reduce respiratory irritation and asthma triggers. This is because the air is kept cleaner and free from mold, moisture, dust, and other contaminants that could cause problems.
- Reduced Cardiovascular Symptoms
As will respiratory issues, some cardiovascular symptoms can be mitigated with the aid of better circulation and air quality, both of which could impact blood pressure. By being able to positively impact that, you can start to benefit from fewer symptoms and a lowered risk of developing hypertension, and other cardiovascular conditions.
- Mental Health
Lastly, green constructions can benefit overall mental health. Green homes can help reduce stress and depression by making home conditions cleaner and more comfortable. By helping regulate temperature and removing air contaminants, the environment itself will be more conducive to positive mental stimulation.
The Way of the Future
It’s no secret that sustainable building practices are only going to become more popular, both by demand and necessity. As more people stop to examine the impact of unsustainable building practices, it’s only a matter of time before most — if not all — new constructions are considered green. If you’re interested in making your home a more eco-friendly location, consider investing in the sustainable materials and appliances mentioned above. You too can reap the benefits of green living, even in your previously constructed home.