Building green is becoming more and more important as our resources dwindle, and we become more aware of the sensitivities to toxins that many people have. With the price of oil and natural gas rising, saving energy is a big concern. The use of green construction in home and business developments has started really taking off, and many people are interested in making their developments environmentally friendly. One survey found that at least fifty percent of all builders should be producing at least some green developments by the year 2010. However, once you’ve decided to build green, it can be difficult to know where to start. If you’re an investor or developer who’s interested in learning about the process of green building, here are a few basics to help you get going.
Currently, the building industry is centered on those practices which are least expensive, and easiest to implement. Unfortunately many of these practices aren’t all that green. From the use of adhesives and materials that can off-gas, to the creation of structures that waste heat and water, a conventional building makes a big impact on the world around us. You can make buildings greener in a number of different ways, including using natural and non-toxic materials, improving air quality, reducing waste of energy and water, employing renewable energy sources, and reusing materials whenever possible.
For those developing a property, or investing in a development, building green can be especially difficult. Individuals who are building on a small scale can more easily exercise control and find green solutions. Larger developments require advance planning, and there isn’t currently a standard process for green building. However, working with experienced professionals can help a lot. For instance, it’s often a good idea to work with an energy consultant, who can help you decide how to implement designs that will allow your buildings to conserve energy more effectively. Conservation of energy is one of the biggest concerns related to green building, since most buildings do not make efficient use of power. Correct building orientation to make use of passive solar design, efficient heating and cooling systems, and high grade insulation are just a few of the options you can put in place to make your developments more energy efficient.
You should also try to work with contractors who have prior experience with green building. This will help head off possible problems later on. A contractor who has built green structures in the past will have better familiarity with the methods and materials that are used. They’ll also be more willing to work with you, even if the process required to make the building more environmentally friendly means more work on their end.
Since building with environmentally friendly and recyclable materials can be more expensive than conventional building, developers should also make sure they do their research in advance. Look at the cost of materials available, and design your budget appropriately. Be sure to factor in the increase in sale price for green building, and the improvements in energy efficiency when you decide what materials are most cost effective. Materials that are more expensive now will bring savings down the road. Even if you’re developing the property for resale, buyers will be aware of this, and may be willing to offer a higher price.
Development often requires the removal of existing structures. Standard practice is to demolish these structures, with the rubble usually being taken to the local landfill. To make the process of getting rid of unwanted structures more environmentally friendly, focus on deconstruction rather than demolition. Deconstruction takes longer, but allows the materials to be reused or resold, and saves on tipping fees. If the structures in question are older, they may have been built from materials which are no longer available, like large dimension old-growth hardwood, which can be reused in other buildings and is superior to softwood dimensional lumber.
Another place where many modern buildings create waste is water use. Very few structures are designed to make efficient use of available water supplies. As more sources of water become polluted, and aquifiers are emptied, water conservation becomes a greater concern. Plan on using features that save water in your new development. These can include installation of ultra-low flow toilets and showers, faucet aerators and high-efficiency showerheads, efficient heating and cooling systems, and use of air-cooled equipment instead of water-cooled. In addition, it may be wise to designate a water efficiency coordinator for large projects.
The nationally accepted benchmark for green buildings is the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Standard. LEED certification provides independent, third party verification that your building project is an environmentally responsible one. Even if you do not choose to get this certification, being familiar with LEED standards can help you make the right choices when building green.
While getting started in green building can be intimidating at first, familiarity with standards and talking to experts in the field can make the process a lot easier. Energy and water conservation are two of the biggest concerns, with use of recycled or recyclable, non-toxic materials, and reduction of landfill use following. With a sound plan and the correct priorities, making your development a green one doesn’t have to be hard. Green developments are turning up everywhere, from water-saving condominiums built of recyclable materials where decaying industrial buildings used to sit, to schools and businesses designed to make the best use of energy while providing good air quality. Slowly, green building is becoming mainstream, so now’s a great time to get started.