Grand County real estate: Building homes green to save energy for decades
February 4, 2008
A change is underfoot in the construction industry. The idea has been rumbling for a long time waiting for right circumstances to erupt. The trend is building green and the circumstances that have brought it to the forefront are global warming, skyrocketing energy costs, diminishing water supplies and homebuyers who are concerned about what kind of planet they will leave to their children and grandchildren.
Let’s face it. Creating new buildings — homes, schools, factories, stores, whatever — negatively effects the environment. But what will make the biggest impact is the building’s energy consumption over its lifetime. Will it draw heavily on the earth’s resources with energy- and water-hogging appliances and out-of-date heating systems?
And what about the indoor environment of this new structure? Can people breathe fresh air or is the building so tightly sealed against the outside elements that the air quality suffers? Or do the materials themselves present a health hazard from years of off-gassing?
Green, light green or gray?
“Green” has been splashed all over media and advertising as the cost of energy rises and the consequences of the industrial age become apparent to most scientists and climate experts. And in the environmental arena, there will inevitably be companies jumping on the bandwagon by labeling their products “earth-conscious.” Consumers need to investigate and scrutinize green services, building materials and practices. Are they a true emerald green, a lighter green or even gray?
Walls and flooring that are reclaimed from an old barn in Oregon may sound green at first, but carbon dioxide may be spewed into the atmosphere transporting it by truck across the country, or there may be a wood source close by that needs to be used (think beetle kill). A certain type of insulation may have a negative impact on the environment when it is being manufactured, but it may work better than the more organic alternative and save energy for many years, which is good for the environment. A certain roofing material may produce off-gassing of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), but the material will be on the outside of the house and last longer than other roofing alternatives. Therefore, the less-green roof will do its job for many years instead of being torn off and ending up in a landfill, while resources are used manufacturing a replacement roof.
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The green scene has gotten blurry of late with many products and services claiming to be green but with few resources available for guidance. A homebuyer or homeowner could get lost sorting out the green from the greenwash. Fortunately, for those building or buying a home, BuiltGreen is becoming a well-known brand name to trust.
BuiltGreen Colorado, one of the largest green building program in the country, is helping the state’s residential construction industry to practice greater environmental sensibility by constructing homes that will use less resources to build and operate, while positively influencing the direction of developing green technologies and new materials.