A Sustainable Approach
The goal is to shift residential and commercial building practices toward sustainable approaches that conserve not only energy, water, and other resources, but also preserves our environment, strengthens the local economy, and promotes a quality of life that is enduring over time.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is defined as meeting out present needs without compromising the ability of meeting future generation’s needs. This implies that the actions we take to meet our basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. must not jeopardize the natural systems that support all life. Understanding the nature of the interdependence of the human and natural environment is paramount to understanding sustainability. Thinking globally and acting locally is a fundamental requirement to the success of sustainability.
What is Green Building?
A green building is very practical. The building materials and techniques minimize energy usage and the destruction of the environment. A green building ideally would:
• make appropriate use of land
• make efficient use of limited natural resources
• make enhance human health for builders, occupants, or owners
• use non-toxic materials
• use local materials to assist the local economy and lower embodied energy
• preserve plants, animals, especially endangered species, and all natural habitats
• protect agricultural, cultural, and archaeological resources
• reduce total lifetime energy consumption
• be economical to build, operate, and maintain
• demonstrate the ability to recycle building materials at a later date
• have a positive effect and increased productivity on occupants in working or living spaces
New home construction consumes two-fifths of all lumber and plywood used in the United States, A modest 1700 square foot wood frame home requires the equivalent of clear-cutting one acre of forest. Less than 3% of the virgin old growth forest in the United States remains uncut and global forest cover is disappearing at an alarming, unsustainable rate.
What is Embodied Energy?
All building materials contain embodied energy. Embodied energy is the energy required to extract, process, manufacture, and transport materials. Embodied energy is all encompassing and would include obscure items such as the coffee that truck driver drinks while delivering the material. The coffee too has embodied energy, and of course when the truck driver needs to use the restroom after he drinks the coffee, that flush is embodied energy. Embodied energy is far-reaching and in most cases not that easily computed.
Embodied energy is the amount of energy that has gone into the making of a material or thing made with materials. A very high percentage of the world’s energy is derived from fossil fuels which when burnt release vast amounts of CO2. As the production of energy from fossil fuels is environmentally unfriendly, materials and things that have a lower embodied energy are more sustainable than those with a higher embodied energy.
Indoor Air Quality
People in the United States spend 80% to 90% of their time indoors where levels of potentially harmful organic chemicals in the indoor air may be much higher than the levels in the outside air. Six billion pounds of Formaldehyde (a volatile organic compound or VOC) are produced each year in the United States alone. Formaldehyde is used in carpeting, particle board, plywood, some insulations, most paints, and plastics. Due to carcinogenic and mutagenic effects in animals, the National Institute of Health and Safety recommends that Formaldehyde be handled as a potential occupational carcinogen.