A home is more than the sum of its components, so the selection of green building materials is an important part of a building project. There are several factors we use to judge the “greenness” of the materials we use and recommend.
- Is the material locally produced (reduced transportation)?
- Is it made from renewable sources?
- Is the product an energy efficient green building material, both in production and in use?
- Is the product non-toxic in application, in use, and in disposal?
- Is it readily recyclable or bio-degradable at the end of its useful life?
There are a couple of other things that we also like to consider. We love products that will require little or no maintenance.
We compare the life cycle costs of competing green building products, looking for the one that will be the most economical over the life of the home. And being owner-builders, we are always on the lookout for products that at are easy to work with.
To keep things organized, we will group our discussion of green building supplies into a few categories….
Green roofing materials
Think of your roof as the hat that your house wears. You and your green home will want a roof that is attractive, energy efficient, durable, and as green as possible.
While most of the readily available roofing products are man-made, some are definitely greener than others. Let us offer you some insight into the green building supplies and give you a few tips that will help you make your choice.
There are some truly green roofs made from natural materials, such as thatch or “living” green vegetation. However, we will focus our discussion on the more common, and building code friendly options.
Lumber and other structural products
For our current construction project we are using two items that we consider to be very, very green building products – local lumber and straw bales.
The bales are supplied by a local wheat farmer, reducing transportation energy expenditures (and costs), and keeping money in the local economy. The lumber was produced even closer to home.
Check out our Solar Wood Kiln article to see how we converted the trees on our home site into usable lumber.
Windows and doors – going beyond insulated glass
Have you been to your local building supply center, or looked through a home design magazine lately? The assortment and price range for windows and doors is staggering.
Unfortunately, not all insulated glass is created equal. Let us share our experiences and tips with these products. There will be a few sad stories along the way.
Green and sustainable flooring products
We had a minor disagreement writing on this topic, but finally decided to include both “green” and “sustainable” in our discussion. One of our major beliefs regarding green construction is that you should use what you already have. So we support the use of salvaged materials, especially wood flooring.
If you don’t have a convenient or economical source of salvaged materials there are some excellent sustainable flooring products. Check out the options in bamboo and cork flooring. It is beautiful, durable, renewable…and very economical.
Green wall finishes
There are a number of “old-time” wall finish products that have reappeared with the increased demand for green materials. And the results have been surprisingly good.
Many of these older products and processes were both environmentally friendly and durable. They were replaced with less friendly products that had advantages for assembly-line construction of tract homes.
Take a look at the lime based and clay based finishes that we are using on our home.
If you have a question about green building materials or products, please drop us a line on our Contact Us form