Guide to Green Residential Building Construction

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency, buildings account for 39 percent of total energy usage in the United States. Beyond that, buildings are responsible for a whopping 68 percent (more than two thirds) of total electricity consumption in America, along with 12 percent of the nation's overall water consumption and 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. In short, homes and other buildings have a significant impact on the environment -- not to mention human health and economic concerns. Green building, however, saves addresses each of these areas of concern.

Benefits of Green Building

Although the cost of building a green residence is greater than that of other buildings, the cost of operating that home is significantly reduced. Following is a list of some of the other significant benefits associated with green homes.

  • Improved air quality
  • Improved water quality
  • reduced air and water pollution
  • Conservation of natural resources
  • Enhanced indoor environmental quality and the reduction in harmful chemicals often lends itself to improved health among occupants
  • Increases the demand for environmentally friendly products for use around the home, and
  • Saves the homeowners money (over time) in operating expenses.

Site Planning Considerations

If you are contracted to build, but the land has not yet been purchased, following are a few important considerations regarding site planning. 

Wooded ForestFirst, if the lot being considered has a great deal of trees and other shrubbery, it is possible to keep some of the sturdy trees for natural shading for the home (further improving its energy efficiency). Homeowners investing in green residential properties are often already environmentally conscious, so if possible, select a site that is both walkable and has an existing local infrastructure (i. e., water, sewer and transportation lines already in place).

Consider how to maximize the solar gain available at the site. This will involve the home's alignment. A home positioned east to west is believed to maximize passive solar gain during the colder winter months.

Recycled Materials

Homeowners have often gathered recycled materials already , in an effort to add their own personality and character to the home. However, for those still searching for that special something, ReStore Home Improvement Centers are often great places to find a unique gem at a good price.

Construction Material

Composite Decking

As with all new construction, there are a number of choices surrounding the building materials used for the interior and exterior of the new structure. With green residences, however, the types of materials are sometimes a bit different from traditionally built homes. Following, then, are just some of the materials you may consider (along with the benefits associated with each).

  • For Decks: Using traditional wood may leave the homeowner vulnerable to pest infestations later. Instead, consider composite (or engineered) lumber or pressure treated lumber to avoid this type of challenge down the road.
  • For Water Drainage: Proper drainage is important. The Energy and Environmental Building Alliance offers exceptional resources and recommendations for responsible building principles for various climates and different types of construction. Their educational resources can be found here.
  • For Energy Efficient Roofing: Of course, this would involve the use of proper and adequate levels of insulation as well as materials designed to prevent moisture buildup and mold.
  • Exterior Roofing: Metal roofing is often a popular option among green residential builders. It is fireproof, durable and lightweight. In colder weather, snow and ice ice tends to run off of metal roofing effortlessly and quickly. Recycled asphalt is also becoming a popular exterior roofing option, as it has UV properties similar to its traditional cousin, yet it helps reduce environmental waste.
  • Exterior Siding: This choice often comes down to the homeowner's tastes, but those who want the look of wood without using reclaimed wood can opt for certified wood. It truly does give off a "real wood" appearance.
  • Clay Tiles: The use of clay tiles has become very popular (even within traditional home remodeling projects). Clay tiles function well in cooler climates, are fire resistant, do not absorb water easily and is widely regarded as a very durable material.

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Photo credit: Fiberon / Foter / CC BY-ND 

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.