What Is Green Building?

This roundup of resources and excerpts of firsthand experiences will get you acquainted with enviornmentally friendly building.

| August/September 2005

Green building? As in green paint or unseasoned wood? No, “green building” is the industry buzzword for environmentally friendly, responsible, sustainable building.

Some green building practices are a replacement for standard stick-frame construction, while others focus on the home’s size or building technique. Traditional stick-frame-looking houses can be built using cordwood; timber framing; logs; structural insulated panels (SIPS); strawbale; adobe; concrete and prefabricated (kit) packages. Some shelters that take on a totally different look and feel from traditional houses are tipis, yurts, cob, dome and earth-sheltered houses.

For all of human history, people have built their homes from the materials at hand: stone, logs and dirt. As transportation improved and there was a need and desire for “bigger and better,” building materials were transported up to thousands of miles to construct wonderfully innovative and grand homes. With fuel costs risisng and the awareness of the fragility and limitations of our environment to provide us with all that we desire, architects and contractors are beginning to see the wisdom in sustainable building techniques. For generations, pioneers, back-to-the-landers, do-it-yourselfers and just plain creative folk have built houses from recycled and local materials, houses on wheels, micro-houses (Thoreau), tree houses and many other creative and fanciful designs.

As the Earth’s resources are depleted, another aspect of green building that is becoming important is the use of more effective insulating materials, such as SIPS, concrete, low-emissivity glass and passive solar design, to cut down on the amount of energy needed to heat and cool our homes. In addition, the kind of materials used in home building is changing with the realization that products that we thought were safe to use, may not be — such as arsenic-treated wood. Arsenic leaches into the soil and accumulates there. New plastic/wood products that last longer than treated wood and do not put harmful chemicals into the environment are available at most home improvement stores.

Green Building Resources

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