Green Building 101 Series: How Space Defines Us in Terms of Sustainable Building

January 5, 2011

As with any kind of building, it all starts with the foundation. So let’s start from the beginning. This is a guide for Eco-conscious or Eco-curious homeowners and builders who want to learn effective ways to become more green and tread more lightly on this earth.

The reasons for going green is simple. The Earth can no longer uphold our lifestyle and consumptive way of life. Many scientists have concluded that we much change our ways of living to sustain the Earth as we know it. We owe it to our children and the future. Of course, Global Warming deniers will say what they say but evidences of devastation that we wreak and the consequences that will surely come are too overwhelming to remain inactive.

According to Greenbuild 2010, the biggest conference pertaining to sustainable building, green living has become a way of life. No longer is it a trend, but slowly becoming integrated to all that we do. Companies are looking for ways to uphold Environmental responsibility and stewardship.

Fiascos like BP oil spill in the gulf are reminders to us what can happen if we are not consciously aware of our impact on the ecosystem and do what is right. Whether the decision to go green is for Environmental or cost-effective reason, if we all take a part, we can build a sustainable Earth for our children and the future generations.

Space: How it defines us in terms of green  and sustainable building

First consideration for any builder or homeowner should be space. The living space you need and how much of it to  take from the Earth. Space has always been a hot commodity. Wars have been wages since beginning of time for that little land to call your own. Consideration of space for dwellers should be maximizing living space with minimal consumptive cost.

Within the U.S, with abundance of space, the spreading out the living space requirement has reached its maximum. We like it big and we build it big. According to John Barrows and Lisa Iannucci, Authors of Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Building and Remodeling, more than million homes are built in the US alone annually and in the last 30 years, the square footage of each home have increased over time.

If you think of all the building materials needed to build including wood, metal and energy; the need for sustainable building makes sense. We are not even taking into account the amount of waste that is created by each and every one of those millions homes being constructed. And even after the home is built, it requires more energy to run all the electronics and technology we depend upon and can’t live without. Depressing, if you really think about it.

Making the fundamental change of needing less which includes space is an important step to an Eco-conscious living. Due to the Economic downturn and others seeking a simpler way to life, many people have chosen to downsize their living space by either building small or finding a smaller home that suits them.

If you are building, go small or better yet, renovate an old house using sustainable building methods. If you already own a home, then use whatever resources available to make your home a green one. The green upgrades do not necessarily have to be expensive. The good news is that due to increase of interest in greener living, Sustainable companies are competitively seeking out inexpensive ways to build their product to make it more cost effective for home owners and builders.

Although the cost of going green may be cost prohibitive to some, there is an upturn to the green battle. Government funded programs are available to home owners who are seeking sustainable renovations to their home. Special mortgages such as Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEMs) and Energy Improvement Mortgages (EIMs) are available to home owners interested in green renovation.

Solar leasing programs introduced recently can offset the initial investment needed for alternative energy. “Some green building materials may cost significantly less than traditional materials,” Barrows and Iannucci said. “For example, using materials from deconstructed barn or building or from salvage yards can cost you next to nothing.”

The best argument for green building is the benefits home owners will reap for years to come. Most upgrades pays for itself within couple of years. Some like insulation, energy efficient appliances, and Compact Florescent Lights (CFL) reaps rewards immediately by reducing utility bills. Real Estate experts claim that bathroom and kitchen renovation add the most value to your home but I suspect that green renovations will add the most value in the long run.

To find inspiration of small homes and see how people creatively use their space, check out Small Space Style or Apartment Therapy {although AT misses sometimes in terms of small space but home tours are addictive}  Small space makes it easier to maintain and upkeep. Going small can save money which will allow you to pursue other, more things in life. It’s a switch in our head that needs to be flipped. Bigger is not better; smaller is best.

Editor’s Note: Green Building Elements is launching a Green Building 101 Series which will be posted bi-weekly, on the 1st and 15th of every month. Take this challenge with us as we learn how to build sustainably from the ground up.

Source: Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Building and Remodeling

Photo Source: stock.xchng: al71, pixelbox, jmnb56



Susie Kim-Carberry

Susie Kim-Carberry is a professional writer who's been featured in numerous publications, both in print and online. She started as a features writer for The Bayonet Newspaper in 1997 and studied print journalism at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Media. Kim-Carberry is currently focusing on online media as a freelance writer, content producer and also serves as a site editor for Important Media. A self-confessed travel addict, her other equally important job is being a semi-crunchy mom to her two daughters. She tries to maintain a balanced life through her yoga practice and secretly dreams of being a Parisian one day.