Green Building 101: Debunking Myths of Green Building and Remodeling

As Green Building Elements take on the project of green building from the ground up, we focused on consideration of space in week 1 and the use of Bioclimatic design on week two. This week, let’s take a closer look at some of the myths behind green building and renovation. We debunk false ideas and take a detailed look at what it really means to build sustainably after defogging the cloak of smoke and mirror behind green building myths.

Contrary to the thought that green building is often an uphill endeavor where a regular consumer can easily become overwhelmed with green advances in technology and make sense of what options are really out there; “It is easy being green,” says John Barrows and Lisa Iannucci, authors of “The Complete Idiots Guide Green Building and Remodeling.”

Green building is easier than one would think. Although you might not be knowledgeable about green building as a builder or a contractor, the learning curve to green building can be overcome with information and “armed with new knowledge, you can design and build or remodel your dream green home,” says Barrow and Iannucci.

Debunking the Myths of Green Building and Remodeling

Unfortunately, with the growing interest of sustainable living, many companies have jumped on the “green”

LEED Standards are a good measurement of green building practices and buildsbandwagon and are touting themselves as “green specialists”. The depth of information out there on sustainable building and everyone claiming they are “green”; how do you get past what I call the BS factor?

  • There are guidance and certifications available. Organizations such as USCBC’s LEED, ENERGY STAR, the EPA, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Green Building Standards, and the NAHB provide resources and certifications to help decipher if a company or person is truly legit. Of course, it’s not perfect but it can be reassuring to have a standard to go by.

There’s also a myth that green buildings are made out of straw bales, old tires and are not design oriented. Although green building used to be associated with crunchy granola out there mode of though, being green has become more of an integrated lifestyle within the mainstream community.

A sustainable architecture model from Studio ST Architects explores green building and designGreen designers and architects create amazingly modern and appealing buildings that just also happen to be sustainable. Although the yurts and straw houses still exist, it is not the only option for Eco minded builders and home owners. Architectural firms such as the Oppenheim based in Miami showcases some stellar examples of sustinable buildings and design that rival any great architectural masterpieces.

Price is another consideration where builders and home owners hesitate over. According to “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Building and Remodeling’, One of the biggest misconception remains that builders need to put in expensive green technologies like geothermal heating and solar installations in order to be green or reap the profits of being green. You can make changes to become more sustainable no matter your budget. The actual cost of green building projects has three factors.

  1. What level of green building a home owner or builder is striving for?
  2. The sustainable practices and green building methods the builder/remodeler uses
  3. Whether you are remodeling an existing structure and adding in green features or building from the foundation home. “It is often more costly to incorporate green technologies into an existing structure than it is to go green from the ground up.”

The other school of thought is that everything must be replaced in order to be green and that green building materials don’t last as long as traditional materials. I am firmly a believer that if everyone makes small changes; we can all make a difference. You don’t need to throw out that clunky AC and throw everything out into the garbage; consider the trash you are creating by throwing everything away.

Sustainability is first. Try to figure out what you can do to maximize the green potential in a building. You might need to hire an Energy auditor and yes, there is such thing as an Energy auditor. Don’t rip out the old flooring. Instead use it until it’s unusable. Try to figure out if this can be repurposed to something else or recycled. Then make your next flooring purchase a sustainable one. It’s all about baby steps and taking foremost the consideration of impact on your choices according to Barrows and Iannucci.

Green building materials are as durable as traditional building materials. However, even if it wasn’t; most green materials do not emit toxins which contributes to indoor air pollution, so green building materials are far more advantageous to our health and environment.

The final green building myth we take a look at is that it doesn’t make sense to be green or build green when there’s so much green washing. Unfortunately, because green has become a rising trend, green washing does exist. Businesses love to slap on that “green” label because it sells. And not all builders are scrupulous or ethical when it comes to being sustainable. Just because a builder installs ENERGY STAR rated appliances doesn’t necessarily make him a green builder. Green building is an understanding the philosophy of sustainable building and using building methods to achieve low carbon and energy consumption.

How can home builders and owners get past the green washing? Check with reputable organizations and resources. “Don’t be quick to spend your money for a new “green” product or service that claims to be eco-friendly. Not all products with a green label are truly green,” Barrows and Iannucci warns. Green Seal based in Washington D.C. has been approving products and services that meet the green standard since 1989. Remember, knowledge is everything. Arm yourself with reliable and reputable green buildling information. Trust accredited and standards set forth by reputable programs such as LEED and USGBC. Trust your instincts and carefully make decision based upon research and don’t jump on the latest green bandwagon.

Editor’s Note: Green Building Elements is launching 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: Flickr under CCL; Melissa Maples, suttonhoo, Studio ST Architects