An eco-friendly approach to remodeling can be cost-effective, when you plan ahead and think green from the start. There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you’ve created a space that’s beautiful, comfortable and responsible. Here are some tips on how to easily integrate "green" into your project.
1. Hire green professionals
It’s never too early to start thinking about the environmental aspects of your remodel. In fact you could use the green factor to help you select a builder.
Sit down with prospective designers and remodeling professionals and ask them upfront about their credentials when it comes to energy efficiency and resource conservation. Ask to see examples of their work and to explain what makes it environmentally friendly.
Experts will know more about the toxicity and sustainability of certain products, as well as how to take advantage of natural light and heat, reduce consumption, and lower energy costs. Green remodeling projects need a team that sees the whole thing as a positive and fulfilling challenge, not a challenge to find shortcuts.
2. Fix what you have first
Unlike blank-sheet new builds, green remodeling involves planning ahead while looking back because you start with an existing building. Existing buildings always have history. It may be a shaky, drafty, leaky, energy-wasting, environmental disaster. It may just be an old house in need of TLC and a few modern touches and efficient materials.
Either way, you have to check what needs rectifying and repairing before you start remodeling. There’s no point creating fantastic new rooms under a roof that has no chance of keeping the heat in. No one wants an actual rain shower in their new spa bathroom. Remedial action can lengthen your time scale and increase your costs so be sure that your remodelers’ quotes have taken these factors into account and that they have investigated your home fully. Little things can always emerge mid-project, but fundamental showstoppers should not pop up out of the blue.
3. Waste not want not
If you’re knocking down rooms, walls or whole buildings, think about what you’re going to do with all that debris. Even if you’re only redoing a roof, floor or driveway, you’ll still have tons of demolition waste. Think about what you’re going to do with it. Think recycle, reuse or repurpose.
Can you use the brick from an old fireplace in a new garden path or patio? Can you use concrete chunks, broken bricks and other masonry rubble for foundation back filling or landscaping? Can you sell or donate any materials to local non-profit projects, such as Habitat's ReStore or salvage yards?
Ask your builders to use materials certified as green by organizations such as the Greenguard Environmental Institute, the Forest Stewardship Council or Cradle to Cradle. These materials will have undergone stringent tests for environmental impact. Ask your remodeler about the pros and cons of eco-friendly floor and wall coverings, for example cork or bamboo instead of carpet or hardwood, linoleum (made from linseed oil) in place of vinyl (made from harmful dioxin and phthalates) and low or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds are toxic) paints and sealants. Put in formaldehyde-free cabinetry to avoid releasing environmental toxins. Better yet, go for wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which will be sustainably harvested.
Seek out 'pre-loved’ items such as doors, handles, windows and tiles with a rustic antiqued ‘salvage yard charm’ that can add a unique touch to your project.
5. Save your energy
A remodel is a great opportunity to reduce your environmental footprint and your utility bills.
- Make the most of the natural light and heat in rooms with clever placement of windows, skylights, or sun tunnels.
- Consider smart solutions such as lights that switch on and off via your iPhone or respond to movement with people coming or going into the space and timers on bath fans
- Put in attic and wall insulation to keep your heat inside
- Add ceiling fans to push down warm in winter and to circulate cool air in summer.
- Look carefully at kitchens and bathrooms for water conservation opportunities: (Check out Greening Your Bath for more indepth information and insights)
- Choose low-flow and dual flush toilets.
- Install flow reducers to minimize water usage while showering and cleaning up.
- Install a water filter instead of buying bottled water
- Choose appliances with Energy Star ratings, which will use less energy
- Put the refrigerator in the coolest spot – away from the sun, away from the oven – to preclude working even harder to maintain low temperatures.
It may take you a little bit more thought now, but when your build is done and you’re sitting in your cozy new room, you’ll be glad you did. People love good design, and that means green design too!
At Clark Construction we like to think of the homes we work on as part of a long-lasting legacy we all leave – for our families, our communities and our environment.