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Greening Your Remodel or Reconstruction Project

Posted by Sharon Rosshirt on Monday, June 15th, 2015 at 12:09pm.

Whether you are remodeling for profit, your own enjoyment, or making repairs to property damage from our recent violent weather episodes, you can follow these guidelines to reduce waste and pollution, and be more efficient in the use of energy, water, and other resources, and end up with a home where you are healthier and happier.

Choose Materials Carefully

Reduce environmental impact by being careful about how you source materials.  Choose materials that are produced more locally and with less energy involved in its production.

Do your homework by researching countertops, flooring, and other materials to identify your best options https://tree.house/ is a great resource for checking out materials. They are a sustainable home improvement store started in Austin). Almost every type of construction material has a greener option available, and new products come into the market all the time.

For example:

  • Concrete:  Wonderfully useful, yet notoriously noxious in its production.  Consider concrete made with recycled content or energy-efficient, non-toxic autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC)
  • Drywall: Also called sheetrock, (but that’s actually a brand name) is used for interior walls, partitions, and ceilings. Many types of drywall off-gas harmful chemicals and/or are treated with toxic biocides. Request that your contractor uses non-synthetic drywall boards made with natural fixative agents. JetBoard (made in Texas!) and Dragon Board are two to check out.
  • Wood: Try to obtain it from a sustainable, responsibly managed source, as certified by the Forest Stewardship Council https://us.fsc.org/  Another option is using reclaimed or salvaged wood, https://www.krantzrecoveredwoods.com located in Austin, or overstock wood from Habitat for Humanity.
  • Salvaged Materials: Salvaged brick reuses non-renewable resources in production, Repurposed stone (we have it locally, but it is a non-renewable resource), recycled steel (sturdy but its production is polluting).

Choose Appliances and Systems for Efficiency

Energy Star, a program started by the EPA, has become a standard for measuring energy cost savings over the lifetime of appliances.  Check into available federal tax credits available for some of these products for additional savings.   https://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits

Choose Paints, Varnishes, and Glues for Indoor Air Quality:

Offgassing is an important health consideration for remodeling and construction.  VOC’s are volatile organic compounds that disperse into the air with varying disagreeable effects on human health.  It has become easier to find no VOC or low VOC paints and finishes in common places like Sherman Williams or Home Depot.  Ask your contractor to be attentive to these choices on your behalf.

Choose Your Contractor Carefully

It helps to have a contractor who is familiar with green building practices, and like-minded in the need to handle this project in an environmentally conscious way.  Help that person understand your priorities with materials, on-site practices (construction sites generate a lot of waste), health and cost concerns.  Make sure surplus materials are recycled or reused whenever possible, and that your contractor has systems in place to do that.

Stanberry and Associates has a deep commitment to environmentally friendly building and development and would be happy to make a recommendation.

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