There are many types of green construction, the best and worst will be discussed in my green home building overview. Technically most green construction is any building process that saves energy, produces energy, or doesn’t cause excessive pollution. For some simply building a home from nearby lumber and achieving a decent R-Factor rating could be considered green construction, but many processes go a lot further. Green construction is a widely varied field with some wonderful ideas and some less than wonderful ideas as well. In selecting green construction techniques select ideas that save money, conserve energy and provide a more durable and comfortable home. Here is a green home building overview of the best innovations in green technology.
Green Home Building Overview of Best Innovations: Insulated Concrete Wall Panel Systems
By far the most practical of all building materials, insulated concrete wall panels are inexpensive, conserve energy with a far superior R-value, and create a virtually indestructible dwelling. Insulated concrete wall panels are essentially insulated Ferro-cement. These panels are sold pre-made by many different companies.
To create the panels first a thick sheet of foam core insulation is connected to and covered with either metal mesh or rebar, then concrete is poured on each side. Fasteners attached to the metal frame within the cement so that panels can be connected to each other for fast and easy construction. In essence these panels are the walls. They only require a little re-bar and cement to finish the job on site. Panels are snapped into place on the foundation with rebar very easily, and cemented to the foundation with mortar like cement.
The money saving benefits to quick construction and less man hours are obvious, especially when coupled with the fact they cost less than traditional wall materials, and insulate far better than most any other choice. They are also very strong, and long lasting. Ferro cement of any kind is one of the most durable building materials in history. It has been used in ship construction, skyscraper construction, and a form of this technique has been used to create ancient wonders, which lasted for a thousand years. As an added plus, curved panels can also be ordered for extreme versatility in construction.
Green Home Building Overview of Best Innovations: Solar Energy Panels
There have been some recent developments in solar energy panels, which make them far more efficient. The latest technology uses the heat and the light from the sun to double energy created. Straight into the grid options offered by the electric company mean that you are paid for energy that you don’t use, while sharing their energy on cloudy days. It is possible for the electric company to pay you for electricity more than the other way around thus turning a small profit and no power bill. While the initial installation may be costly, the savings over time far outweigh the initial cost.
Green Home Building Overview of Best Innovations: Insulation
Innovations in insulation are usually a great idea. Closed cell foam spray insulation for ceilings, and radiant barrier roof decking are two great innovations to keep heat from your roof from getting in your home. Closed cell foam spray insulation is highly effective for use on ceilings and between wall studs as well. Radiant barrier roof decking is fantastic for keeping heat from building up in the attic, and reducing the need for air conditioning. I only wish that the board used in the radiant barrier roof decking was ¾ inch plywood rather than gypsum composite board, but they have treated the board to prevent rotting and claim it is less likely to rot than ply wood. The barrier is very effective for reducing the temperatures in the attic, which can rise to over 120 degrees in standard attics. These new innovations will keep attic temperatures in the 80′s most of the time. It is an excellent idea, which far exceeds industry standards and building codes in insulation, durability and rot prevention.
Green Home Building Overview of Best Innovations: Eco System Based Ideas
Some of the more eco-based ideas such as using straw, rammed earth, encouraging insect habitation on a green roof, or other ultra naturalist ideas may not work as well in some climates as others. In warm moist climates, such as the southeast where insects are plentiful, I’d tend to err on the side of caution and avoid using straw or rammed earth, much less encouraging any sort of bugs to live on the roof, at least for home construction. I’d fear that conservation could lead to infestation in the southern states.
That said there is nothing wrong with looking into any of these ideas, which might be suitable to your climate. Adobe is great in the dry southwest states, and rammed earth and straw may work nicely there. Always remember that construction methods have always varied with the location and climate, and that can’t change just because of new green ideas.
Timber cladding, despite the new name and all the hoopla isn’t anything new. They simply mean clapboard siding, and it’s been done for hundreds or even thousands of years. The downside is it rots if it’s not treated or painted, especially in some climates, but the answer there is to stain it or paint it appropriately so that it doesn’t. Some types of wood do not rot, so if you use those you can leave them natural.
Log homes are a great option, simple but a bit heavy to construct. They aren’t difficult at all to build, but a bit harder to insulate in the cracks. They do use quite a bit of wood, but apparently that is not a bad thing according to the latest green information. At least it’s natural.
What is green and what isn’t varies with the latest reports. Is it green to use wood or not. Deforestation is an issue. What about wood burning stoves and fireplaces? Is it air pollution or energy savings? Does it turn into a deforestation issue or is it balanced by the fossil fuel issue? That’s really a good question, and best decided by the home owner, but if you want an energy saving fireplace, the best thing to do is either insert an efficient buck stove in it, or put a fan and blower system behind it so that it distributes heat well. There is a lot more heat that builds up behind and over a traditional fireplace than ever enters the room, so the most efficient thing to do is create an air cavity on the back and sides of the fireplace and install fans to circulate the heat out of little vents on the front. This makes the fireplace work a lot better. If you are going to burn wood, at least use it efficiently.
There are many more issues to consider when considering green building. Be sure to research extensively before making any final choices. See our free 98 page New Home Steps above for more information on the home building process. My green home building overview is just an introduction to a vast and amazing array of green ideas.