Questions and Answers

Q What are green building materials and products?

The Green Building Resource Guide defines green building materials and products as having at least one of the following characteristics: nontoxic; recycled content; resource efficient; long life cycle; or, environmentally conscious. Some materials and products have more of these chara*cteristics than others and are, therefore, considered "greener".

Q What are the consequences of building a residence with conventional materials and methods, and why should I consider a green alternative?

The well insulated buildings of today are not as leaky as they used to be. Toxic out-gassing of many synthetic materials used in construction can be trapped within a house much longer now because air infiltration has been greatly reduced in today's residences over the houses of even 20 years ago. Many of these toxic gases, such as, formaldehyde, are known to be carcinogens. Green products can not only create a healthier indoor air quality for people, but many products have recycled content that reduces waste and environmental pollution.

Q What is the first step to take towards building a green residence?

Green building is "state of the art" construction, and I would recommend first hiring an architect familiar with green building practices, details, and builders, if you really want to get it right. If you insist on proceeding on your own, begin with fundamental decisions, such as, what structural system to use in the foundation and framing.

Q I'm just starting a small addition and remodeling project. What simple measures can I take to make it green?

The Department of Health and Human Services has placed fiberglass insulation on its list of suspected carcinogens. Cellulose insulation is one attractive green alternative to the fiberglass batt insulation that typically is installed in most addition and remodeling projects today.

Q We're expecting a baby in a few months, and we'd like to redecorate an existing room to create a nursery. What simple measures can we take to make the indoor air quality as healthy as possible without tearing out walls?

Focus on the selection of carpeting and paints that will not off-gas toxins. Doctors claim that children's' lungs can be especially sensitive to airborne toxins and tend to absorb them more readily.

Q Does it cost more to build with green products and materials?

There are many green products and materials that cost the same or even less than conventional ones. The Green Building Resource Guide includes a unique feature that compares the cost of green products to conventional products that they are most likely to replace. It is significant to note that many of the products listed in the Guide are the same cost or less than conventional products.

Q Where can I purchase green building materials and products?

Many of the major suppliers have some green building materials, however, many of the materials and products must be purchased either directly from the manufacturer or special ordered. The Green Building Resource Guide has "800" numbers and order fax numbers for green building material and product manufacturers organized by Product Index, Manufacturer Index, and Construction Specification Institute Format for quick and easy reference.

Q We would like to consider using salvaged building materials for our project as a cost savings measure as well as environmental considerations. Is this a practical consideration?

Yes, if you take responsibility for locating salvaged materials and delivering them to your site, you will reduce the cost of construction. Care should be taken to select materials and products that are useable without too much time consuming preparation, such as the removal of hardware and fasteners, such as nails in wood which can destroy saw blades. You will discover that salvaged wood is typically of a higher quality than comparable wood available today.

Q Are there any building code restrictions on the use of salvaged materials in a residential project?

Yes, all wood intended for structural use must be inspected and grade stamped prior to use, or it will not comply with the building code. Ask the supplier for grade stamps, some provide this service in house for a reasonable fee.

Q We hear a lot in the news about steel construction in residences. Is a steel framed house considered green?

Yes, very much so. The Green Building Resource Guide gives steel framing its highest 5 icon rating. Steel in construction has about a 70% recycled content. Its resource efficient because there is very little waste, and it won't rot or be consumed by termites. Steel studs are also available with thermal breaks that allow less heat loss than wood. Also, steel is nontoxic because it will not off-gas and contaminate indoor air quality. Since steel screws together, steel members can be unscrewed and reused when a structure is demolished providing a structure for another residence. Steel structures have many environmental benefits and are considered very green.

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