Kick-Start your Green Practices

Builders and architects are used to clients relying on their expertise in regards to building materials and installation methods, but when it comes to sustainability, are they well-versed in green practices?

Here are five easy ideas–per Residential Design & Build magazine–to get you started:

Image via Residential Design & Build magazine

Image via Residential Design & Build magazine

  1. “Use low-odor, zero-VOC or low-VOC paints, sealants and adhesives. This includes floor finishes, polyurethanes and wood finishes. There are low-cost, durable, green products available in every product line now. The U.S. EPA has set the standards that these products meet, but for standards stricter than the EPA’s, look for the Green Seal or Master Painters Institute ratings.
  2. Use formaldehyde-free lumber products, including cabinets. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, but it’s increasingly common to find hardwood plywood and even OSB that doesn’t contain it. Also look for formaldehyde-free batt insulation or third-party-tested batts that are low-emitting.
  3. Use low-VOC duct sealants. You can increase duct efficiency by up to 15 percent just by sealing the seams. Use UL 181-compliant tape that has acrylic- or butyl-based adhesives. Duct tape contains rubber, which dries out. Also available are VOC-free duct sealants, which are best applied with a painting mitt.
  4. Use green spray foams such as foams that are isocyanate-free, formaldehyde-free, HCFC-free, and have low- or no-VOC foams. Closed-cell foams have a high R-value per inch and don’t hold moisture and is a better choice to avoid mold when building.
  5. A black roof absorbs 95 percent of the sun’s heat — 20 percent more than a white roof, driving up cooling loads. But people don’t like the appearance of white roofs, so use light-colored three-tab shingles or reflective Energy Star three-tab shingles. New granules look gray but are reflective. Use radiant barriers to further block heat.”

One response to “Kick-Start your Green Practices”

  1. rich says:

    Great tips that will improve the indoor air quality of the finished home. I’d like to make two suggestions:

    1) Design in variable amount of fresh air into the ventilation system. Indoor air is more polluted than outside air. A HEPA filter can be used to remove pollen and other dust. A heat exchanger can reduce energy lose. Commercial buildings require a complete air exchange every hour. Homes have more pollution sources, yet most have no fresh air component. It can take up to ten hours to exchange residential air. The typical result is unhealthy indoor air quality.

    2) After construction is completed and the home has been ventilated to eliminate the initial spike of off gassing, test the indoor air quality of formaldehyde and other VOC’s.

    Don’t think residential indoor air quality is a problem? The California Air Resources Board’s report published December 15, 2009 states:

    “Nearly all homes (98%) had formaldehyde concentrations that exceeded guidelines for cancer and chronic irritation…”

    The executive summary:

    The full report:

    The principal researcher’s power point presentation:

    Also the February 2010 copy of the Synergist, a peer reviewed magizine, has a cover article on the poor indoor air quality of residential homes. It points out that energy efficient and/or green homes are worse than normal homes, so being green alone is not adequate.

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