February Know

Introducing Know the Difference

February 2009

Collier Construction is launching its Know the Difference newsletter series. Every other month our newsletter will be all about homes, homeownership, homeowner tips and sustainable building practices.

We’ll make sure it’s brief but really helpful for anyone who wants to know just a little more about their home and what makes a green home different.

To begin with, we thought you’d like to know about sustainable resource management. And we’re bringing you some good examples of green materials as well as how to choose green products for your home’s interior and exterior.

sustainable resource management

From the planning stage to finish carpentry, sustainable resource management means rethinking the way we select, use and recycle building materials. We select materials that are manufactured with a lesser environmental impact, order only what is needed, and re-purpose extra materials. And renewable resources such as bamboo allow us to build homes without depleting our natural habitats, while low VOC materials prevent unhealthy in-home air.

Sustainable resource management is a series of choices made with a different set of priorities in mind—to build homes of the highest quality; homes that are environmentally sensitive; homes that will last a lifetime. If you have questions about products, materials and installation methods, give us a call and we’ll do our best to help you out.

5 Easy Questions to Ask When Choosing Green Products

If you haven’t noticed, everything is green. Or at least, that’s what greenwashers would like us to believe. Don’t be surprised to find the most unlikely product labels plastered with the word green. At Collier, when we think about a product or material’s “greenness,” we ask some questions first.

So here are 5 questions that will help you confidently choose green products and materials.

1. Where and how is it manufactured?

If our methods for producing and distributing green products have an aversive effect on our eco-system…well, we probably shouldn’t call them green. A rule of thumb: when possible, buy local.

When you buy locally manufactured and sourced products, you help support small businesses and bolster the local economy. And you are also helping reduce CO2 emissions. Because less energy is needed for transporting locally manufactured materials.

How’s it made? A manufacturing process that results in little or no material waste is always preferable. Some products are made using less energy and fewer mined materials. You might have to do a little research, but it’s worth knowing the difference.

2. Is it rapidly renewable?

Here’s an idea; let’s use resources that regenerate themselves rapidly and without our help. And without us meddling with local eco-systems.

Cork, bamboo, and wool are common examples of rapidly renewable resources. In each case, the harvest rotation is 10 years or less—meaning that supply trumps demand. Though some resources travel quite a distance to get here, those miles are worth protecting natural habitats, reducing the over-production of new materials, and preventing landfill waste.

These materials are attractive for a number of reasons – they are often low in VOC, biodegradable and very durable. And these materials look great. But nobody has to know that’s why you went green.

3. What is its life-span?

But some green products are neither locally manufactured nor rapidly renewable. Like Siberian Larch or Zappone Aluminum. Well, these products are still considered green by industry professionals and green rating systems. Why? Because a product’s longevity contributes to solving numerous environmental problems.

Extremely long lasting materials help reduce landfill waste and decrease the unnecessary production of new materials. And in many cases, these products are made with recycled content and are 100% recyclable as well. A sustainability balancing act means making decisions with a long-term view of things.

4. Is it recycled? Recyclable?

Recycling feels good—whether it’s a glass bottle or an entire house, knowing that we’ve been able to redirect a material’s seemingly inevitable path to eternal landfill stagnation…well, it just feels good. And choosing green products can feel good too.

Roofing, siding and decking materials are among the most commonly recycled/recyclable products available. Fiber cement siding is often comprised of fly ash, a byproduct of electric generating facilities (ironic); aluminum and copper siding/roofing are often made with recycled content and are recyclable as well; and composite decking contains recycled plastic resin. The idea is to reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle.

5. Is it breathable?

If it smells like it’s killing brain cells, and if it feels like it’s killing brain cells, then you should probably err on the green side. Check product labels for VOC content.

VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are commonly found in paints, caulks, and adhesives. The problem is that these compounds emit unhealthy gasses into the air, and concentrations of many VOCs are up to ten times higher indoors than outdoors. The best way to find out how to avoid VOCs is checking out the EPA’s website. Remember, healthy indoor air means feeling better.

If all else fails...

At Collier Construction, we are constantly studying green building science. Here are some great resources we've found—these sites will surprise you—BuildingGreen.com, GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, US Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Building America Research Program.

If you have any questions about products, materials and installation methods, give us a call and we’ll do our best to help you out.



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