Building an Eco-Friendly Home? Consider These Materials

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By Lauren Topor

Sustainable design is becoming increasingly important. Sustainable design increases building efficiency concerning water usage, energy consumption and materials. An eco-friendly building can reduce the harmful impacts on not only the environment, but human health as well. From first time home buyers to established companies, eco-friendly building is on everyone’s mind. So, why should contractors care? Aside from reducing the impact on our natural environment and communities, there’s a range of incentives that come with green-building, including tax creditsand deductions. Here’s how you can incorporate in your next project.

Eco-Friendly Flooring Options

According to data reported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 4 billion pounds of carpet enter the United States' solid waste stream annually. That 4 billion pounds of waste accounts for about 2 percent by volume of all municipal waste. But that’s not the only problem. Many carpet options include harmful chemicals, called VOCs, that can impact human health and the health of the environment. Instead of using carpet, contractors should opt for a more eco-friendly option, like bamboo or laminate flooring,as they are both much more sustainable and healthier options.

Green Water Heaters

Like carpeting, water heaters also take up a lot of space in our nation’s landfills. Data from Energy Star claims there is an average of 7.3 million water heaters entering landfills each year. Traditional water heaters are also major energy suckers and carbon emitters. New water heater technology, like tankless systems, offer an energy savings up to 40 percent and pollute far less. In fact, Energy Star says that if every American household had a greener water heater, we could reduce carbon emissions equal to taking 6.7 million cars off of the road. Tankless water heaters do the same job as their inefficient cousins, with an eco impact that is far less.

Energy-Efficient Lighting

Founded in 2000, the Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which was established by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), set out to change the the way that buildings are constructed. The voluntary credit rating systemhelps both engineers and architects work toward maximum efficiency in 13 different categories, including climate change, indoor environmental quality, water intake and resource depletion. Lighting, for example, falls into the “energy” and “indoor environmental quality” categories. And a number of points can be earned by engineers and architects who use LEED-certified lighting product on their job sites.

Sustainable Foundation

Eco-friendly buildings' popularity is surging. And one element that has caught on in the home building industry is straw bale construction. This grassroots movement uses straw bales in place of traditional foundation materials. Straw bales are fire resistant, in fact, according to the National Research Council of Canada, bale walls have withstood temperatures up to 1,850-degrees for two hours. These walls are also just as good at withstanding moisture as traditional walls. Straw bale foundation also offers contractors a cost advantage when compared to traditional methods of installation and sweat equity.

Now more than ever, eco-conscious building is at the front of consumer minds. From tankless water heaters and green flooring options as an alternative to carpet and straw-built foundations and LEED-certified lighting, there are a range of ways today’s modern contractors and architects can get the job done, efficiently and effectively.

Lauren Topor is full-time freelance writer and alumna of Arizona State University. Her professional work has appeared in a variety of publications from lifestyle mags to business websites. Follow her on Twitter @laurentopor.

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