Environmentally Friendly Housing
If we keep blowing smoke in the world’s face, this decade will be defined as the era of smog-smothered cities, dirty water, and oppressed wildlife. So far, the green movement has introduced biodegradable chemicals, renewable energy sources, and a host of recycled materials as part one of a semi-contrite apology for our rampant carelessness. But despite their valor, as bleak EPA reports attest, these methods will not accomplish the job alone. The sustainability movement needs to reform harmful manufacturing processes and minimize noxious emissions to really make a difference. This is the goal of environmentally friendly housing: to greatly reduce industrial pollutants, conserve precious resources, and encourage alternative energy sources.
What is Environmentally Friendly Housing?
Environmentally friendly housing, or “green construction,” is the building of a house from scratch in a way that minimizes its negative impact on the environment. As detailed by the U.S. Green Building Council, this entails the use of alternative energy sources, like wind turbines, natural lighting, solar power, and biofuel to save energy. Additionally, environmentally friendly builders use natural and recyclable materials like plastic, cardboard, dirt, and harvested wood to reduce emission levels from manufacturing plants. To conserve water and save energy, environmentally friendly houses integrate natural plumbing methods, such as rainwater collection.
Green Building Materials
When it comes to natural home-building materials, wood is the most sturdy, renewable option. The use of sustainably harvested wood in building an environmentally friendly home delivers a slew of benefits to the homeowner as well as the environment. Wood dramatically lessens the impact of manufacturing processes while naturally insulating the home so that little additional help is required. It also stores carbon instead of emitting it into the atmosphere, unlike conventional homes that release about 29 metric tons of carbon. Wood and plastic composites such as Homasote and Medex are excellent for eco-friendly building, as well as wood made from recycled paper and formaldehyde-free fiberboard.
Whether they compose the entire house or a portion of it, recycled materials such as plastic, cardboard, paper, glass, and even tire are increasingly prevalent in green building projects. A government report entitled “Building Applications for Industrial Materials” highlights the different ways that these materials can be used for furniture, foundations, roofs, and more. Especially when gathered on-site, these materials reduce hauling and processing costs, building time, and of course, environmental impact.
In addition to the construction of the house itself, a truly eco-friendly household integrates energy-saving equipment to further reduce its carbon footprint. Low-flow shower heads, for example, use much less water than their freely spraying counterparts. Rain diverters, water collection devices that are often mounted on the roof, gather rain and distribute it to pools, ponds, gardens, and whatever else the yard needs.
Even after its construction, a home is not truly environmentally friendly until it utilizes alternative energy sources. Solar energy is the most plentiful and potent of these options. Solar power can fully power a home, heat water, and provide energy for outdoor lighting, all while saving hundreds of dollars on utility bills. The integration of solar power can be as simple as a glass-walled room or as involved as a photovoltaic panel setup. Either way, this source collects the most powerful and affordable energy without harming the environment.
Comparably, wind energy is becoming more viable as generators become more efficient and affordable. It still remains the most grossly underutilized energy source, however, accounting for less than one percent of global consumption. This is largely because most homeowners don’t realize how accessible wind generators are becoming to everyone, not just to the industrial and agricultural industries. Now, environmentally friendly homeowners can make their own wind generators for under $500.
Environmentally friendly builders are now dabbling with geothermic or geothermal power. It is this energy, found in the earth’s crust, that fuels the infamous potato-powered lightbulb experiment. The energy is derived from two events: the formation of the earth, and particle emissions from underground minerals. After a team of chemists, geologists, and engineers locate and extract hot water from an underground reservoir, the energy within is converted to electricity in geothermal power plants. This presents yet another completely sustainable energy source to environmentally conscious homeowners.
In addition to the use of recycled building materials and sustainable energy sources, builders and re-modelers can take advantage of a number of other practices to ensure environmental friendliness. By assessing indoor air quality, for example, residents can learn what contaminants they are subjected to and how to eradicate them. This is a much cheaper endeavor than it used to be, as demand for air testing equipment has increased with green awareness. Also, planting trees supports ecosystems in a number of ways, from creating habitats to lowering air conditioning costs as they provide shade. Most importantly, developing helpful habits throughout the day will have a lasting impact. This includes turning lights and other appliances off when they are not in use, recycling, maintaining a clean property, and always choosing more environmentally friendly options.
Investing with Green Homes
Finally, the financial aspect of environmentally friendly housing is largely misconceived. According to the Eco-Chic Economist, while green homes still cost more per square foot, they provide a larger return on investment. A green home that costs two percent more than a conventional home, according to the Eco-Chic Economist, will yield ten times the principal or more with energy savings and lower maintenance costs. Still, demand for green homes is currently 22 percent lower than regular housing. With increased support from environmentally friendly home builders and re-modelers, however, the movement towards sustainable housing for all will pick up steam in a recovering economy.