The Basics of Sustainable Building
Building sustainable and energy efficient structures has become very popular over the last few years. Homeowners are always looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints and reduce their energy consumption and costs, and sustainable or green construction techniques fulfill both of those needs.
The goal of sustainable or green building is to reduce the carbon footprint of the building as it is being constructed and after it is completed. This can include using green or recycled construction materials, reducing waste and using renewable energy sources.
Homes can be built out of a wide variety of recycled materials, including recycled wood, straw bales, plastic, shipping containers and metal.
Traditional recycled building materials include recycled wood, doors and moldings from other homes or materials that were leftover from other construction projects. By reusing these materials in new construction, the construction company and the owner of the new home are reducing landfill waste and the need for new construction materials.
Another way to use recycled materials is to buy new items that have been fabricated using recycled materials. Those items include counters, cabinets and flooring as well as other home building products. Most recycled products contain between 30 percent and 100 percent recycled materials.
Unique Building Materials
Unique building materials include shipping containers, straw bales and other large objects. Homes have even been constructed using old body panels from cars and decommissioned airplanes.
Shipping containers are a great recycled building material because they can be used to form the floors, walls and ceilings of the home, and they are cheaper to purchase than traditional framing materials. They can even be laid side by side and stacked on top of each other for large and multistory homes.
Straw bales make great green homes. The bales can be used in conjunction with wood frames or as load bearing walls. Straw is a great insulator, and it is fire resistant. Straw bales can reduce the need for heating and cooling by as much as 75 percent. The bales are naturally fire resistant because they are very tightly packed. A tightly packed straw bale reduces oxygen levels and makes it impossible for fires to catch and burn.
If the straw bale walls are built as load bearing walls, the straw can be finished with a coat of lime plaster and then painted or coated with stucco. Leftover straw from the building project can be burned, or it can be composted and used as fertilizer for grass, trees and shrubs.
But for the household construction that you can’t simply re-purpose from recycled building materials, like lumber products such as fiberon decking, deck lumber, or treated pilings, you can utilize eco-friendly products that have been harvested with care, and an eye towards lessening any environmental impact.
Airplanes And Car Parts
Homes can also be constructed using large jets and body panels from cars. Large jumbo jets have been used in their entirety to create completely recycled homes with phenomenal views. The body panels from cars have been used as ceilings, roofs and awnings.
Construction companies can participate in construction material recycling programs. There are government programs that accept leftover building materials, sand and fill dirt. The leftover materials are then repurposed and used by other companies, home owners and individuals.
The home itself can be designed to recycle waste. Compost pits can be built outside the home. Kitchen trash compactors and recycle containers can be built inside the home.
Homes can also be constructed with renewable energy sources, including solar panels, tankless water heaters, composting and low flow toilets and wind turbines. These items reduce or eliminate the need for outside energy sources, and when combined with wells and septic tanks, these homes are completely self-sufficient. As an added bonus, that means low to no utility bills.
Jimmy Brungus is a lumber and home improvement blogger. Photo by Claus Rebler