Thursday, September 6, 2007

We could be 'Greener'...

a long house, not a 'longhouse'...but so good.

September 6, 2007

No posts for a while means only one thing…no progress. I’ve installed all of the blocking for the light fixtures, did some creative editing with locations under the “I can live with that” mantra which translates to not relocating studs in bearings walls.

Unfortunately, we’re at the mercy of other trades currently. Electricians, plumbers, heating system installers, I’ve heard from each of them these exact words, “I’ll probably start on this tomorrow”, now I’m acutely aware of what it means, next week…maybe never.

So, with a little time to reflect I thought I’d post on ways we could’ve been better stewards of our earth's finite resources.

The best thing you can do from a ‘green’ standpoint is cut your energy consumption. So many people focus on green products as the solution. By cutting your overall energy consumption you’re targeting power demands, the extraction of earth’s resources and the delivery of power and fossil fuels to every corner of the globe. This is where it’s at…if you like straw-bale cabinetry, great...install that too but that doesn’t carry the global weight that reducing your energy consumption might.

Practically speaking, where do you start?

Insulation. Create as tight a building envelope as you possibly can. We framed our exterior walls with 2x6s at 16” on center, setting your framing at 24” on center will not only reduce material needs and labor costs but it will give you more space to insulate. Less wood in the wall assembly (which is only about R-1 per inch) and more insulation means less heat loss. We’re using R-21 kraft-faced fiberglass batts in the wall. It’s standard stock at our local lumberyard and R-21 is required by the International Residential Code. If your budget is bigger than ours, go for sprayed foam, preferably closed cell (about R-7 per inch or R-38.5 if you fill a 2x6 wall), environmental trade-offs here too with off-gassing and nasty blowing agents. Stay away from soy-foam, it may be good for the environment but it shrinks after it’s installed. Fiberglass isn’t exactly a user friendly (or earth friendly) material but there are other batt-type systems out there. A colleague of mine building in Bar Harbor is using this product made from recycled denim and cotton waste to insulate. I could only find it up to R-19 so you’re trading on R-value, but using recycled material and installing it without protective gear has definite benefits.

Building siting. Take advantage of solar radiation and prevailing winds. Heat and cool your house by natural processes and you’ll save energy. If your state has net-metering available within your power grid, you might check these guys out. Basically they install a photovoltaic solar system on your house, maintain it, and you fix a buy-back rate for the electricity you generate for 25 years based on the cost of today’s power rate.

Fixtures. Buy energy star fixtures, low-flow plumbing fixtures. Skip the compact fluorescents, they're loaded with mercury. Use dimmers and cut your power consumption instantly. If you like LED lights, they actually make color-corrected bulbs now that are even more efficient than CFLs.

There are many others, google LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and you'll find a residential pilot program that outlines many areas to target with updated building strategies and technologies.

We certainly could be greener, but the infrastructure is there to support upgrades in the future and you only get one shot at siting your the very least we got that one right.

Metal roof and windows next week…
...or maybe never.

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