Six Green Construction Considerations

The following points apply to all new construction, once the decision is made that a building project needs to be undertaken.

  1. Small is Beautiful. Since 1970, Americans have doubled the amount of residential, worship, educational and commercial interior per capita. The trend towards ever more "necessary" space is a major ecological burden on our limited Earth. Extra space means extra energy and other resources for heating, cooling, building materials, cleaning and maintenance supplies. Most people do not realize that there is a comfort range between destitution or space shortage and over-affluence or too much space. A wise green construction principle is to build only the space needed to attain the end result desired. Older people want accessible and handy space, not an excessive expanse of it for quality living.
  2. Local Building Materials. Plan to construct with local building materials (brick, stone, sand, pressed earth, wood, etc.). Some recyclable building materials can be obtained in excellent condition virtually everywhere. Reusing windows and frames, flooring and other components is good economy and a model practice for others to follow at a time when most prefer higher priced but often lower quality new products.
  3. Renewable Energy Advantages. Solar or wind energy should be considered in construction of green buildings. Where possible, make use of unobstructed southern exposures. Consider passive solar space design, heat retaining materials, solar photovoltaic arrays, solar water heating units, and possible solar greenhouse additions.
  4. Energy Efficiency Measures. Energy efficiency measures should be undertaken, especially using energy efficient double-pane windows with proper glazing. Thermal insulation requirements should be met in full to help reduce heating and cooling bills. Choose installed appliances with energy efficiency rating in mind. Make compact fluorescent lighting the primary mode of lighting rooms, corridors, exit signs, etc., in order to achieve maximum energy efficiency. Where possible, berm or inset new construction into hillsides to allow for the use of earth as an insulating material and as a possible heat source.
  5. Water Conservation Devices. Use low-flow devices for toilets, showers and for faucets. In dryer climates consider a rainwater cistern for watering houseplants, flower beds and for other uses. An ideal situation is one where greywater is recycled for growing plants or drained into constructed wetlands.
  6. Native Greenspace. Value greenspace. Use native grasses, flowers and shrubs to the highest degree possible. Plant native or naturalized trees with preference for deciduous shade trees in the south and southeast and evergreens as windbreaks in the traditional winter wind direction (generally north and west). Ring property with trees or selected woody plants as vegetative privacy barriers.