Last Updated: Oct 12, 2011
In addition to helping preserve the planet, green building is good for the wallet – think energy savings and tax benefits – and also great for your health, improving indoor air quality and reducing the presence of harmful chemicals in your home.
Eco-friendly construction encompasses a wide range of building methods, materials and practices. Green building materials are typically more expensive upfront, but their long-term benefits include less frequent replacement costs, energy savings, durability, and higher performance than their traditional counterparts. Check out our list of essential eco-friendly building products:
Traditional insulation is made from fiberglass and contains toxic formaldehyde. Environmentally friendly insulation made from cellulose contains no harmful chemicals, is highly energy efficient, insulates well against sound, and is comparable in price to fiberglass insulation.
One of the strongest building materials available, bamboo is more economical than lumber from trees, which typically require 20-40 years to mature. In addition, the plant absorbs four times as much carbon dioxide as most trees. Bamboo makes an ideal substitute for traditional wood framing because of its rapid growth. Timber bamboo, the largest species, grows to 120 feet in just three years.
Earth-friendly flooring materials include green linoleum, recycled carpet, bamboo, cork, stone tile and reclaimed wood. Hardwood flooring can be eco-friendly as long as the timber is locally grown, sustainable and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Asphalt roofing needs replacement every 10-20 years, incurring great cost and filling landfills. Recycled roofing utilizes plastic, rubber, vinyl and other materials to create attractive shingles that can last 50 years. Increased durability, especially against hail and fire, save you even more money – many insurance companies give substantial discounts to homeowners using recycled roofing.
Recycled Plastic Decking
An alternative to wood planks, plastic decking is made from 100% recycled materials, including wood, grocery bags, and plastic wrap. These products are virtually maintenance free, and less prone to rot, sun damage and other decking maladies.
Whether you're building or remodeling, keep in mind that the finishes you choose for your home are also important. Wall paint is considered the leading cause of indoor air pollution, so choose a product that is labeled as low or zero VOC (volatile organic compounds). Deck out your bathroom or kitchen with recycled tiles, and be sure to replace incandescent bulbs with LED or CFL lights. Purchase energy-efficient appliances and windows, low-flush toilets, and low-flow showerheads to save on electricity and water consumption.
Consider purchasing a solar hot-water heater, which can reduce your water heating costs. Finally, if you're interested in generated your own power supply, talk with your electric company about solar panels or wind turbines; many companies will buy back electricity you don't use, helping offset the cost of these investments.