We're all hearing about Green this and that, but what constitutes a "green" building or remodel?
GreenÂ is generally agreed to be healthier, sustainable (able to sustain life),
without chemical residue or outgasing, or spilling out into the air we breathe.
The levels of green or the authenticity of green, however, can be debated.
With so many products now claiming to be "green" it's important to know
what is truly sustainable, healthy and what is 'greenwashing.'
An example of greenwashing -Â wood and paper
products that come from forests that are sustainably harvested can be FSC - Â certified from the Forest Stewardship
This is an internationally recognized certification that comes with a log that
follows the paper or wood product from the tree to the shipment to the store.Â
Unfortunately, the logo that is used for FSC products has competition â€“ The Council of Forests Industry has a logo of a tree on their products that looks sort of similar but their wood products are not carefully documented as sustainably harvested
In housing, what constitutes a â€œGreen Buildingâ€ or Green remodel?Reducing harmful substances and waste by not using high V.O.C. products (volatile
In general, itâ€™s the same 4 Râ€™s that first emerged in the early 1970â€™s when the
American Environmental Movement developed: Reduce,
Reuse, Reclaim, Recycle.
organic chemicals that outgas and can contribute to health problems), Re-using
products that are normally a waste product (think: recycled glass countertops,
or Vetrazzo or carpeting made out of recycled soda bottles), Reclaim (the use
of wood that has been taken from an old house that is being remodeled.Â Often this wood is old growth, tight grain wood and is naturally pest and rot resistant) and Recycle â€“ everything from recycling the waste products of building and remodeling to actually using recycled materials that are re-made into new products, as described above.
In the SF Bay Area, weâ€™re lucky to have a wealth of experience in Green Building.
This is where the US Green Building Council (now headquartered in Wash., D.C.
with chapters all over the US) was first conceived, by local developer and
Sustainability Consultant, David Gottfried http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=2414
The USGBC was founded on the idea that we needed a national standard of what Green Building design and renovation really is.
The USGBC came up with a standard called LEED, Leadership in Energy and
â€œLEED is an internationally recognized green building
certification system, providing third-party
verification that a building or community was designed and built using
strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter
most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction,
improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and
sensitivity to their impacts.â€ -
We also have Build It Green, another locally founded green building company, aBuild It Green offers seminars on green building practices, a catalog of green
non-profit organization whose mission is to promote healthy, energy- and
resource-efficient homes in California.Â Â Â
building service providers and trainings to certify green homes.
However, no matter how sustainable the new materials installed in a remodeled home, in the Bay Area most older homes will have to be cleared of products that were used widely in their time, and are now considered to be environmentally
unsafe.Â Materials such as asbestos coating in heating ducts and in old linoleum, lead paint that may be lurking underneath the newer coats of paint in most homes older than the mid-1970â€™s, and even old carpeting â€“ now saturated with years of dust and dirt can be un healthy to children and adults with sensitivity.Â The best thing to do if concerned with â€œgreeningâ€ a home is to do plenty of research, buy a good quality mask if re-doing anything on your own, and consult a professional if your older home may contain potentially hazardous asbestos or lead paint.
- Jodi Selene, LEED AP, Realtor, Red Oak Realty, Berkeley, CA