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  • Writer's pictureAdam Oakley

Green Building - In a Nutshell

Green building is a popular buzzword thrown around by just about anyone and everyone in the building industry. In future post, I'll go more into depth but this post is intended to be an overview.

Green building can mean a lot of things to many different people. Some consider green building to use only sustainable resources like straw bales, or rammed earth walls, some consider it to be passive house quality and nothing less. Personally, I consider the term "high-performance home" to be a better descriptor of what green building means to me.

Key elements of a high-performance home include, but are not limited to: efficiency, indoor-air quality, durability and comfort.

Efficiency. Probably the most commonly thought of element of green building. Remember, this is an overview, I will elaborate in the future. A home needs to be energy efficient to be considered green. Reducing your carbon footprint and saving on energy bills. There are many ways to be efficient but the most important, even more so than the amount and type of insulation used, is to air seal your home. Justin Fink from Fine Homebuilding Magazine suggest to think of your home as a balloon. Once the air is trapped, you can heat and cool it efficiently. Now imagine you have a balloon with a hole in it, even if you have a blanket on this balloon, the air is continuously being replaced by new air that's having to be reheated or recooled. Once you've trapped the air, THEN we can worry about insulation. Incase that doesn't matter to you, a happy bi-product of air sealing means bugs are much less likely to find their way into your home! If a builder that says he's green and efficient ever tells you: "a house needs to breath" - run for the hills, a house needs to breath but not the way they're thinking. A house needs to breath through proper mechanical ventilation on measured terms, not passively... which leads me to my favorite subject, Indoor air quality.

Air Quality. The EPA says that typical indoor air quality is 5X worse than outdoor air. One of the main reasons I live in the house that I do is knowing that my children are getting continuous, fresh, measured and filtered air. It's not seeping through the moldy crawlspace, it's not siphoning through the dusty attic. I have fresh, filtered air pumping into the house through an ERV. An Energy Recovery Ventilator. This is in addition to my heat pump. It makes a huge difference and the subject of an ERV deserves it's own post, so I'll leave it at that for now. Some other factors that affect indoor air quality are proper monitoring of humidity levels, intentional product selections, meaning non-VOC emitting chemicals in ALL products to include, paint, flooring, cleaning chemicals, furniture, etc.

Durability. Water, wether in liquid or vapor form are the enemies of our buildings. Water causes mold, decay and everything that follows mold and decay. Control the water, control the humidity and vapor and you have a durable house. Remember all the construction failures of the 90's? This was due to not understanding how water and vapor effect our buildings. With my degree in building science, I'm still learning new ways to control water.

Comfort. Comfort is a hard sell but it's a huge reason why people decide to leave their homes. A green home, or a high-performance home is inherently comfortable. When you air seal, you block sound waves, so the home is quieter. When you insulate, the entire home is wam or cool. When you're in a poorly insulated home, you can stand by a wall or window and feel the draft or the cold/heat radiating from it. That's not the case when you address these issues.

Like the title suggest, this post is mean to be a quick overview. There is so much to expand on and I would love to discuss in more depth because this is something I'm so passionate about.

If you care to go down a rabbit hole of information, check out these sites:

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