Eco-friendly home renovations are a fun and exciting way to improve your property while building your connection with Mother Nature. Make no mistake: this isn’t about finding the cheapest building materials and taking shortcuts during construction. Green construction might be more time-consuming and, in some cases, more costly upfront, but the rewards will be well worth the added effort.
Homeowners who are interested in going green have greater access to resources than 10 or 20 years ago. The internet can be an invaluable resource for maintaining your home’s carbon footprint over the course of time, but the sheer amount of information available can be overwhelming for the novice homeowner.
Instead of rushing into the process, take some time to get to know your surrounding community. Eco-conscious homeowners tend to form close, tight-knit groups, especially within smaller neighborhoods and regions, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find like-minded individuals near you. Not only does it help you forge new bonds with your neighbors, but you might also pick up some handy insider tips, DIY tricks and innovative ideas from your newfound peers.
Local conferences, trade shows and presentations focused within the green sector are great opportunities for connecting with individuals in your area who share similar interests. Once you’ve established a local support base and decided on your renovation, it’s time to get started.
Make sure to have your home inspected and approved beforehand. Apart from guaranteeing the safety of your home and the health of your family, the process of obtaining the proper permits before beginning the job is much easier than having a project shut down in the middle of construction.
The final step involves finding the right materials and, depending on the size and scope of your project, accepting bids from local contractors or builders. While there are plenty of small renovations that can be completed by a novice over the course of a weekend, other jobs require professional guidance.
Finding the Best Materials
Many products are marketed as green, eco-conscious or environmentally friendly, but these are umbrella terms that are open to interpretation. Some manufacturers go out of their way to source renewable raw materials and reusable packaging, while others simply donate a certain percentage of their profits to local charities. Understanding these differences can help you find the best materials for the job.
- Aluminum: The global market for aluminum is expected to rise more than 6 percent in the construction sector by 2020. Much of this growth can be attributed to an increase in the use of photovoltaic solar panels, which are commonly framed in aluminum. Aluminum is also lightweight, strong, corrosion-resistant and cost-effective when compared to alternative materials.
- Insulation: Although insulation has a reputation for being dirty, messy and, in some cases, downright hazardous, the most popular products today feature high amounts of recyclable or renewable content. This is especially true with cellulose and cotton-based insulation, but even modern fiberglass has tremendous advantages over its predecessors.
- Doors and Windows: Energy-efficient doors and windows can have a significant impact on your monthly utility bills. There are many different options on the market, but those featuring the ENERGY STAR logo are built specifically with energy efficiency in mind.
- Solar Panels: Modern solar panels are more accessible to consumers than ever before. What once required a large-scale, bulky installation and a significant monetary investment can be condensed into a small-scale project that is easily managed and financed. Combined with the facts that most systems are able to pay for themselves within a few short years and that they can actually improve property values, it’s easy to see the benefit in a solar panel project of your own.
- Bamboo: While some regions are building entire cell towers out of the material, its applications in the U.S. are typically limited to interior finishes in bathrooms, kitchens and dining areas. Bamboo has many benefits over traditional wood, including a quickened rate of harvesting, greater strength, and affordability.
- Landscaping: The landscape surrounding your home can also be designed with greening in mind. Using native plants is a great way to embrace the naturalness of your property. Effective rainwater management can even help reduce your monthly water bills around the home.
Start Small, Think Big
Those who are new to the concept of green construction or carbon footprint reduction may find it difficult to navigate through all the products, services and statistics associated with the greening movement. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed, those who have found the most success in going green were able to do so by starting small and advancing toward their goal one step at a time.