gren re-'mä-dl-i[ng]: (verb) The particular set of building practices that incorporate and include:
- Being Environmentally Friendly
- Leaving a minimal impact on the building site
- Using energy efficient designs and materials
- Conserving resources by using sustainable materials (those that are easily re-grown, recycled, or materials that last a long time - products not needing frequent replacement) in design and construction
- Recycling waste materials
- Using products that promote a "healthy" indoor environment
Green Building FAQs
1. What is "Green" Remodeling?
“Green building” or “Green remodeling” refers to making environmentally conscious decisions during a construction or remodeling project. A project may be considered “green” because you use:
- Efficient building practices, like framing methods that require less lumber, deconstructing and salvaging products for reuse elsewhere instead of demolishing products that are salvageable and shipping waste to landfill, and even the sorting of waste materials during construction for recycling.
- Products that promote resource and energy efficiency, as well as better air quality in the finished space, such as using higher grades of insulation, water-saving showerheads and low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and formaldehyde free insulations.
- Products whose manufacturing processes are more ecologically friendly – from controlling pollution to utilizing locally manufactured products to cut down on environmental impact from shipping and transport.
- Design considerations that have minimal impact on the building site and take advantage of energy efficient principles such as passive solar design to maximize the benefits of seasonal sun/shade to help with heating and cooling costs, as well as letting in and utilizing natural light to save on electricity consumption for artificial illumination.
- Products that conserve natural resources by reusing salvaged materials, like recycled-glass countertops, reclaimed hardwood flooring or roofing made from recycled tires
- Products that conserve natural resources by using renewable materials like bamboo and cork flooring, which come from fast-growing plants instead of slow-growing hardwood trees
2. Do I need to incorporate all these aspects into my project to have it considered "Green"?
No – Green building and remodeling is really about making informed decisions. “Green” practices or products can be designed into just about any remodeling project. You should pick out the techniques and products that you feel will have the biggest impact and that will make sense for your particular project (i.e. it may not make sense to ‘super-insulate' a space in a climate where you do not need it or will only get marginal benefits from the additional investment). We can easily present options to you as we work together to design and build your project if you are interested in including some “green” elements.
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3. What are the benefits of "Green" building and remodeling?
“Green” remodeling offers numerous benefits including:
- Financial Benefits: A more energy-efficient home can result in lower electric and fuel bills, since almost 45% of energy consumption in the average household is for heating and cooling
- Tax Benefits: Using products that have Energy-Star ratings in your home may result in income tax credits (consult a tax professional for details, of course)
- Health Benefits: Using more natural products can reduce the concentration of allergens and potentially toxic “off-gassing” chemicals in the home
- Environmental Benefits: You can help to reduce the impact of your remodeling project on the consumption of natural resources, thus helping to insure that future generations will have them to enjoy!
4. Is "Green" building more expensive than conventional building?
While some “green” products or building techniques are more expensive, there are many “green” options that can be added to your remodeling project without a significant impact on the project's budget. The truth is that a quality builder should be incorporating many green building techniques into their standard quality construction practices whether or not a customer has specifically requested a “green” project. Responsible building practices like caulking the gaps in wall framing or taping over the seams on house-wrap contribute to the overall integrity of the finished product, and do not add significant expense, however many contractors do not perform these simple tasks on a project because they are simple ‘corners to cut' that a homeowner typically will not notice. Cook Bros. has been using green construction and design practices, long before it was became the popular concept that is today.
Some “green” products and building techniques can be more expensive than conventional building products and techniques. For instance, FSC certified lumber (wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council – a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world's forests which guarantees that the wood is harvested from a certified well-managed forest) can cost a little bit more than standard framing lumber. Reclaimed hardwood flooring salvaged from old structures, although a unique and attractive product, can cost as much as 50% more than typical new oak strip flooring, due to the increased labor of salvaging the materials. To avoid unpleasant surprises about the cost implications of “green” options it is important to work with a knowledgeable contractor who is able to help you explore the “green” options while providing you with valuable feedback about cost implications throughout the process. There is most likely a “green” way to best suit your remodeling and budget needs!
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5. Are "Green" building products as durable as "conventional" building materials?
“Green” products, whether it be insulation made from recycled blue-jeans or recycled-glass countertops, are generally intended for the exact same uses as conventional building products. They come with similar warranties, and generally have comparable product lifetime expectancies (sometimes even longer!)
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6. What is the Arlington Green Home Choice certification program? Can I qualify for certification with a remodeling project?
The Arlington Green Home Choice program has been developed to create a set of standards and guidelines for homeowners and contractors interested in having their project ‘certified' as Green. At the core of the program is a score sheet which assigns point values for a number of “green” building options, property features and products that might apply to any given project. Earning a certain point total based on the score sheet and features your project includes, earns a Green Home Choice certification.
Although the Arlington Green Home Choice program was originally created for new home construction, your remodeling project can be certified too, meeting a lot of the same criteria. If having your project certified is of interest to you, you should definitely work with a contractor who is familiar with the program and who has successfully completed projects for certification, as there are some additional administrative steps that must be taken to insure compliance with the program.
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7. What are the benefits of having my project certified as "Green" ?
Perhaps the most important direct benefit of the Green Home Choice program is that it holds the builder to certain standards of construction and it will help a homeowner insure that the products and techniques that they purchased and are expecting from their contractor are actually being incorporated into and used in their project. In addition to the standard county officials' inspections that you will have on any remodeling project, on a “Green” project there will also be a county inspector who will certify that the Green building techniques that the contractor says that they are going to incorporate are actually incorporated into the project. Many homeowners do not know a contractor who is knowledgeable in “green” building or even realize that that is an option they missed out on. If, however, you work with a contractor that has “green” remodeling experience and is already able to offer a wide range of options for promoting the energy efficiency and sustainability of your project and uses very detailed contracts to define the specifications used in any given project, then actual certification may not be necessary to guarantee that you have a “green” finished product. Cook Bros. can competently use the Green Home Choice score sheet as a starting point for homeowners who are not necessarily seeking official certification, but would like a general idea of the kinds of “green” features they could incorporate into their project.
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8. Why don't all contractors incorporate "Green" Building Techniques?
Have you ever heard the saying: “It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks”? Many builders are resistant to change – they have been doing things a certain way for so long, it is hard for them to expand their horizons and learn new things. It is also hard for some smaller companies to spend time to learn about the latest products or building techniques as the owner of the company is the one doing the sales, writing contracts, coordinating the work in the field, etc. Wearing all those hats, one cannot afford the time necessary to become knowledgeable and competent in green design and construction principles and practices. They do not have the benefit of having people on their team that specialize in product selection, or a Production Manager who is responsible for all field operations, etc. that will help them define and implement a ‘Green' plan. While building Green does not necessarily need to mean more work during the actual construction phase, it does take more work in the planning and definition phase of a project and most contractors do not spend enough time on this important phase to begin with. They have a three or four page ‘standard' contract that they use, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which they leave to their field employees to figure out. Not a situation any homeowner wants to find themselves in, green or not!
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9. What experience does Cook Bros have with "Green" Remodeling?
Cook Bros has worked on both projects that are certified through the Green Home Choice Program and those that have merely incorporated various specific Green products and techniques into the scope of a project, without necessarily having the project certified as ‘Green.' We have a Contract Administrator and a Production Manager who have access to many resources and suppliers of green products. In addition, the Cook Bros. staff has worked with and collaborated on many programs to promote and educate the public about Green Building including working with Arlington County 's Green Home Choice certification program (Cook Bros. worked with the county on the first "Certified" Green Remodeling project), Washingtonian Magazine, HGTV and Hanley Wood (Publishers of Remodeling Magazine and producers of Build TV).
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10. What are some projects I can add to the overall scope of my remodeling project, or do to make my existing house's space more "Green"?
Some remodeling projects which don't necessarily have to be part of a larger project, or that can also be incorporated into a larger project's scope might include:
- Increasing the insulation in the existing house's attic to lower heating costs
- Installing a whole-house attic fan to reduce air conditioning costs
- Replacing old windows with new “Low-E”, argon-filled windows to reduce drafts and better insulate your home
- Replacing old roof shingles with lighter-colored roofing to reduce the heat build-up in the attic or install a roof made out of recycled materials
- Replacing standard incandescent bulbs in your lighting fixtures with compact fluorescent bulbs that use less energy as well as last longer. Compact fluorescent bulbs can use up to 60% less energy than standard bulbs, which could add up to a savings of about $30 over the life of each bulb!
- Adding a rain barrel to be fed by the gutters to reduce runoff and to supply your garden hose plant watering needs
- Salvaging and donating useable materials such as appliances, cabinets, windows and doors to various organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, or simply listing them on various community websites that encourage people to ‘give away' re-useable products rather than having them taking up space in a landfill!
Cook Bros. can incorporate any of these options and many more into your remodeling project!