There are a lot of factors involved when it comes to living and remodeling in sustainable ways, and the two work well together to decrease your household’s impact on the planet. A sustainable remodel can lead to a more sustainable lifestyle by making eco-minded modifications to your living space.
A green remodel should be planned around two important areas of decreasing your home’s impact and increasing its sustainability: energy consumption and output, and building materials. The level of remodel you are planning will determine the size of your carbon footprint and also your ability to limit it.
I like to think that remodeling is inherently sustainable because we modify the space we have rather than building a new one. Redesigning your floor plan or even your furniture layout can help you make better use of the same amount of space.
Consider the following ideas about energy consumption and building materials when planning a sustainable remodel.
Reducing energy consumption. For some, a remodel is an opportunity to pursue larger scale renewable energy resource options like wind, water, or solar. While these kinds of projects can be interesting and satisfying, they often don’t fit practical considerations of budget, time and return on investment. Does that mean you shouldn’t think green? Not at all! You can make many low-cost, low-risk modifications like installing ceiling fans, new thermostats, LED lighting, low-flow shower heads and passive solar upgrades with windows and skylights.
Outdoors, rainwater can be collected for reuse in landscaping. Water-hogging lawns can be replaced with drought resistant trees, plants, and vegetable gardens. Houseplants bring nature indoors and purify the air by absorbing harmful pollutants and releasing oxygen. Together, all these things add up to substantial savings, along with the good feeling that comes with being a good steward of our energy resources.
Building materials. The materials that come together to create our homes require energy and resources to produce and ship. Many materials are imported and have the added carbon cost of long-distance travel. Some building materials like natural stone are non-renewable resources themselves. Other products like wood take a long time to renew. The harvesting process of certain products can be harmful to the earth.
It takes work to locate building materials that have a low impact on the planet, but here are a few tips to make it easier:
- Incorporate salvaged materials. Reclaimed materials have an attractive patina and can help create an old or weathered look in areas of new construction. Old wood, windows, doors, sinks, tubs, countertops, tiles, roofing, and brick can all be incorporated into a remodel.
- Locate sustainable manufacturers. Finding one or two manufacturers that use renewable energy, sustainable harvesting, and/or local materials can save you a lot of legwork trying to find the most eco-friendly products. A home maintenance service with good vendor relationships can help connect you with sustainable manufacturers in Birmingham.
- Use recycled and renewable materials. Recycled glass is made into attractive countertops and products like fast-growing bamboo are being made into beautiful floors that look just like wood. You can also choose softer woods that renew faster or wood that’s grown and harvested using sustainable practices.
- Choose low-impact materials. Concrete offers a versatile and affordable choice for floors, countertops, and cabinet or tub surrounds. Although it’s not usually considered an eco-friendly product, concrete takes minimal energy to produce and is usually made locally from local materials.
Written by guest contributor Tom Coan
Author Bio: Tom Coan, owner of Case Design/Remodeling Birmingham, writes about green building and sustainable remodeling choices, including making energy modifications and choosing building materials by using a low-impact home maintenance service.
Installing solar panels and choosing drought resistant plants are two interesting ways to reduce your impact. Featured Image courtesy of ZeroEnergy Design