10 May Issues with Building Green and the Real Facts

Photo courtesy of sustainhouse.com

Green products are perceived as more expensive. Buyers are concerned about whether or not sustainable will save them in the long run.

We live in a world filled with pollutants. Building materials contribute significantly to indoor air quality and have a direct effect on the health of the people who live and work in them. Most building materials give off VOCs, Volatile Organic Compounds. These VOCs off-gas and contribute to sick building syndrome.

Studies link lymphoma and leukemia to prolonged exposure to VOCs. Respiratory, allergic and immune system responses also occur. Many of the chemicals that are off-gassed are highly toxic, and for many others the long-term effects are unknown. Sustainable materials, however, have very low or even zero emissions of VOCs. By creating good indoor air conditions we are positively affecting the health and quality of life of the people who live and work there.
Office building owners and business owners have been the first to recognize this effect, as it directly effects the business’ bottom line. Significant reductions in the number of sick days are found in sustainable-certified buildings. This reduces lost wages from sick days, decreased productivity, and health insurance costs.

While building materials that are sustainable may cost slightly more when they are purchased, they more than pay for them self in a very short period of time.

Lighting has a very rapid payback. We have been specifying LED lighting in all of our recent projects. With an average bulb life of 50,000 hours it could be twenty years before any bulbs need to be replaced! That alone decreases operating costs. But that’s not all. A 10-1/2 watt bulb has the same light output as a 65-watt incandescent. That means in a room with 10 downlights instead
of using 650 watts of power to light it up, we’re using only 105 watts. It’s an enormous cost savings! Typically the savings on power bills alone pay back the purchase cost of the bulbs in the first 1-2 years. And considering those same bulbs could be around for another 18-19 years after that, the long-term savings are clear.

The same thing goes for appliances that are energy star certified. These are items that you won’t replace for a long time, and it’s critical to get the most energy efficient products on the market.

Why are consumers not demanding green and sustainable housing?

Consumers don’t know enough to demand it. If consumers were presented with all the facts about sustainability, and they truly understood the health, environmental, and cost benefits, they would absolutely demand it. It’s a no-brainer.

Is Green the new trend?
Building owners who have buildings with long life cycles, i.e. university buildings and office buildings, have been among the first to embrace sustainability because they understand the long-term benefits, both to the health of the occupants and the tremendous long term cost savings.

Hospitals also understand the benefits. Office building owners recognize that knowledgeable
business owners will demand sustainable certified building environments for their employees. This means the building owners have to create sustainable environments to compete for tenants. Unfortunately, the area where sustainability has not received as much attention is in the residential market. For the most part, builders are simply not educated to the benefits of building green.
Mass housing developments have been more focused on the bottom line, which means materials with even a slight cost premium have been for the most part discarded. Builders don’t believe that consumers want it. And consumers don’t know why they should want it because no one is educating them. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken when enough builders step up to the plate and develop a green conscience.

Who are some manufacturers that are doing it right?

Mythic Paint
— the most sustainable paint on the planet.

Kemiko — Reactive concrete stains that let the structural material, concrete, become finished flooring.

Weyerhauser — Framing materials made from engineered lumber that is sustainably harvested.

Eco by Cosentino — The Silestone manufacturer’s green product line.

Cree LED lighting — Energy-Savings-Calculator

Special thanks to valuable contributor

Johnna Barrett
Barrett Design, Inc.

Sibet B Freides