Jill Fehrenbacher

NEW WEEKLY COLUMN: Green Building 101

by , 06/27/06

We’ve been paying close attention to our reader survey, and one emerging trend has been a loud and clear request for more information on how to better understand green building. In answer to your pleas — and since most of the Inhabitat team are LEED accredited designers — we thought it a perfect time to launch a new weekly column: Green Building 101

This new summer series, presented every Wednesday morning, will go over the basics of green building and offer tips and tricks for applying sustainable design principles to your home.



Why green your own home?

Benefits of a sustainable home include:

- Better health for you and your family
(You can alleviate asthma, allergies and other health problems caused by poor indoor air quality, sick building syndrome, and emissive paints, carpets and insulation)

- Savings on both energy bills and home maintenance.

- Reduced air pollution, water pollution, and solid waste
- making your neighborhood a nicer place to live

- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions – slowing global warming and making the whole planet a nicer place to live.

Organized around the U.S. Green Building Council‘s (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, Green Building 101 will cover all aspects of environmental design through LEED’s seven categories:

1. Location and Linkages
2. Sustainable Sites
3. Water Efficiency
4. Energy and Atmosphere
5. Materials and Resources
6. Indoor Air Quality
7. Innovation and Design Practice

Next week we’re kicking off the series with an introduction on location and community. We will feature different writers every week, and will hopefully touch on all the important elements of green home design.

Please let us know in the comments if you have any particular requests / questions / or topics you’d like to see covered in this brand new series.

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10 Comments

  1. michaelb1 July 6, 2006 at 5:02 am

    I just bought a “colonial” townhome in Burke Virginia, outside DC. I would love to make all my improvements and remodeling “green”.
    Any discussion on updating Green would be truly great for many people I think.
    Thanks,
    Mike

  2. April Carlson July 2, 2006 at 4:57 am

    I just purchased remote property from the state of Alaska. I am hoping to build a Cordwood home using the dead black cedar (killed by beetles) that is on the land. The land is only accusable in the winter because a large deep swamp surrounds it. I need to be self-sufficient since it is so remote. Will you be covering designs that will help in extreme weather? We have – 65 to + 100 degree temperatures here. I need a source of heat; and I need a way to filter swamp water and snow. Will you also be giving advise on these?

  3. Eric S. Johansson June 29, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    something else to consider is how do you retrofit an existing home to be more compliant. For example, I live in a 1968 style square box home and am trying to improve things slowly. For example, dealing with leaky vinyl replacement windows. How do you cope with that? How do you know if you need to add and then actually add insulation to such a structure? When adding insulation to the attic ( a.k.a. dead storage space), how do you increase the insulation and still have some storage area?

    also think about best ways of retrofitting air-conditioning. Here in New England you don’t need ac for long but when we need it, believe me, we need it. Did without air conditioning in my office one summer. The only time I could work was from roughly 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. not a pleasant experience.

    anyway, this is some of the things that Green Building should also encompass. We have a tremendous amount of capital in existing houses and that’s not the change without a major disaster. let’s make new stuff better but also make old stuff better.

  4. Arn June 28, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks for the column it will be interesting to follow. Just a couple of notes in reference to Cheryl & Jill’s comments. First of all I agree entirely with Cheryl that there are many other programs out there, of which includes the voluntary NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines. If you are looking to promote the concepts you need to certainly expose these other programs. The intent of many of these other programs is to maintain a voluntary program that will have concepts that can become mainstream. If we truly want to decrease our energy usage than the concepts need to accepted and implemented by many and not just a few. In the case of LEED this program is intended to reach the top 25% of builders, what USGBC considers the innovators. This is fine because innovative ideas eventually will become mainstream but remember LEED is not targeting the mainstream market. Also regarding Jill’s comment that LEED is a recognized standard. This may hold true for commercial construction but certainly does not hold true for residential. In the residential arena far more homes have been constructed & certified through other programs such as Built Green Colorado, Green Built Initiative affiliates and other local programs like Green Built Inc. These programs have been in existence for many years and have certified thousands of Energy Star Green Built homes. Many of these programs have been successful mostly because they have had a practical cost effective approach targeted at the mainstream builder. If we want acceptance of the ideas it is important that the we have them adaptable by the average builder, remember these are the people building the bulk of Americas housing.

  5. Jared June 23, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    Cheryl,
    Architecture 2030 is a great initiative and your energy reminder is an important one. The design and construction industry really needs to step up and deliver buildings that use considerably less energy than our current building stock does. As Jill writes, we will dig into the concepts of green building and discuss ways that designers and homeowners (and renters!) can implement these ideas. True, there are many green building programs and rating systems … and some principles are more appropriate for certain applications, budgets, regions of the country, building sizes and types, etc. So we’ll try to parse out some of these nuances and keep a healthy dialogue going about what works and what doesn’t.

  6. Paul June 23, 2006 at 3:33 pm

    It would be cool if you also had a “How to build a green house for 10K” tutorial. Using prefab parts and friends for labor, how can one make a super affordable house on a chunk of land? You could even give it a cool prefabulous name like 10K house or “Nomoni” (No money). Or maybe, I’ll start a wiki on it…on sec…Okay, I’m back. So I put up a site at http://10house.wetpaint.com/. Feel free to join in!

  7. Jill Fehrenbacher Jill June 23, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Hi Cheryl-

    This is a really good point. This column is not ultimately going to be about LEED, we are simply using LEED as a method of organization, as it is such an accepted standard for green building these days. Most of our posts in this column will simply try to address different practical elements of green building, and we will include things that LEED does not cover. We will devote one whole post at the end of the series to explaining how LEED certification works, and we will also compare and contrast the LEED system with other green building standards.

  8. Jill Fehrenbacher Jill June 23, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    Hi there-

    To answer Andrew’s point – we will do our best to address some small fixes you can make to improve the environmental friendliness of living spaces that you don’t own. Things you could do here would include improving the interior elements of your space: upgrading to energy saving appliances, hooking up with green power sources, improving your lighting, getting better insulation, windows, carpets, floors, and furniture.

    Most of this stuff will be covered in the middle of the summer in the “Energy and Atmosphere” and “Materials and Resources” sections so stay tuned.

  9. cheryl June 22, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    Let me say first, that I love the work that you are doing and greatly appreciate the resources that you make available to us all. I am an architect doing environmentally responsible work, and though I have faith based on your past thoroughness, I feel compelled to make the following comment.
    I also am a LEED accredited professional, but I get nervous when I see it being adopted by other organizations as THE model for green building. There are other rating systems, and many great programs developed and adopted by national and local building associations. Please remember that LEED is simply one approach to green building, with a very particular agenda determined by its’ members, some of whom are huge corporations and manufacturers with alot of money to spend on marketing their products. It is important to note that a building can achieve a LEED rating and still be an energy hog. Please check out the following link as a reminder of why this work is so important: http://www.architecture2030.com/. Keep up the great work!

  10. andrew June 22, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    I would appreciate some helpful tips that would enable us to “green” rental homes that we can’t change in any earth-breaking ways, as well as changes that can be made on a small budget.

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