Picking the Right Products

Implementing healthier products and properly sourced materials should be at the top of green building professionals’ to-do lists

By Brian Alvarado

As 2021 continues along, the narrative has remained the same: homebuyers want healthier, more sustainable homes. As this month’s interview Mahesh Ramanujam of the U.S. Green Building Council said, green homes are now becoming the norm. The question of, “do you build green homes,” turns into, “how green are you already?”

“The question of, ‘do you build green homes,’ turns into, ‘how green are you already?’

With the offerings of a green building product a given, it’s key for builders, especially those new to the sustainability sector, to understand what they’re building these homes with. Buyers will always come with questions and green building professionals should be prepared: What makes this home sustainable? How does it contribute to health and wellness? What sets this home apart from all the rest?

One main point building professionals should consider is the type of products implemented to complete their builds and designs. From the material of the walls and roofing, to the sturdiness of the floors and windows, green builders should utilize products that both contribute not only to the health and wellness of the home’s occupants, but the surrounding environment as well.

In a recent article from the March issue of our flagship title Builder and Developer, Stedila Design Partner and eco-friendly expert Tim Button talked about how builders should read product “nutrition labels” to help ensure a healthier home.

“Just like one reads a label on a cereal box, one should look for the list of “ingredients” in an interior material or product,” Button wrote. “Learning to recognize ‘the bad guys’ — toxic ingredients and additives that are harmful to the health of your home — is paramount.”

Aside from materials that refrain from the use of toxins and chemicals that could be harmful for homeowners, another point to touch on would be the utilization of reuse materials. The cost of disposing building materials is exponentially high, from both an environmental and financial perspective.

A few months back, we featured an article by Kyle Shepherd, an industry professional who manages the Construction Materials Recovery and Reuse (CMRR) program for nonprofit BRING in Eugene, Ore. The CMRR works with active construction sites to divert reusable materials slated for the landfill, educate builders on best practices for sustainable material management and ease the financial burden of large-scale disposal costs. In that article, Shepherd described a few positives that can come from implementing reuses.

“A lifecycle analysis for building materials conducted in Europe found that building supplies make up 24% of all raw materials extracted from the earth. Add the amount of energy and water it takes to process these resources into goods people can actually use, and it’s not hard to see why these materials take a heavy toll on the planet,” Shepherd said. “Reuse conserves the embodied energy in products, which lowers not only raw material needs but the energy and other inputs required to return recycled products back to a usable form.”

Diving a little deeper, builders can also go the alternative materials route. The list of alternative materials goes on and on: earth shelter, reclaimed wood, reclaimed metal, precast concrete, bamboo, cork, mycelium and more.

Most recently, an innovative home community was announced in Southern California. Developers from Palari Group said it planned to build 15 sustainable 3D-printed homes on a five-acre parcel of land in Rancho Mirage, near Palm Springs, Calif.

According to an article on the community in CNN Business, the 1,450 square foot, one-story houses will be made from stone composite material that is strong, fire resistant, water resistant and termite proof.

“In wood frame construction there’s a significant waste that is generated for the home that’s being built, it’s about two tons of waste that goes into landfills,” said Palari Group Founder and CEO Basil Starr. “And with 3D printing, it’s a revolutionary way of building that completely eliminates that unnecessary waste.”

So we can see that there are many ways to maximize how green you already are in regards to product choice with your builds. From opting to use reuse or alternative materials to finding properly sourced materials and chemical-free products, the push toward a greener future is taking new steps each day.

With the Biden administration putting environmental issues at the top of its to-do list, we can expect new homes to become more and more green as time goes on. Building green is no longer seen as a perk to homebuyers — it’s an expectation and standard.

Brian Alvarado is the editor for Green Home Builder Magazine. He can be reached at brian@builder.media.

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