Kick-Start Your Green Practices

Clients look to builders architects as experts on building materials and installation methods. But with the rise of new green products — which are flooding into a largely unregulated market — you’d better bone up on ways to go green.

Here are five easy ideas to get you started:

  1. Use low-odor, zero-VOC or low-VOC paints, sealants and adhesives. This includes floor finishes, polyurethanes and wood finishes. There are low-cost, durable, green products available in every product line now. The U.S. EPA has set the standards that these products meet, but for standards stricter than the EPA’s, look for the Green Seal or Master Painters Institute ratings.
  2. Use formaldehyde-free lumber products, including cabinets. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, but it’s increasingly common to find hardwood plywood and even OSB that doesn’t contain it. Also look for formaldehyde-free batt insulation or third-party-tested batts that are low-emitting.
  3. Use low-VOC duct sealants. You can increase duct efficiency by up to 15 percent just by sealing the seams. Use UL 181-compliant tape that has acrylic- or butyl-based adhesives. Duct tape contains rubber, which dries out. Also available are VOC-free duct sealants, which are best applied with a painting mitt.
  4. Use green spray foams such as foams that are isocyanate-free, formaldehyde-free, HCFC-free, and have low- or no-VOC foams. Closed-cell foams have a high R-value per inch and don’t hold moisture and is a better choice to avoid mold when building.
  5. A black roof absorbs 95 percent of the sun’s heat — 20 percent more than a white roof, driving up cooling loads. But people don’t like the appearance of white roofs, so use light-colored three-tab shingles or reflective Energy Star three-tab shingles. New granules look gray but are reflective. Use radiant barriers to further block heat.

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