Des Plaines, IL — As Earth Day approaches remodelers are leading the charge to provide eco-conscious solutions for home remodeling projects, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).
Faced with mounting scientific evidence that climate change threatens the health of our planet, homeowners are compelled to ask how they can make a difference. Green remodeling practices have become more popular as homeowners cope with ever-increasing energy costs, health concerns and diminishing natural resources.
Earth Day is April 22, and yet many remodelers are taking the approach that every day is Earth Day as they help homeowners choose eco-friendly solutions for their remodeling projects year-round. “If you had to put it in a nutshell, the biggest trend we’re seeing is sustainable design,” said Stewart Davis, AIA, design director for CG & S Design-Build in Austin, TX, a NARI member. “We’re still doing nice kitchens and baths, but people want to do these projects as green as possible—and within their budget.”
CG & S Design-Build won five regional Contractor of the Year Awards in 2008 and is a member of the City of Austin’s award-winning Green Building Program. The company is just one of thousands of NARI members that can help consumers remodel their homes in a way that respects the environment through improved energy and water efficiency, building with sustainable materials and reducing maintenance concerns.
Here are a few of the key ways NARI remodelers can help plan a green remodel:
- Efficient Heating and Cooling: With dramatic increases in energy costs becoming an annual occurrence, many homeowners have come to realize that building in an environmentally friendly way also means making smart decisions that translate into financial savings. New insulation technologies, such as spray-in cellulose insulation, is made from 80% post-consumer recycled newspaper and will effectively seal homes from harsh heat and cold. Thermal solar energy is a non-polluting energy source that is easily captured and used for water and space heating. Although solar water heaters can be expensive ($1,000-$4,000), they can show paybacks of four to eight years, according to Austin Energy. Space heating systems can vary from $800 for wall heaters to $4,000 and more for large central systems. Qualified remodelers can help homeowners choose the right combination of insulation and energy-saving heating and cooling systems to reduce energy costs.
- Reducing Water Consumption: Many parts of the country are now experiencing rising water costs and seasonal water shortages due to diminishing supplies. Selecting the right appliances, such as water-conserving washers, dryers and dishwashers and installing low-flush toilets and showerheads can reduce the amount of water needed and help trim water bills. In addition, approximately 8,000 gallons of water per household each year are lost while waiting for hot water to come from the tap. Positioning a home’s water heater as close as possible to the points of use for hot water will help conserve this valuable resource.
- Healthy Indoor Air: Homeowners today are concerned about maintaining a healthy indoor environment, particularly if they have sensitivities to airborne irritants. Modern building materials, such as construction adhesives, paints and treated woods, can have toxic VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that adversely affect indoor air quality. Today, there are new non-toxic materials that will improve the overall health of a home. Air filters, such as those installed in a homes central HVAC system, can also improve the quality of indoor air.
- Sustainable Materials: Reduce the environmental impact of your remodel by choosing flooring and countertop materials made from local or regional sources. There are many products on the market today that are either made of recycled materials or produced in an eco-friendly way. “Green” surfaces, such as reclaimed hardwood, bamboo flooring and recycled glass countertops leave a lighter footprint on the environment.
- Quality over Quantity: Many homeowners today are opting for slightly smaller homes in exchange for smarter planning and design. “Instead of the big formal rooms, many of our clients request multifunctional spaces, such as a home office that doubles as a guest bedroom,” Davis said. “In areas with small lots, every square foot needs to count and remodelers and architects can help design spaces that do that.”
- Recycle Construction Waste: Eco-conscious remodelers recycle as much project waste as possible during a home renovation project. For example, CG &S Design-Build will bring four waste containers to a project site – for paper, metal, wood and concrete –in an effort to recycle more efficiently. “We are very aware that so much waste is traditionally put in a landfill, and we are trying to reduce that as much as we can,” Davis said.