Regional materials for your home are a great idea and are all about making smart decisions. Regional materials can be part of a green home – whether certified or becoming green as you go. In times past, people pretty much built and used whatever was available. With modern transportation and distribution, we can use materials from just about anywhere, yet we often don’t think about the impact of those materials. Taking into consideration where a material or item comes from takes a little more thought and maybe some research, yet it can be fulfilling to use what is closer. It may cost you a little more, but the benefits of reduced time to transport and lower transportation costs may outweigh additional costs. Like everything else, it is about balance. Sometimes we don’t necessarily see the true cost.
We shop regional, local or small business to support our local community and region. So, wouldn’t the same apply for our materials? Why not use the materials from around the corner? It’s great because you are also keeping your neighbors in your community and region in business. Regional influence and the community’s influence really does make a difference, and it’s not just for relationships, it’s for everything!
What are Regional Materials?
From the National Green Building Standard (for green home certifications) regional materials are materials that are produced, grown naturally or occurs naturally within 500 miles of the construction site if transported by truck or 1500 miles of the construction site if transported for not less than 80% of the total distance by rail or water. Products that are assembled or produced from multiple raw materials are considered regional materials if the weighted average by weight or volume of the distance the raw materials have been transported meets the distance criteria. So if you have something that is made from 4 different materials all within 500 miles and can be transported by truck it still qualifies. Most companies will tell you if they meet these criteria, but every part of the country is going to have different local regional materials, and 500 miles is a good distance! A lot of time anything made from renewable materials like a plant based material may also be regional or local and could also be a renewable resource. So, let’s think about it like this, back 100-200 years ago as people were still settling many parts of our country, they built with whatever was on hand. We saw all types of houses, from earth houses, sod houses, and log houses to frame, stone and brick. Essentially, homes and buildings were built from whatever was in your “backyard,” or you picked a “backyard” according to materials and resources. Point in case – the Eskimos built their homes, igloos, with ice blocks because it is what is readily available.
Why Should You Use Local Materials?
Using what is available or what is regional or local is a “green” practice especially because it reduces transportation resources and costs. Perhaps this saved transportation costs can be reallocated to help keep a local community member or regional community member in business to create an outlet for what they are producing. If we don’t buy it, they will not be able to stay in business and contribute to the community and region. It’s not only about the relationship that often is established with local and regional business, the regional influence and community influence can really make a difference.
Time is money, and at a construction site that’s a big consideration with construction schedules. If work comes to a halt for one contractor, subcontractor, or trade partner, it could affect the whole production time line for the home. Choosing materials and assemblies that are regionally or locally made and sourced, often also gives better access to the people in the business who then have a bigger stake in the game and will work to keep things on track. Often local and regional businesses are more focused on helping their customers rather than pleasing investors and stockholders and Wall Street.
For your next home project, be it an update, a remodel or a whole new home, take a look at what is available locally or regionally and be a part of the community around you.
The Stuff our Homes Are Made of – Resources and Materials – a Green Home Coach blog and Green Gab podcast
Green Living – Saving Ourselves – a Green Home Coach blog and Green Gab podcast
Simplifying Green For Homeowners – a Green Home Coach blog and Home Talk Radio podcast