Thank you to Nick Brouk for the initial write-up of these podcast notes.
Once upon a time or place, houses are or were made of what’s available. As the world has become a smaller place, materials used to build a house may come from anywhere and everywhere. Resources are a key part of the construction of the home.
With resources, “it’s not just what you use, it’s also how you use it”. Using available resources efficiently and conserving what is available are vital aspects of resource management. It’s also why it’s important to plan any build as tightly as possible, so that sudden decisions are not needed to overcome a lack of planning. This also assures the right materials are dedicated to the desired type of build.
Using resources wisely is a key practice of green building and includes practices ranging from optimizing use of resources (such as wood for framing) to choosing durable materials that will stand the test of time and offer lower maintenance.
Custom home builders, by the nature of their business model, typically work closely with their clients to plan the design, selections and materials (a.k.a resources) to achieve the clients’ desired homes. It is in this space; green building is often observed.
Opportunities abound for all builders to optimize the resources used and to plan carefully upfront. Often decisions to save resources for budgetary reasons also positively influence resource management, resulting in a greener home from a resource perspective. Many builders, especially production or volume builders have begun to manufacture components of the house in a separate location from the building site, as a way to streamline their business and cut down materials costs. The separate assembly saves the builder planning time and money, while usually delivering a more consistent and high quality outcome than an on-site alternative. Coincidentally, using manufactured assemblies is also a green practice.
Green building in the St. Louis area is influenced heavily not only by the resource management practices of most builders, but also the rules of labor unions, and carpenter unions that are associated with many building projects throughout the area. The practice of offsite manufacturing may not be used as frequently as it could be due to the unions perception that it could impact employment of union members. Although component manufacturing for house construction can be a way to offset the current skilled labor shortage seen in many areas of the country.
The goal of a green building is to build to last a minimum of 50 years, so choosing materials that are durable (last a long time) and do their job with lower maintenance is key. We also want to preserve the life of the components and materials we choose. Keeping water and moisture at bay preserves our structures by preventing water damage and mold. Pest control is another way to prevent damage and one of many examples of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Simple common sense practices like covering wood and materials to protect them from weather can prevent all kinds of issues later when the house is completed.
The whole idea of resources doesn’t have to be anything fancy, it’s just being smart about what is being built and making choices, and trade-offs according to the priorities and values of the homeowner and the build team.
Carpet, flooring, fabrics, cabinetry, countertops and more comprise the resources in our houses. Think of using local resources, recycled and/or renewable materials or even salvaged parts. Products that can be recycled later are a great choice too. Local or regionally appropriate resources usually function better in the local climate too.
Go a step further with The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard for products that rethink material utilization and other attributes. Check out the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (link at the bottom of these podcast notes). There are 3rd party independent certifications to validate what a product or process says it does or offers. The certifications can save a lot of research and time, just ensure they are a 3rd party independent certification.
The home industry does not always do a good job sharing with our homeowners and home buyers what goes into their homes. Through this podcast we hope to encourage people to ask the questions about their homes and the resources in it.
Have a great story about your home builder experience or the stuff that makes up your home? Share it in the comments section below!
Resources on today’s The Stuff our Homes are Made of – Resources
For more information about green homes and green living, check out www.GreenHomeCoach.com.
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