Live Greener - Literally // 11.06.2008 at 2:20 PM
by Tyree Pace
Many of us who are on this site are probably already aware of all the things we can do personally to make the world a better place: we separate our plastics; we sign up for online billing; we take the stairs instead of the elevator. But there's always more we can do, and one of those ways is to live (or work) in a greener building.
Did you realize that nearly half of all the energy consumption and greenhouse gas produced in the United States annually is a result of construction and building materials? This is just for getting the materials to the site and the construction, it doesn't even account for the energy that will be consumed once the building is operational. When you consider that buildings normally last from 50 to 100 years and that the U.S. is projected to add another 22 million buildings in the next 20 years, it is imperative that we start thinking about how we build, not just how we consume.
Sustainable building is not just about adding in some solar panels or insulating your house, although those efforts are certainly helpful. It is also about building for what you need and where you are located. Don't just buy locally, buy local materials that are specifically adapted for the area you are in. For instance, if you live in the Southwest, consider an adobe home. They remain cooler than traditional homes during the summer months and are made of local materials, so there is no additional energy consumption in having to ship and transport the adobe (except from local suppliers to the building site). If you are feeling ambitious, you can even build your own adobe home. For those less handy, look for other green friendly features such as spray-foam insulation, dual-pane windows, and even building orientation (an east-west axis helps naturally reduce energy).
The American Institute of Architects is leading the way in sustainable building and green design. Their members are committed to the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2010 and have carbon neutral buildings by 2030. They offer resources for both architects who want to build greener, as well as consumers who want to live greener.
Keep in mind, there are also city, state, and federal tax incentives for those who want to build or upgrade to a greener building. This is on top of the money saved in energy costs. Saving the planet and your pocketbook - it doesn't get better than that!
zeb esselstyn on 11.14.2008 at 09:16 AM
And here is a good link to a state by state listing for incentives on renewables and efficiency. Very helpful.
Beth Kuchar on 11.08.2008 at 11:13 AM
That's right - and you can qualify for up to $500 in tax credits for qualified residential energy-efficient upgrades. There are even tax credits available for other energy-saving purchases, beyond just home improvement: you can still claim energy credits for hybrid gasoline-electric, diesel, battery-electric, alternative fuel, and fuel cell vehicles; solar water heating and photovoltaic systems; and fuel-cell and microturbine systems!
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