April 11, 2008

Buildings- What You Can Do

There are a number of options for a home owner to improve their house to be more sustainable, each with differing degrees of commitment. Energy and water usage, material selection, insulation, indoor environmental quality, maintenance and efficient appliances are the main considerations.


Energy Efficiency
44 percent of average home’s energy use is used for heating and cooling. If it is reduced by ten percent, hundreds of dollars can be saved while cutting household energy use by 4.4 percent.

Energy efficiency can be improved by in a number of ways: check to confirm that walls and attic are well insulated, replace windows, plant shade trees and shrubs around your house, replace old furnace with a high-efficiency system, improve efficiency of hot water system, replace incandescent lights with compact florescent lamps, if replaced, do not keep using old refrigerator, take advantage of new tax incentives for home improvements, use Energy star appliances, consider alternative energy resources, use of daylight, improve roof quality and schedule an energy audit for more expert advice concerning your home.

Use non-toxic furnishings and cleaners, make effective use of equipment, update old and inefficient appliances, and participate in a recycling program.


Exterior Walls
Effectively insulated use R-25 if possible for this and air seal, also use flashing details to keep wall interiors dry, but make sure they can air out if needed.

Exterior Surfaces
Use a surface material that reduces rain penetration, avoids moisture damage, requires minimal maintenance, is recycled and/or recyclable or biodegradable, is produced well, lasts a long time and is installed effectively.

Interior Surfaces
Use recycled or fully recyclable building materials, coatings that are non-toxic, and wood from certified forests.

Use sun, control water on-site, protect existing planting and soils, use native plants, reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals on landscape, reduce waste and recycle during construction and use permeable surface material.

Avoid moisture, provide effective water away from the foundation, use flyash in concrete foundations, use a least a R-10 insulation system, consider frost-protected shallow foundation, no asphalt base dampproofing and non-toxic form release agents.


Theses are the rooms with the most opportunity for improvement that are also good example of how improvements can be implemented. Some of these methods can be used in other areas around the house.

Reduce Water Use:Replace old toilet water, replace old shower head, 1.5 to 2 is recommended, replace faucets with 0.5 or 1 gpm models or install aerator heads on old faucets and consider new technologies including dual flush toilets, touchless faucets, greywater systems and composting toilets.

Reduce Energy Use: Insulate water heater and hot water pipes, install a hot water recirculation pump on water fixtures, consider a drain-water heat recovery system and replace water heaters 15 years or older.

Indoor Environment: Check to make sure ventilation system is effective, use materials that are from a clean manufacturing process, check windows to make sure they can be opened and caulk unnecessary gaps and replace windows with Energy Star windows if needed.

Improve Building Materials: Make sure cleanly manufactured, impervious to water, preference to reusable materials; tile, stone and concrete recommended for multiple elements of a bathroom; and use caulk when necessary.

Construction: Seal pipes or wiring where they enter into the bathroom, insulate hot water pipes, replace or cover vinyl tiles and work with your constructor with improvements.

Use and Maintenance: Turn water heater down to 120 degrees F, lower thermostat, install showerhead shutoff valve, run fan after showers, use water sealants when needed and properly dispose of toxic cleaning materials.

Install operatable windows and skylights, use a high-efficiency ceiling fan, use high-efficient compact florescent lights, look for Energy Star lighting and appliances, consider an on-demand hot water pumping system, replace plumbing fixtures installed before 1992, replace refrigerator 10 years or older and use appropriately sized appliances.





Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy:


U.S. Green Building Council: www.usgbc.org

Cleveland Green Building Coalition: www.clevlandgbc.org

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