Green Home Upgrades Apex NC
Custom Builder, Remodeler, Handyman
AEI Heating and Cooling
Custom Builder, Remodeler
National Association of Home Builders, National Kitchen and Bath Association, National Remodelors Council, U.S. Green Building Council
Green Design Improvements for Home
Green design practices and principles can make your home healthier and more comfortable. But how do you incorporate green design into your home? What should you do, and how should you start?
For answers, we turned to four leading interior designers whose niche is primarily green. Using environmentally friendly concepts such as reduce, reuse and recycle, these green designers work with homeowners to specify functional, healthy and aesthetically pleasing building materials that won't harm the home's occupants or the planet's ecosystem.�
Our four designers include Bruce Goff of Domus Design Group in Reno, Nev.; Leslie Shankman-Cohn of Eco Designs, Memphis, Tenn.; Lori Dennis of Dennis Design Group, Beverly Hills, Calif.; and Bernadette Upton of EcoDecor in North Palm Beach, Fla.These designers listed 15 green design practices that have been requested by their clients and can be incorporated into just about any home - including yours. Here are their suggestions on how to turn your home green.
1. Local Building Materials
One of the best and simplest ways to go green, says Shankman-Cohn, is to look for building materials that are indigenous to your area. For instance, use stone that is quarried locally. Not only will you be helping local businesses, but you'll also reduce the amount of energy used to transport the materials to your home. Goff uses this approach for his own business, giving consideration to how far a supplier is from a job site, in order to minimize the impact transportation has on air quality.
Homeowners want recycling made simpler and easier, Goff says, with recycling areas in both the kitchen and garage. In the kitchen, Goff suggests a KraftMaid recycling center with multiple trash bins, so it's easier to sort items for disposal. The multiple-container approach also is a must in the garage, he says, especially in areas of the country with one-pass waste pickup, requiring homeowners to roll three or four containers out to the curb. A large green container is typical for mulch and grass clippings, with other containers for trash, paper, plastic and metal.3. Bamboo and Natural Cork Flooring
These renewable, fast-growing woods are long-lasting, contain natural antimicrobial agents and are naturally termite-resistant, Shankman-Cohn says. In addition, they're easy on the legs and feet. They come in many different styles and colors, and add warmth to any decor and style.�
4. Natural Fabrics and CarpetsGoff, Dennis and Upton recommend environmentally friendly fabrics with natural fibers and natural dyes, like undyed cotton and hemp. Dennis notes that these fabrics won't off-gas - or, release toxic gases that affect indoor air quality. Goff points out that a number of commercial fabrics are made with recycled materials such as plastic from bottles. Upton recommends pure wool carpet backed with cotton, rubber and jute, which she installed for a client. "No synthetic dyes!" she warns. "Be sure to select carpet padding that's equally pure or hypoallergenic."
5. Formaldehyde-Free Wall Units
Upton suggests wall units made from solid wood combined with formaldehyde-free medium-density fiberboard (MDF) called Medite II, from SierraPine. Upton says she specified this type of wall unit for one client who "was extremely chemically sensitive, so reducing formaldehyde emissions was absolutely necessary."6. Nontoxic Blinds
"For the same client," Upton says, "we removed PVC (polyvinyl chloride) blinds in her kitchen and replaced them with wooden blinds (from Hunter Douglas) that were finished with nontoxic stains and finishes. PVC materials can off-gas in intense heat - standard for window conditions in Florida."7. Nontoxic Shower Curtains
Dennis takes the non-PVC approach a step further, suggesting that homeowners replace cheap PVC plastic shower curtains, which off-gas toxins that can affect the occupants' health, with nontoxic hemp curtains, which are antifungal and antibacterial. "They take a little longer to air out," she says, "but I'd say it's worth the wait."�
8. Reclaimed WoodGoodwin Heart Pine, which is recovered from river bottoms and used for flooring, is one of Upton's favorite products because of the methods used to retrieve the wood. "No big machinery that could affect natural ecosystems are used - only wet suits worn to get to the river bottoms," she says. "When the wood is reclaimed, it's in pristine condition due to the preservative effects of the cold water." Other companies, such as TerraMai and Trestlewood, offer wood reclaimed from a number of sources domestically and internationally, and used primarily for flooring.
9. Recycled-Material Roof ShinglesUpton points out that a number of building products are made from recycled materials, including roof shingles. EcoStar synthetic slate tiles are made from post-industrial waste rubber and plastic, while Eco-Shake roofing shingles use two recycled materials - vinyl and cellulose fiber, which is made from a recycled wood product ground into fine sawdust.�
10. Recycled-Material Tiles
Goff also uses recycled materials, including Eco-Cycle Stone tiles from Crossville. The tiles, which have the texture and appearance of stone, are actually 95 percent unfired raw material that is generated during the manufacture of Crossville's porcelain tiles. The material is reclaimed and reused to create eco-friendly tiles.11. Nontoxic Stains, Sealants, Glues and Paints
When installing wood flooring, use stains, sealants and glues that are low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds), Upton says, and Shankman-Cohn recommends the use of low-VOC paints. VOCs are chemical compounds used in the manufacture of some products; during application, these compounds off-gas, affecting indoor air quality. Typically, low-VOC paints are only available in lighter shades. The deeper the color base, the more chemicals and compounds are added to the paint. Check a product's label for VOC counts.12. Tankless Water Heaters
More and more homeowners are doing away with water-storage tank-type water heaters, Goff says, and they are opting for tankless water heaters, like those from Bosch, Rinnai, Seisco and Takagi. These water heaters reduce water waste and use less energy - and provide nearly unlimited hot water. In addition, Dennis says, "the water is never stagnant, sitting in the bottom of a tank for who knows how long. Instead, it is fresh, hot and ready when you are."�
13. Energy-Efficient Lighting
The use of low-voltage lights and newly developed fluorescent lights can help reduce energy use. Dennis recommends color-corrected compact fluorescents, which will not result in extra costs initially and will cut energy costs for homeowners. They also can provide health benefits and contribute to the well-being of the occupants, she says. Philips and Panasonic are good sources of energy-efficient lighting, Goff notes. In addition, he points out, make sure any lighting you purchase has an Energy Star label.14. Energy Star Appliances
All the designers recommend Energy Star appliances. Upton recently installed a combination washer/dryer with space-saving features in a client's home. The appliances fit into a small kitchen, and the dryer is ventless. Instead of venting warm, moist air outside, the air in the dryer flows through a heat exchanger and is cooled by cold water from a tap. The moisture in the air condenses and runs down a drain. Cooled and dried, the air returns to the dryer to pick up more moisture.�
15. Low-Flow Showerheads and ToiletsReplacing showerheads and toilets with low-flow models can reduce water use by up to 50 percent, Dennis says. Less water use can help protect resources and lower water and water-heating bills.
Finally, Shankman-Cohn says, do your research when purchasing any green product. "Every manufacturer is required to have a material safety data sheet (MSDS) available upon request for any product. This sheet provides details about the materials used in the manufacture of the product." These data sheets may contain technical information, she says, so ask questions about anything you don't understand.In addition, she warns, "A product labeled 'all cotton,' for example, might not be truly low-toxic. Pesticides may have been used to grow the cotton, and there is probably a coating of formaldehyde and a chemical soup of other things added to ensure flame retardancy." By checking labels, conducting research and asking questions, you can make sure the products and materials you purchase truly are green.�
Judith Stock profiled Ed Begley Jr. in the May/June issue. She's based in Los Angeles.