Remodeling is inherently a sustainable business: existing homes are repaired, expanded, and upgraded rather than demolished and rebuilt. Reusing structural and finish materials reduces the impact on limited landfills.
Adding green construction practices to this existing sustainability is the next logical step for the remodeling industry.
Green Means Green — or sustainable — remodeling projects are ruled by four basic principles: healthy indoor environments, durable construction methods, energy efficiency, and resource efficiency. And everyone benefits from green remodeling. Owners of green homes report that their houses are cleaner and they have less trouble with allergies, their energy bills are lower, their home maintenance is reduced, and problems with mold and mildew decrease or are eliminated.
Green remodelers benefit by having happier and healthier clients providing referrals, and they have a better chance of avoiding mold claims because of their improved construction practices. Finally, everyone benefits because green remodeling reduces waste and energy consumption, conserving valuable natural resources.
Although not necessarily simple, green remodeling is not rocket science either; it is building science — the study of air flow, energy usage, and moisture migration, both indoor and outdoor — which provides us with the tools we need to make homes healthy, efficient, and durable.
When remodelers understand building science, they come to realize that green remodeling is basically just doing things right. And building it right often doesn't cost any extra, plus it pays off through reduced callbacks and warranty work.
Theory to Practice More than 800,000 room additions alone were completed in the U.S. in 2003, the majority done by professional remodelers.
Every project that is not green is a missed opportunity. Each of these 800,000 homes will likely go 30 years before the next remodel. That is 24 million house-years of wasted energy and diminished health of the occupants. A few simple changes now could provide benefits for generations. Learning how to sell and deliver green remodeling will not only increase the number of sustainable homes, it will also improve your bottom line.
Yet there is a certain resistance to green remodeling from both professionals and consumers. Homeowners may want it, but are concerned that it is more expensive. Remodelers may want to deliver it, but don't always know how. Early adopters in the industry have found that it is possible to incorporate green remodeling profitably into their business operations.
Green products and technologies that were new or rare as recently as a few years ago are rapidly moving into the mainstream: tankless water heaters, spray foam and cellulose insulation, and high-efficiency HVAC filters are just a few examples. One green technique beginning to gain acceptance is insulated and sealed attics and crawlspaces. When these spaces are brought inside the building envelope, homes become more efficient, comfortable, and healthy; HVAC system size can be reduced; and labor-intensive manual air sealing of recessed lights and attic hatches is eliminated.
Sealed attics and crawlspaces have a proven performance record, but they run contrary to our traditional understanding of how buildings work. It will take a willingness among remodelers to incorporate new techniques such as these into their work to transform the industry and make green the standard.