What resources do you recommend for learning how to build a green home?


What resources do you recommend for learning how to build a green home?

Asked by Margaret Vanwormer, Great Mills, MD

We are planning on building a green home about a year from now. Are there references available that would help us get started?

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Paul Gleicher's picture

First of all, let me applaud you for your desire to build green. My wife and I were in a similar situation several years ago, right after we purchased a townhouse in the city that we wanted to renovate responsibly for our family. The house dated from 1885 and had fallen on hard times, not to mention that it was filled with toxins such as lead and asbestos. At that point in time we found it very difficult to find sources of information for how to go green.

To learn more about green products, we spent many hours going to trade shows such as the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) and the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, asking each vendor if they offered anything green. Visiting trade shows in your area is a good way to see what's available up close and personal. New Yorkers can also check out new products at GreenDepot in Manhattan. It's essentially a retail store similar to Home Depot, but its emphasis is on green products.

We also searched the Internet and bookstores for resources to use in renovating our home. I pored over the GreenSpec Directory, a publication from BuildingGreen.com. The directory includes hundreds of products that they have investigated. It's organized by the various components of a building: concrete, masonry, metals, woods, paints, plumbing, appliances, etc.

Ultimately, after our house was completed, we embarked on writing our own book, Dreaming Green: Eco-Fabulous Homes Designed to Inspire. It is a coffee-table book featuring 17 homes from across the United States. Each chapter covers one home, listing the top ten green features in each home. At the back of the book, we list over 200 resources, for easy access to many of the items that are depicted in the book.

Fortunately, there are a lot more resources now for learning how to build a green home. I strongly recommend that you visit some of the many websites dedicated to building green. In addition to GreenHomeGuide.com, among the best are:

  • GreenBuildingAdvisor.com: This site offers insights on a multitude of green building and remodeling projects for kitchens, bathrooms, home offices, etc. The "Green Basics" section includes a green building encyclopedia. Another useful feature is the overview of Integrated Design, which is the process of designing and building a house holistically from the beginning, rather than treating each piece of the puzzle as an island unto itself.
  • GreenBuildingTalk.com: This site includes forums and discussion groups on green topics such as radiant heating, insulating concrete forms (ICFs), geothermal heat pumps, and solar and wind power.

Finally, it is never too soon to meet with a design professional to start discussing your options. You will need to consider how to situate your home on the property to take advantage of passive solar gain, how to maximize water efficiency, and what energy conservation methods (and/or alternative energy sources) you may employ. A green professional can offer advice on researching responsibly manufactured materials that will create a safe environment and healthy indoor air quality for your new home.