What Makes a Home Green – Trends in Green Design

In the twentieth century the main goal of architects and construction workers was to provide a good product which satisfied the demand of a customer, who most often had no interest in pursuing eco-friendly design. This changed with the dawn of the new millennium, which can already be called the green age. Building specialists added one more aspect to their work – environmental friendliness. But with all the media buzz and political newspeak – how is it possible to grasp the meaning of this phrase? What exactly makes a building eco-friendly? Generally speaking, a green building has to be erected, maintained and demolished with a great care for environment at every stage of construction, usage and deconstruction.

The choice of materials is crucial. The materials have to save energy, water and other resources unlike the traditional ones. One example can be furniture recycling. Instead of disposing old wardrobes or sofas, it is possible to reuse them in many creative ways. Another example is using bamboo. Compared to traditional wood-supplying trees, bamboo grows eight times faster. What is more, bamboo doesn’t die when harvested. It grows again and can be used multiple times. Thus, bamboo floors can be definitely called green. If someone is reluctant to have a bamboo floor, why not go for cork? It can be surprising, but it is possible to recycle wine cork and make a perfectly usable floor out of it.

Another thing to consider is lighting. Whereas there are many devoted fans of old-fashioned bulbs, LED lights are on a visible uptrend. Unlike traditional light sources, they consume little energy and have much longer lifespan. The main disadvantage, however, is their price. Eventually, it’s cost-effective, but an initial investment has to be made.

Apart from energy saving, green designers need to take care of the inhabitants’ health. A very popular way to do it is using nontoxic paint. Everyone has experienced breathing fresh paint odour -neither pleasant, nor healthy. Fortunately, today there is a large choice between different manufacturers and their products, which includes paint with a significantly lower amount of toxic substances.

The safety and sustainability of a green building doesn’t finish at the construction process. It has to be conscientiously managed throughout its life. It is very important to ensure waste reduction mechanisms are in place.

Two other aspects to consider are environmental degradation and pollution. Using renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic systems, help to curb carbon dioxide emission and air pollution, in comparison with traditional coal burning practices. To lower waste footprint, it is advised to always sort rubbish and use recyclable everyday products, from shopping bags to clothes. Also water used in dishwashing or laundry can be later used to irrigate land.

The last step is demolition. After a building is not good to use anymore, it is deconstructed and taken to the landfill. However, in green homes many materials can be recycled and reused. Going green also means repairing things as long as it is possible, instead of disposing them.

In many countries authorities and local communities alike decided to encourage or even enforce regulations dealing with energy saving and green buildings, but eventually it will all depend on human beings – whether they will choose to care about the environment, or just about their personal short-sighted comfort.

Green Design in New Urbanism

In urban areas, the sustainable designs of what is sometimes called the “new urbanism” are becoming popular. They take advantage of making high-density living enjoyable and efficient.

Multi-Use Green Designs

One of the tenets of the new urbanism is combining residential and retail spaces in the same building. This allows city dwellers to easily walk to the bakery and cleaners around the block rather than making trips all over town. It also seeks to eliminate the need for automobiles by placing such buildings near public transit such as urban train lines.

Green Certification

There are organizations that make inspections and give out ratings of green certification. Not unlike the organizations that certify organic foods in the US, these organizations are NGOs that have drafted documents that outline the basic requirements of sustainable building and design practices and judge buildings accordingly.

Water-Saving Green Designs

Conserving water in these designs is a high priority. Many of the most highly rated green buildings make the best possible use of water, often even harvesting it from the sky for use. Eco-roofs are one way that gray water from residential and business use can be recycled for irrigation. Moreover that irrigation can support plants that help cool in the summer and function as insulation in the winter.

By building such developments with water conserving devices such as low flow toilets and facets, high capacity washing machines, hot water on demand and others, vast amounts of fresh water can be saved in the first place.

Urban Agriculture

These buildings are, perhaps surprisingly, well-suited for urban agriculture. Green roofs can be used to grow fruiting crops and even trees that are now gracing roofs all over the world. As agricultural and horticultural productions are brought closer to city, more people in urban areas will begin to have a stake in their own food.

Retrofitting Old Designs To Green Designs

Not all building projects are new construction. There are many old buildings that can be retrofitted to adapt to a new, low-carbon urban environment. This process goes well beyond installing some insulation. The actual function of many older buildings can be adjusted with redesign to encourage new urbanism in older buildings.

Green Design – 7 Ways to Use Green Products in Your Next Renovation

More and more people are concerned about the environment and individuals are asking what they can do. While doing a home improvement project may not seem to be eco-friendly, there are ways you can improve your home and be green at the same time. Here are 7 ways you can go green.

1) Use Green paint. No I don’t mean paint everything green. I mean use zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint. Many leading brands are now using these zero emission paints. You can find these paints in a wide variety of colours and they are available in both interior and exterior grade.

2) Use Eco-friendly flooring. Consider using Bamboo or cork. Bamboo has a modern feel to it and Cork is comfortable to walk on. There are also eco friendly hardwood flooring options that are easy to install and look great. For carpet, look for wool or linen and consider sisal or grass for area rugs.

3) Purchase Energy Star rated appliances. Most of the top brand appliances are offering energy efficient options. They allow you to save time and money and you can get rebates back from the government.

4) Recycle materials you already own. Have fun and get creative with the things in your garage. Break up old tile and create an interesting table top or backsplash. Take old scraps of fabric and create colourful throw pillows or a piece of wall art.

5) Use HardiPlank siding instead of vinyl. Vinyl siding is flammable and toxic to produce. HardiPlank is made from wood pulp and it comes either pre finished or ready to paint. It won’t rot, crack or split.

6) Buy Green furniture. Again I’m not referring to the colour, not that I have anything against a green sofa. More and more furniture designers are getting into the green movement and creating pieces made from recycled materials and eco-friendly fabrics.

7) Change your lights. You can now find a great selection of fixtures that use LED lighting or Fluorescent bulbs. They both use 75% less energy than incandescent fixtures. If you aren’t planning on changing the fixtures themselves you can still be green. Switch the bulbs to CFL’s or compact fluorescent bulbs. They last 10 times longer than the incandescent bulbs.

Hopefully you can incorporate some of these tips in your next renovation project. Ask your favorite retailers to show you their eco-friendly lines. I think you will be surprised how much is out there now in green products.