We asked four industry experts* that question hoping they’d give us concrete answers about what’s actually healthy, eco-friendly, and smart—and what’s just green-washing. You can see some of their answers in our December issue, where we featured builder Jeff King’s own eco-smart remodel, but the rest you’ll find right here.
TRUE IMPACT Re-routing construction waste
Consider remodeling and construction waste the same way you consider what ends up in your waste bin. What can be reused or recycled? Cities like San Francisco mandate 60 percent of construction waste be diverted from the dump. The King project featured in our December issue diverted 90 percent of its waste, donating and recycling much of it through Building Resources.
TRUE IMPACT Product innovations
ReWall Materials offers an alternative to standard dry wall. It’s made from 100 percent recycled containers. “This has the potential to disrupt the entire wallboard industry,” says architect Eric Corey Freed. “Plus, it could solve a huge waste issue.” Freed also introduced us to EcoVatali, a new line of paints that clean the air.
BEWARE Mass-made eco-goods
Interior and furniture designer Kelly LaPlante says to look for materials and furnishings made by artisans rather than factories. “Artisans are so close to their work,” she says. “They often automatically do things as sustainably as possible because it directly effects them.”
TRUE IMPACT LEED and GreenPoint certifications
Some consider green home certifications a marketing gimmick since there’s a cost affiliated with receiving certification. It’s fair to raise the question “If I’m making all the smart environmental choices, why do I need to certify?” King says it’s a matter of holding yourself to an environmental standard. “Certifying a project is the only way you can tell for certain, that in spite of your best intentions as a builder, is there something you could have done better?,” says King. “I believe it’s worth the time and money to ensure you’re definitely building the best product as a result of meeting a certifications criteria.”
TRUE IMPACT Infrastructure
The part of a home you don’t see (and don’t think about) often has the most potential for efficiency improvement. If the house is drafty, the envelop of the home—windows, insulation, and heating system—need to be made airtight. “A top tier HVAC system will certainly help reduce heating and cooling costs and emissions,” says efficiency expert Matt Golden. “But if you’re attaching that to leaky ducts and a poorly insulated house, it’s not good bang for your buck.”