Green Building Materials And Products

Select materials that are manufactured locally or regionally. This reduces the use of fossil fuels, minimizing air pollution and other negative environmental impacts. Remember also that green design should promote healthy living and that improved indoor air quality is essential to any green design.
Problems associated with poor indoor air quality may result from the presence of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the home or workplace. Carbon monoxide refers to highly toxic air formed during the combustion of fuels such as wood, oil, and natural gas that causes oxygen deprivation. VOC refers to indoor air pollutants, typically used as solvents in products such as household cleaners, paints, inks, and dyes. Common sources include formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, chlorine, and acetone.
Many of these chemicals, which are emitted from a variety of building materials and furniture products, off gas pungent odors. Off gassing irritates the eyes and upper respiratory tract and may be lethal at high levels of exposure. Associated health issues include increased problems with asthma and allergies, sick building syndrome (SBS), or building related illness (BRI). With exposure to high levels of toxins over time, a person may develop multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS).
Materials such as particleboard, medium density fiberboard, oriented strand board, and plywood are all used in a variety of ways in construction and furniture manufacturing. These materials are usually wood byproducts bound together with heat, pressure and resins. These act as adhesives or binders and often contain formaldehyde or other toxins that off gas.
When finishes or finish materials are applied to those substrates, they may also be applied with toxic adhesives that may off gas. Examples include plastic laminates, wood veneers, or in the case of coatings, wood sealers, stains, and paints.
Be sure to examine product information to determine the toxin content. One great way to do this is through the use of material safety data sheets (MSDS), which are available from all manufacturers. These fact sheets identify hazardous chemicals, as well as health and physical hazards, including exposure limits and precautions for workers who may come into contact with these chemicals.
Cleaning products for interior finishes and furniture also have a significant impact on indoor air quality. Emphasize to your clients the importance of using environmentally friendly cleaning materials that are safe, biodegradable, and water soluble or water based.
Above all, remember that knowledge begins with research. Committing extra time to this effort will be rewarding in many ways. As with any complex issue, there are no simple answers and always a few more questions.
Here are a few things that I do to address green design issues:
Work with companies that embrace a green design philosophy.
Get rid of trash compactors and replace them with recycle bins. The compactors compress garbage so that oxygen can’t get to the trash to help it biodegrade.
Recycle materials, such as cabinets, coming out of projects through organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
Specify energy-efficient windows and doors.
Use LED lighting whenever possible.
Specify washing machines and dishwashers that use less water.
Encourage clients to invest in new refrigerators with energy-saving features.
Specify recycled or sustainable materials whenever possible.
Specify low VOC paints.
Specify ceiling fans to lessen the need for air conditioning.
Use passive solar principles as often as possible.
Keep up to date with resources that embrace green design.
Use whirlpool tubs that do not require in-line heaters.
Specify certified wood sources.
Educate myself and my clients on the latest green design techniques and materials.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Cleaning products for interior finishes and furniture also have a significant impact on indoor air quality this i never consider.
    Interesting article

    Reply

  2. one of the very environmental building materials should be the bamboo, it grow fast, easy recycle by earth and low cost of treating. in asia, almost every family would have the bamboo home decor and the bamboo is also one of the furniture materials too.

    Reply

  3. Here’s a good story on building the most energy conscience hotel in North America >
    http://blog.marsdd.com/2009/07/14/the-75-5-plan-lessons-from-building-north-americas-greenest-hotel/
    A lot of good ideas to save energy & money.

    Reply

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