Posts Tagged ‘green building’

Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring – Keep it Green

Wood floors are the healthy choice; they require fewer chemicals to clean than other floor coverings, and they don’t trap dust and fumes in the fibers or grow mold in the grout. More and more people are choosing wood floors for anyone with allergies. Don’t be surprised if a doctor recommends a wood floor for your spine and joints. Wood is known to give a little and can be easier on your legs and feet.

Antique and Reclaimed wood floors are an ever popular trend in flooring. Wood that is reclaimed can provide the benefits of old growth timber with the added plus so that not a single living forest tree is sacrificed. This is where living green comes into play.

Reclaimed and Antique wood can be milled to look like new, or sometimes consumers look for wood with nail holes, bolt holes, and other fastener marks which make these characteristics part of the appeal. The old lumber will have rustic character marks from many years of use and exposure to the elements.

Many of the floors come out of buildings about to be demolished or in the process of being refurbished. Antique wood flooring can be reclaimed from lumber salvaged from dismantled old barns and buildings. Antique and Distressed wood floors are prized for their beauty, stability and patina. Antique and distressed wood is usually from salvaged vintage homes, barns and structures.

A rustic wood floor will have more of the natural character such as knots, distinct color variations, possible insect marks, surface checking and varying grain patterns. Reclaimed or Antique flooring usually comes from the old growth forests from our early American history. Today they can still be found in floors in old homes and historic structures in many parts of the country. This wood displays character unmatched by any artificial means. Wide Plank flooring can also come from newly sawn old growth lumber. The use of wider widths and longer lengths will reduce the number of end to end seams in the floor which creates a historical authentic look.

Much of this vintage recycled timber comes from old growth forest and was used to construct old buildings. This vintage lumber has unparalleled architectural quality and character, not to mention beauty.

Some antique wood flooring is sometimes called country hardwood flooring and is made from salvaged oak, maple, cherry, hickory, walnut, chestnut, white oak and other vintage reclaimed woods.

No two floors are exactly alike and usually can be found in random widths. Reclaimed hardwood flooring may contain characteristics inherent in aged wood, including cracked knots, slight surface checking, insect and nail holes, weather checking, and color variation.

Benefits of using Reclaimed and Antique wood flooring: A floor made from antique wood has Rrerrque beauty and defining character that cannot be found in newly sawn timber.

• Recycling wood is an alternative to cutting down trees. This is good for the environment.
• Reclaimed wood has been transformed by nature and time which is a link to our past. Having a piece of history in your home can be very satisfying.
• The character and patina of the wood cannot be duplicated.
• Older growth wood is denser and more dimensionally stable than new growth wood which are traits more desirable for wood flooring.
• Certain species such as American Chestnut can only be found through reclaimed wood suppliers.

What about Antique Wood over radiant heat?

The use of radiant heating systems is growing in popularity throughout the United States, especially under wood floors. Radiant heat is an excellent heating source. With proper acclimation and installation methods, Reclaimed and Antique wood is an exceptional choice over radiant heat.

Radiant heat is healthier for the wood than alternative heating systems. The heat is evenly distributed throughout the floor at a low temperature. Each board is exposed to the same amount of heat and does not encounter uneven drying.

Radiant heating actually replicates the natural process that antique wood has experienced. Wood that was used to support a factory, barn or building was exposed for decades to a regular increase and decrease in temperature and moisture. In some cases, the timbers from which the boards were cut have been slightly expanding and contracting for over a century in their previous installation. Radiant heat, with its low temperatures and even distribution affects the wood flooring the same way, but the impact is much less dramatic with Antique or Reclaimed wood than newly sawn wood because it has already been through this cycle for years!


Generally speaking, the price of reclaimed flooring is a bit higher. Pricing for uninstalled wood can start at $5.95 a square foot and can top the $22.00 mark. The price of recycled Antique and Reclaimed lumber will vary with the size, grade, length, quantity, and surface character of the material and whether the material is purchased in its existing condition or re-manufactured/milled to your specifications. The cost of recycled lumber is generally more expensive than new lumber of the like grade and size. If the lumber goes through the re-manufacturing process, it will add nominally to this cost base to offset the expense involved in cleaning, de-nailing, re-manufacturing and grading. The process of turning the reclaimed lumber into flooring can be lengthy and involves considerable time, money and expertise.

In conclusion, reclaimed wood floors are becoming increasingly popular due to some consumer interest in historic preservation and also to advance the green building design. These woods often offer superior quality from wood that grew slowly and is often more dense than faster grown wood.

Vintage and antique reclaimed wood adds to the warmth, character and atmosphere of a country home. This wood has character from abundant natural traits. Some planks are generally wider boards and have a character and charm that display an instinctive sense of harmony and spirit of country living. A feeling of history from a time when using solid wood flooring was the way a home was built.

If you already have a Reclaimed or Antique wood floor or are thinking about purchasing one, just think a little bit of American history is now or can be part of your home. What an exciting concept!

About The Author
Dave Barkstedt, NOFMA & NWFA Certified Floor Inspector


Bamboo has long been regarded as an eco-friendly material but how green are bamboo clothes

Bamboo has long been regarded as an eco-friendly material because of its amazing green attributes: It can grow with few pesticides and little water. This is the view of Lotus Organics, who in their usual full and frank style have investigated the industry and presented their finding on their informative Organic Clothing Blog. It is always a great read for anyone with an interest in the greening of the rag trade. None more so than their current peek at bamboo.
Michael Lackman of Lotus concludes, “The growing of bamboo is environmentally friendly but the manufacturing of bamboo into fabric raises environmental and health concerns because of the strong chemical solvents used to cook the bamboo plant into a viscose solution that is then reconstructed into cellulose fiber for weaving into yarn for fabric.”
We also admire them for bravely pointing out that the ISO 140001 and Oeko-Tex standards, while useful in their spheres of influence (management and human health respectively) do not, on their own, indicate sustainable textile practices
Along with palms, bamboos are one of the world’s most important building materials, particularly in areas where timber trees are in short supply. Large timber bamboos, including Dendrocalamus giganteus and Bambusa oldhamii are used for scaffolding, bridge-building, water pipes, storage vessels and to build houses. In fact, as a building material bamboo plays an important role in almost every country in which it occurs. In Burma and Bangladesh, about fifty percent of the houses are made almost entirely of bamboo. In Java, woven bamboo mats and screens are commonly used in timber house frames. With modern polymer glues and bonding cements, bamboos are made into plywood, matboard and laminated beams.

The wooden sword called a “shinai” used in the Japanese martial art of kendo is made from longitudinal strips of strong bamboo culms. Several strips are tightly bound together with string. There are many weapons made from bamboo, including bows and arrows and sharpened bamboo stakes. In Sumatra, native hunters fashion blowguns (blowpipes) from bamboo culms to shoot deadly poison darts.
Giant pandas are completely dependent on bamboo for food, and they require enormous quantities of it. Because of a rather inefficient digestive system compared with other herbivores, giant pandas may consume up to 85 pounds (38 kg) of bamboo per day. Pandas digest about twenty percent of the bamboo they consume, while cattle can digest sixty percent of their intake. Pandas will eat other species of bamboo but apparently prefer the kinds that grow wild in their native habitat, including Himalayacalamus, Fargesia, Drepanostachyum and Sinarundinaria, all native to Yunnan, Tibet, Nepal and northern India. Pandas once roamed over a wide range in southern China. Before the fertile valleys became farmland, they could move from one area to another to find a variety of bamboos. Now they are restricted to isolated mountain regions in which there are relatively few species of bamboo. This habitat isolation is a potentially serious problem when bamboo species that giant pandas depend on suddenly flower and die.
Bamboos are very important plants, both ecologically and economically. They are one of the most useful and valuable plants for people and provide the primary diet for giant pandas. Giant pandas are indigenous to mountain forests of small, cold-tolerant bamboos in the Yunnan province of southern China. Although they have a carnivorous ancestry and are members of the bear family (Ursidae), giant pandas have evolved a vegetarian diet of bamboos and eat the entire shoots, leaves and stems. The Himalayan red panda also feeds on bamboos along with a variety of other plants. It belongs to the family Procyonidae along with American racoons, coatimundis and ringtails.
Bamboos are very useful plants throughout the Old and New World tropics. It has been estimated that they are used by more than half of the world’s human population every day. According to A. Lewington , more than 1000 different products are made from bamboo. Bamboo shoots are edible and are a major component of Asian dishes. Since fresh shoots are more flavorful than canned, bamboo farms have been established in the United States. In Tanzania, “bamboo wine” is made from the fermented juice of the wine bamboo. Although bamboo shoots are tender and weak, they grow very rapidly. In fact, there are records of tropical bamboos growing 100 feet in three months, an astonishing 0.0002 miles per hour! When the shoots leaf out in sunlight they become very strong and woody.Some bamboos stems have the same tensile strength as certain types of steel and are used to reinforce concrete. After about ten years the stems begin to deteriorate in humid tropical regions. Bamboo canes are used to make cooking utensils, blow guns, toys and furniture. Bamboo pulp is used to make paper, and small, polished stem segments are sometimes used in necklaces.
Reeds and bamboos are very significant plants in the development and evolution of musical wind instruments. Different lengths and widths of the hollow culms produce the light airy sounds of small sikus or zampoñas and the deep bass notes of Bolivian toyos. Some of the world’s most beautiful music is produced by these relatively crude instruments. Panpipes have also been made in France and the Balkan countries, primarily from the reed Arudo donax collected in marshlands of the Danube delta.

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.

Build an Eco-Friendly Deck

Decks are a great way to add defined space to an otherwise empty yard. They are more attractive and inviting than a plain old yard. Add a great new space to entertain or just kick back in the sun with this environmentally friendly deck.
Materials and Tools:
contractors marking paint
8 precast concrete piers
4-inch composite planks for decking
12-inch planks for deck facing
1-3/8-inch joist hanger nails
joist hangers
3-inch galvanized framing nails
2-1/2-inch composite deck screws
prefabricated stair risers
miter saw
chalk line
deck guide
1. Measure out and mark the outline of your deck. Then, measure out and mark where your concrete piers will sit. When laying each pier, make sure they are no more that 6 feet apart. (Check local building codes; they may require that you use more than just piers.)
2. If you have a grass yard, cut out the sod so that the pier will sit easily on solid ground. Wherever you will be placing a pier, use a tamper to compact the ground. This will make sure that the earth is solid to support the weight of the deck.
3. Once the piers are placed, lay the girders in the joist hangers on the concrete piers. Take a level and set each end on a separate girder to make sure they are both the same level. If they aren’t, tamp down the soil of the higher pier until it is level. If you cannot get the pier lower, place shims underneath the girder to raise it to the appropriate level. Make sure that all the joists are even by placing the level between each joist. Nail the joists into place.
4. Lay the cross beams out 16 inches from center over the girders. Since this deck has an angled side, our first four beams are 136 inches long; the fifth beam is 127-1/2 inches; the sixth beam is 111-1/2 inches; the seventh is 95-1/2 inches; the eighth is 79-1/2 inches; and the last beam is 63-1/2 inches. Attach the cross beams to the 4×6 beams with joists hangers.
5. Place 2x4s along the ends of the cross beams on each side of the deck and secure with framing nails. Then add joist hangers where the frame and the cross joist intersect. Because the deck will have an angled side, miter the ends of the two frame beams that will sit on either side of the angle to 45 degrees. Place the beam that runs along the angled side and attach with the framing nails.
6. Take a chainsaw and cut the end of the girders that extend past the edge of the frame. Start from the back of the deck and work your way to the front. Place your first beam 1-1/2 inches over the frame. It is usually recommended that you don’t leave more than an inch of overlay, but we will be adding a 1/2-inch facing to the side of the deck.
7. Use a deck guide when placing your decking. This will assure that each piece is uniformly spaced. For this project, we spaced the pieces 1/4 inch apart. The deck guide will also allow you to align the spaces for pre-drilling holes. With 2.5-inch deck screws, attach the beams to the frame. As you near the end, you can adjust the deck spacing so you end up with a 1-1/2-inch overhang on the opposite side.
8. Once your decking is placed, snap a chalk line across the outside ends of the boards. A chalk line is a great tool to always carry with you when building, giving you a dead on straight line when needed. Now take your circular saw and trim along the chalk line, making the jagged side of the deck nice and straight.
9. For the stairs, use pre-fabricated rises. Cut a section big enough for the cross beam to fit, starting at the base of the third step. If the riser is too big, trim the bottom. Make sure all the risers sit completely level. Once in place, drill 4-inch screws through the cross beam and into the portion of the riser behind it. For extra strength, add front and back 2x4s in for each level of stairs. Attach the rear 2x4s of the second step to the frame. Add the decking material to the stairs.
10. Finally, take your 12-inch deck facing and cut to measure (if needed) for each side of the deck. Miter the ends of each piece so they form clean corners. Place the facing on the outer side of the frame so it skirts around the deck. Attach it with 3-inch galvanized framing nails.
The Self-build Survival Guide – How to build or renovate your dream home – the eco-friendly way

Green Employment Opportunities.

Green careers have emerged as a shining light in a generally bad economy. While other corporations are struggling, green companies are looking forward to a better year.

    Solar Power
    The solar field is heating up, and offers many opportunities in panel installation and sales. More colleges, technical schools and extension services are offering programs in the sector. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, NABCEP, offers certification programs that will train you in solar installation. If you would like to become a solar salesperson, start by contacting some of the solar panel makers.

    Wind Power
    The market for wind energy continues to grow, so much so that wind power now employs more Americans than the coal industry. A bonus is that if you already have a degree or background as a machinist or engineer you may be able to turn that into a job as a wind turbine machinist or wind turbine installer.

      Green Building
      The federal and local governments continue to require more certification and higher energy efficiency on all buildings. Green building, with The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, will likely become a standard in construction.
      There will be many careers available within these industries. Take the time to get the training and schooling that will be needed.
      See job listings for these fields and apply now:
      Wind Jobs
      Solar Jobs
      Green Jobs Center

      Your Career With A Green Job

      “Solar living”, “green” houses, “smart” appliances, “going green” – these aren’t just “the day’s” catchwords; these are all phrases used to describe a way of life.  In the past decade or so however, they’ve also come to describe a way of working.

      If you’re new in the field and looking for a career, or if you have a career but you’d like to increase your knowledge and skills base, you’re in luck.  Your position doesn’t have to be high technology, like a PV Project Engineer.  Thanks to the new federal incentives for solar energy, more than 440,000 jobs for installation and manufacturing will be opening up within the solar industry.

      Even without the federal incentives, the need for people with solar training grows each year.  Environmental groups argue against carbon pollution; homeowners looking for lower energy costs pay roofers with solar training to replace their old asphalt tiles with solar panels and PV arrays; companies and individuals who use solar energy receive tax credits.  As the demand for products from the solar industry rise, so does the need for those who can develop, manufacture and install those products.

      This remains true even through the current economic crisis; having a green job ensures job security in a shaky economic climate.  Billions of dollars are being spent on solar photovoltaic cell manufacturing, installation and maintenance, green building and any number of energy efficient and sustainable energy methods.  According to Greenpeace and the Worldwatch Institute, green jobs may be one of the keys to economic stabilization.

      People in the construction industry, such as general contractors, are some of those that could take advantage of solar courses and certification.  Most solar training for general contractors isn’t so much learning about new things, as learning a new way to do old things.  For instance, a trained general contractor will ensure that new buildings meet the high performance standards necessary to receive Green certification.

      In addition, retrofitting old buildings to become energy efficient adds jobs for solar trained workers, engineers, electricians and others.  Retrofitting may actually turn into a more lucrative position than building, as there are more non-compliant buildings than there are Green certified buildings.

      The lack of workers with solar training isn’t confined to one area:

      Connecticut just created a $9 million fund for investments in starting companies focused on clean technology jobs.

      Hawaii plans to stop using fossil fuels within the next ten years, moving to renewable, sustainable energy.  An agreement to allow customers with solar panels to sell power back to the Hawaiian Electric Company was signed in November of this year, though not brought into law.

      In Oregon, over 1,700 solar jobs are either available or opening since Gov. Ted Kulongoski began luring renewable energy jobs to the state.

      Everywhere across America and the globe, solar jobs are opening up and people with solar education are needed.  If you don’t have a field yet, or would like to expand your field, look into solar training.  The opportunities are endless!

      For additional information on solar training courses, please visit Solar Training Boot Camps at Boots on the Roof.

      Learn about the benefits of cork over other types of floors

      Learn about the benefits of cork over other types of floors, like its sound suppression abilities, thermal insulation properties, high comfort level and suitability for use by allergy sufferers. Without doubt, cork truly is a remarkable material and is one that has few equals in the world of wood. Cork floor tiles are comparable to parquet but with the added benefits of insulating against both temperature and noise. Imagine the perfect floor…beautiful to look at, yet easy to care for…quiet, soft and warm to the touch, yet durable enough to handle all kinds of traffic – pets, children, high heels… fashionable and fits any decor, yet insulates against sound, noise and temperature change. Cork, as a natural product, warms and enriches any interior. Cork flooring always blends in well with other decorations and furniture and comes in a wide range of colors, from its familiar honey tones to green, red, chocolate and black. As well, production of Cork tiles is environmentally friendly. No cork trees are cut down, only the bark is peeled without destroying the tree, and it grows back within nine years, ready to be harvested again.