By Mary Eisenhart
These days, when we’re considering a home building or remodeling project, we’re thinking about the same issues that have driven homeowners for centuries: making the place more compatible with our taste and lifestyle, keeping up with necessary maintenance, enhancing the home’s resale value. We also have to consider the ever-growing pile of local regulations likely to have some impact on our plans. And, definitely on our radar: the project’s impact on the neighborhood, the community, and the planet.
Some projects clearly hit the sweet spot. Replacing windows and doors with more energy-efficient models not only reduces your energy bill and planetary impact, it’s been found to pay for itself when you resell your home. Installing a garden of native plants fed by a drip irrigation system reduces your water consumption (and bill); it helps maintain the local ecosystem, and it drastically cuts the time you spend on garden maintenance. Solar water heaters for swimming pools – great investment, great citizenship. The list goes on.
Each project offers its own opportunities for long- and short-term benefits – social, environmental, financial and more. Here are a few possibilities:
Think global, buy local: Skyrocketing fuel costs have driven the costs of many building projects sky-high. Work with local professionals who don’t have long drives to the job site (and benefit from their local knowledge).
A growing number of artisans are finding beautiful ways to showcase the regional environment and bring it into your home; instead of buying cabinets and countertops from the East Coast or Europe, or rare tropical woods from the rainforest, consider options made – or sustainably grown – closer to home. The planet will thank you.
Smaller is better: Empty nesters, busy professionals and more are discovering that a bigger house is not necessarily a plus. Aside from the clutter that inevitably accumulates, there’s the sheer hassle, expense and environmental impact of keeping the place up and running. Don’t build a bigger place than you really need, but take advantage of good design to make the best use of the space you do have.
Consider recycled or green materials: From bamboo flooring to countertops made locally from recycled glass, not to mention actual antiques, there’s never been such a wealth of decorative and useful home options for the green-minded decorator to choose from. They look great, they’re durable, and they divert a lot of former trash from the landfill.
When you’re planning a painting project, especially an interior job, specify low- or no-VOC paint to protect your family’s health as well as the environment.
Find a building pro who shares your values: If environmental issues really matter to you, make sure you work with a building professional who shares those values. Take the time to ask questions about, for example, what happens to the debris hauled away from the job site. Ask whether they use no- or low-VOC paints, particularly for interior jobs. Find out how much experience they have working with innovative new “green” materials. And find out how local environmental regulations may affect what you’ve got in mind. When you’re ready to start brainstorming, give us a call.
Mary Eisenhart writes for CalFinder, The Place for Remodeling Contractors