Green Building 101

Rachel Maloney
Natural Built Home Store

Let’s face it, green is hot. It describes everything from automobiles to energy sources. One area where the development of green products is exploding is in the field of green building. Green building encompasses initial building site selection and energy efficiency all the way through the finish material choices such as carpet and counter tops. Safe and sustainable products can be incorporated into a project whether it is a new commercial construction or simply repainting a wall in an existing home.

If you choose to build a new home, it is best to reuse an existing site close to public transportation, schools or other built-up infrastructure. If you do choose an undeveloped site, make sure to protect natural areas, minimize erosion on the site and try to control storm water runoff. Maximizing water efficiency should be addressed when planning the landscape design and choosing kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Sink aerators and dual-flush toilets are easy ways to save water inside the home.

Ideally, your builder will utilize reclaimed or reused products during new construction or remodeling. If you cannot find the appropriate refurbished item, try buying newly manufactured products sourced from within 500 miles of your building site. Minnesota currently produces plywood alternatives using wheat stalk and sunflower seed shells in place of slower growing wood Minnesota also has vast FSC certified forests. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. It is the most stringent third party certification allowing consumers to feel confident that their wood did not come from clear-cut or poorly managed forests. Wood flooring and kitchen cabinetry are two products currently being produced from this Minnesota grown wood. Local artisans are also making tile, sinks and counter tops from recycled glass.

Finding ways to reuse the waste we are producing is an important aspect of going green. Cotton denim insulation and modular carpet tiles are examples of products that utilize recycled materials. If recycled content is not an option, look for a rapidly renewable source for the product. A rapidly renewable material is one that can be harvested for production in less than 10 years. Examples include bamboo, cork and linoleum

As builders create more energy efficient homes, we need to be more aware of how the products we place in our homes can affect our air quality. There are many chemicals in traditional carpets and carpet adhesives, paints and wood composite materials that could potentially affect our health. One way for consumers to mitigate the toxins they bring into their homes is to request low or zero VOC content products. VOC stands for volatile organic compound. VOC content is a measure of the amount of gas a product releases into the air at normal room temperature. Items with a high VOC content will usually smell much stronger than materials with low or zero VOC content. Luckily, from caulk and plaster to flooring and cabinetry, many healthy products are available in low or zero VOC options that will not contribute to poor indoor air quality. Visit and for info on low or zero VOC paints and carpets.

Whether you are contemplating initial site selection or the final paint color, there are numerous ways for you to incorporate green building principles into your project. Visit the local resources listed below to see, touch and learn about the green building products available in Minnesota. Studies conducted on both commercial buildings and residential homes have shown that building green increases productivity, decreases the number of sick days and saves money because of improved energy efficiencies. Green may be a hot buzzword for now, but the proven benefits of building green insure the concept is here to stay.

Read Up

The New Ecological Home: A Complete Guide to Green Building Options, by Dan Chiras, Chelsea Green Guides for Homeowners, 2004.

Green Remodeling : Changing the World One Room at a Time, by David Johnston, New Society Publishers, 2004.


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Natural Built Home
4020 Minnehaha Ave.
Minneapolis, MN
www.naturalbuilthome.comReUse Center
Minneapolis, 612-724-2608
Osseo, 863-315-0949
Family installing UltraTouch recycled cotton insulation – an itch-free, non-toxic insulation alternative.

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