The building industry consumes significant amounts of energy, water, and natural resources, and billions of tons of raw materials annually, choosing to build “green” homes can help reduce this burden on our environment. Since our “home” extends beyond the walls of our houses, we are all part of the ecosystem, we must consider the impact that our building and construction choices have on us, as individuals, communities, and a planet.
Start with your own health, and extend your thinking about health to include the environment. A “green” home supports your personal health and wellbeing, your personal goals and values, and the health of your “home.” All of the following strategies benefit human health, as well as environmental health.
For both new construction and remodeling, research and select products that do not harm you, and have not harmed the planet, reduce or eliminate materials that release toxins and VOCs. Many building materials off-gas and release toxins into your home and the environment. Treated lumber is treated with arsenic, and many paints, adhesives, and carpeting release VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) over the course of many years.
Consider the life-cycle of the material, as most materials are produced, manufactured, mined, or disposed in ways that are harmful to the environment. For example, buy lumber that comes from certified sustainable, well-managed forests. World Wildlife Fund recently praised Home Depot for their efforts to support certified sustainable forests. Bennet Lumber, in Minneapolis, sells ACQ treated wood, which does not contain arsenic.
Save energy in operating your home. Integrated planning about the design and operation of your home can make your home more energy-efficient. For both new construction and remodeling, the most cost-effective strategy to reduce your home’s impact on the environment is to invest in high-quality, eco-friendly insulation (extruded, not expanded), and maximize the efficiency of your furnace. Buildings are energy-intensive, to construct, operate, and demolish, thus, saving energy in any of these phases of a building’s life reduces the impact your home has on the environment.
Protect and enhance the site. Preserve or restore local ecosystems and biodiversity by planting native trees and shrubs, and minimizing cuts and fills in the landscape. Respond to the microclimate of your site, and its natural energy flows.
Create and foster a sense of community. Orient your home and site to maintain connections to the community. One way to foster community and preserve the connections between your home and the surrounding community is to locate your garage behind your house, instead of in front of it.
Make your house more silent. Minimizing HVAC noise, and other noise pollution, will reduce stress for you and your home, and the ambient noise pollution of our communities.
Integrate your home with your site. This includes orienting your home to take advantage of the unique features of the landscape, shading, daylight orientation, natural ventilation, and views.
Integrate natural daylighting and natural ventilation into the design of your home. Natural ventilation and daylighting are rarely successful as “add-on” features, they need to be considered as part of an integrated planning and design approach to your home.
Maximize longevity by designing for durability and adaptability, and minimize construction and demolition waste. Use materials that are durable, and won’t need to be added to our landfills. According to the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, Minnesotans sent one million tons of construction and demotion waste to landfills last year, more than the municipal waste that was sent to landfills last year. Choosing materials that have a longer usable life-span means not only less waste in our landfills, but less energy and raw materials that are required in the production of building materials. If you are remodeling, optimize existing and new space, do not make the existing house unusable.
Save water. Design for low water use in your home and landscape. You can invest in low-water use appliances, and use native plantings in your yard, as they will generally need less watering than a traditional green grass yard.
“Green” design is a product of integrated planning and design, and a “green” architect or builder can consult, or design and build your project with you. They will help you integrate the site, building, and building systems to accomplish the sustainable design goals, and help you understand the payback implementation of different technologies, systems, and materials. To reduce the waste generated, look for someone who will recycle construction waste.
Whether you work with a “green” building professional, or do it yourself, a growing interest and use of “green” building methods and materials benefits each of us, as well as ecosystems in Minnesota, and world-wide.
Fortunately, attention to “green” building is on the rise in Minnesota. Many businesses, local governments, and state agencies are setting minimum “green” standards for their buildings and building performance, and much of their research and information is available from which we can learn.
Green building is making choices about your building and remodeling projects that reduce waste, conserve natural resources and create a demand for recycled products. Try to reuse materials, buy products made from recycled content and dispose of your waste materials properly.
Reuse Building Materials
The following businesses sell and accept donated used building materials, including banisters, beams, buffets, columns, doors, fireplace mantels, light fixtures, windows, hardware and more. If you are looking for something specific, call ahead to see if they have it.
- All State Salvage 1354 Jackson St., St. Paul 651-488-6675
- Architectural Antiques 607 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis 612-332-8344 316 N. Main St., Stillwater 651-439-2133
- Bauer Brothers Salvage 2500 Elm St. S.E., Minneapolis 612-331-9492
- Deconstruction Services (store) 2216 E. Lake St, Minneapolis 612-728-9388
- Frank’s Plumbing (store) 1101 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis 612-338-7609
- Gilded Salvage Antiques 1315 Tyler St. N.E., Minneapolis 612-789-1680
- Northwest Architectural Salvage 981 Selby Ave., St. Paul 651-644-9270
- PPL Shop (Project for Pride in Living) (store) 850 15th Ave. N.E., Minneapolis 612-789-3322
- Waldon Woods Antiques 2612 Hwy 55 S.E., Buffalo 763-682-5667 213 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis 612-338-2545
Accepts donations only:
- Habitat for Humanity Prefers drop off, but may pick up form job sites 612-331-4090 x630
- St. Joseph’s Hope Accepts building materials 612-874-8867
Unusable Building Material Disposal:
- Elk River Landfill 22460 Hwy 169 N.W., Elk River 763-441-2464
- Waste Management of Minnesota, Inc. North Hennepin Transfer 8550 Zachary Ln., Maple Grove 763-425-3218
- Veit Disposal Systems 14000 Veit Pl., Rogers 763-422-3867
- Waste Management of Minnesota, Inc. – Gallaghers 1691 91st Ave. N.E., Blaine 763-784-4772
- Leder Bros. Scrap, 612-721-6244
Plumbing Parts, Info:
- Park Plumbing, 612-822-3189
- Welna Hardware, 612-729-3526
- Frank’s Plumbing, 612-338-7609
Used Appliances, Household Goods:
- Sabathani, 612-821-2347 Encore, 612-586-9716
- ARC of Hennepin County, 612-927-9966
- Reachout Thrift, 612-827-5606 ARCA, 612-920-0855
Tool Rental or Reuse:
- Reddy Rents, 612-722-5525
- Paul’s Rentals, 612-827-5525
- Retool, 651-698-3765
Computer, Electronics Donations:
- DRAGnet, 612-378-9796
- PPL S.H.O.P., 612-789-3322
- Dexis, 612-944-7670
- Scherer Bros Lumber, 612-379-9633
- Shaw Lumber, 651-488-2525
- AAMillwork, 612-721-1111
- Artscraps, 651-698-2787
- AxMan Surplus, 651-646-8653 Savers, 612-729-972
Tips for environmentally friendly painting
In 1999, almost 1.2 million pounds of excess paint were collected at Hennepin County’s household hazardous waste sites. 100,000 pounds of this paint was still useable. If stored correctly, paint stays in good condition for a long time. If it mixes smoothly, it can still be used.
YOU CAN measure first when buying paint for your home. Calculate the area to be painted (height x width = total square feet). One gallon of paint covers about 300-400 square feet.
Read labels and choose the least hazardous paints; look for low volatile organic compounds (VOC) or water-based paints, stains, finishes and paint strippers when possible.
To prevent paint from drying out, cover the paint can with plastic wrap, replace the lid securely and store the paint upside down.