Archives for category: Green Building

“Are you paying to cool the outdoors?” Many of us have heard this phrase when leaving a window or door open while the air conditioner is on in the summer. Leaving a window or door open isn’t the only way we waste our money and efforts to cool down our home. Hidden places all around your home are wasting energy and your money. The good news is, the U.S. Department of Energy Website has some eco-friendly instructions for an energy-efficient home. Follow these Do-It-Yourself Tips for how to green your home, and save money!

As the heat rises this summer, we’re all trying to cool down without sending our energy bill through the roof  (Literally, that air could be leaking through your roof). Strategic placement of fans in combination with air conditioning is an electric bill nightmare! You can hire a professional to perform an energy assessment in your home, but for those green-conscious individuals on a budget, here are some tips for how to save money and make less of an impact on the environment.

The U.S. Department of Energy site states, “You can easily conduct a do-it-yourself home energy assessment (also known as a home energy audit). With a simple but diligent walk-through, you can spot many problems in any type of house. When assessing your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you found.” Here is a list to help you prioritize your energy assessment:

  • Locate air leaks
  • Look for gaps around pipes and wires
  • Inspect windows and doors
  • Conduct a basic building pressurization test (instructions on site)
  • Inspect the outside of your home
  • Check insulation efficiency
  • Check heating/cooling equipment and filters

This may seem like a lot, but the U.S. Dept. of Energy Website has details on just how to conduct this checklist. Go green this summer, and don’t pay to cool down the outdoors! Conduct an in-home energy assessment yourself, and make your summer more sustainable!

What does resource efficiency mean? Which materials should you use? Choosing green building materials that meet the following criteria are an ideal way to accomplish resource efficiency and build green:

  • Recycled Content: Products with identifiable recycled content, including postindustrial content with a preference for postconsumer content.
  • Natural, plentiful or renewable: Materials harvested from sustainably managed sources and preferably have an independent certification (e.g., certified wood) and are certified by an independent third party.
  • Resource efficient manufacturing process: Products manufactured with resource-efficient processes including reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste (recycled, recyclable and or source reduced product packaging), and reducing greenhouse gases.
  • Locally available: Building materials, components, and systems found locally or regionally saving energy and resources in transportation to the project site.
  • Salvaged, refurbished, or remanufactured: Includes saving a material from disposal and renovating, repairing, restoring, or generally improving the appearance, performance, quality, functionality, or value of a product.
  • Reusable or recyclable: Select materials that can be easily dismantled and reused or recycled at the end of their useful life.
  • Recycled or recyclable product packaging: Products enclosed in recycled content or recyclable packaging.
  • Durable: Materials that are longer lasting or are comparable to conventional products with long life expectancies.

Sustainable Building is a great way to save money and make less of an impact on the environment. Using energy-efficient products in our homes seems to be the smartest bet for healthy living and a sustainable economy, right? All of these new green building initiatives leave us with new questions, though. Is green building really effective? Here are 6 of the most popular green building myths, squashed.

1: Green homes cost more.

Not really. Sustainable building supplies sometimes do cost more than conventional building products, but as technology moves forward, we’re seeing the cost of eco-friendly products become much more affordable. And on top of that, green building always saves money in the long term. Sustainable materials are more efficient, and thus don’t have to be replaced as often. So while initial costs may seem like a lot, green building offers better values when you consider the long term savings.

2: Green homes look weird.

Green homes can look like your home! It’s true; some of the early green buildings didn’t have a focus on design or architecture. The builders’ focus on features for self-sufficiency and lower costs took away from the overall aesthetic of homes. But if you’ve watched 5 seconds of HGTV, you know that now there are tons of options for sustainable building companies and green architectural designs. These days, green homes don’t have to look strange unless you want them to. And let’s be honest, some of the weirdest designs are pretty cool.

3: You can’t make an existing home green.

Wrong! Any home can have sustainable features. Incorporating energy efficient products and making upgrades on insulation, lighting, and solar panels, can make a huge difference without changing the appearance of a home. Upgrading windows, switching to HVAC equipment, sealing air leaks, and installing energy-recovery ventilation equipment are all examples of upgrades that will make a house more energy efficient.

4: Green homes can be too insulated or too tight.

Your breathing ability and air quality depends mostly on mechanical ventilation. Some traditionalists argue that houses need to breathe, and they caution against “too much insulation” and “building too tight.” However, uncontrolled air movement wastes energy, and doesn’t filter air efficiently. Minimizing air leaks and adding insulation helps control air movement to maximize benefits for home owners. To offset any “tightness”, a mechanical ventilation system not only circulates air flow, but also ensures that the air is fresh and filtered.

5: Low-flow toilets don’t work well.

Today’s low-flow toilets work great! At first, when the federal government limited toilets to 1.6 gallons of water per flush, early models of the low-flow toilet didn’t work very well. But neither did the first version of the iPhone, and how many more improved, awesome generations have come out since then? Times have changed, and homeowners now have more options. Today’s low-flow toilets, high-efficiency toilets, and waterless urinals work as well or better than older water-guzzling models. And they save you money every month on your water bill.

6: “Green” is just a passing fad.

Sustainability lasts. Eco-friendly, green, eco-safe- all of these terms are current buzzwords in our society. From kitchen cabinets to skylights to siding, consumers are looking for eco-friendly features for their homes, perhaps in part for the attractiveness of the green trend. However, there is no denying that sustainable houses last longer, have fewer problems, are cheaper to live in and keep people healthier and happier. High energy costs, limited natural resources, awareness of global climate change, better understanding of building science and growing health concerns are all contributing to a lasting sustainable economy. Green is a shortened term for a sustainable movement that will benefit our health, economy, and environment. Who doesn’t want that to last?,3140,HPRO_28216_6025723_01,00.html

Receiving an LEED Platinum rating is the highest level of sustainability offered in the US, and is awarded by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). These buildings are the greenest of green buildings, and most efficient of high efficiency buildings. This super power of sustainability can leave us wondering – How do they do it? An article on Green Building Pro written by Christine Rombouts sheds some light on strategies used by a recent LEED Platinum building in LA.

West 27thPlace, a USC student housing community, has just received a LEED Platinum rating—the highest level of sustainability possible. It is one of a handful of Platinum certified developments in Los Angeles and one of the only student housing projects in the nation achieving this milestone.

The mixed-use community includes 161 apartment units and was developed by CityView and Symphony Development. The project, which opened for the fall semester and is fully leased, is now owned by Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors, the private equity real estate arm of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors that invests in specialized real estate sectors.

Top 10 Strategies West 27th used to obtain LEED Platinum.

1) With West 27th Place, Symphony Development recycled nearly 95 percent of its construction waste. Now completed, the building includes a permanent on-site recycling program.

2) All units have low flow water fixtures and the appliances are Energy Star rated right down to the exhaust fan in the bathroom.

3) West 27th Place is located near several forms of public transportation, including the bus, Expo light rail line and the university’s tram system. Residents don’t need a car!

4) The community utilizes motion sensor lighting in its common areas. This eliminates any unnecessary use of electricity for lighting.

5) All walls, windows and roofs at West 27th Place have the highest levels of insulation. Maintenance crews test all of the air conditioning and vent ducts to make sure they are as air tight as possible.

6) A modular framing system was used in constructions. The walls were built off site, and assembled upon delivery to the job. This minimized wood waste and increased construction efficiency.

7) All drywall waste was recycled, with the gypsum used for farming and new drywall manufacturing.

8 ) West 27th Place has joined forces with “Plant a Billion” and for every $1 donated, they plant a tree. There is a donation bucket in the leasing office.

9) Bricks from the original building were deconstructed, cleaned and recycled.

10) Landscaping consists of drought tolerant plants and the furniture and carpeting are formaldehyde free and made with recycled content in nearby factories.

Read More:

Help the environment, and have an Eco-Friendly Black Friday by purchasing used books, with carbon neutral shipping. Save money while being ecoconcious, by entering coupon code “blackfriday”, and get 15% off 3 or more books this weekend. For every book you order, another book is donated to a literacy fund. You even receive a “certificate of goodness”, which thanks you for keeping books out of landfills, saving trees, an helping to fund children literacy programs. To read more about this green business, check out our blog on how Better World Books Makes the Printed Word Sustainable.

Want to save money by going green in your home? It has become apparent that green living, and ecofriendly upgrades in our homes are a great way to reduce environmental impact, and reduce your bills. But when it comes to going green, there is a little bit of a gray area. Just how many green upgrades and changes do you have to make before you see the money savings reflected on your utility bill? Often times, making small changes will have an immediately positive effect on your health and lifestyle, but when can we see the positive effects in our bank accounts? Sustainability- centric agency Shelton Group recently conducted a study, and they have the answers.

This 450 page study reveals that main reason Americans make energy-saving upgrades to their home is to “lower utility bills”. This is something that shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the entire idea behind sustainability includes improvement of ecological and economic quality. Money savings because of environmentally conscious upgrades are a completely realistic expectation. However, here is a reality check:

“Of the 1,502 Americans polled for the survey, those who had completed no less than four home improvements like adding insulation or installing a more efficient water heater reaped the financial benefits of lowered utility bills. “

Suzanne Shelton, president of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Shelton Group, in a press release that details some of the key findings, “People have to do more — at least four energy efficiency improvements — to make a real impact on their utility bills. Unfortunately,[some] Americans aren’t reaching that magic number.”

So there you have it- according to this study, on average, we need to make 4 eco-conscious upgrades to our homes, in order to see savings on our utility bills. For some, this means that we need to make a few more changes in our lifestyles and invest in just a few more green upgrades. This is good news for Americans, we’re heading on the right track to a more sustainable lifestyle. Ecofriendly products and upgrades are becoming more available and affordable every day, making it easier for you to make the 4 green upgrades. Don’t know where to get efficient products from? Check out our blog post about the EPA’s “New Easy Tool for Finding Greener Products”. For more information on this study, check out this Executive Summary (PDF:


Sustainable building and green renovation are great ways to improve your own health, and the health of the environment. Not to mention they’re pragmatic ways for you to save money on energy bills, water bills, and more. As mentioned in 6 Green Building Myths Squashed, you can make any home more sustainable. But what if your home is over a hundred years old? Those charming homes often have creaks, nooks and crannies that- in all of their enchantment- are strikes against home sustainability. Carolyn Sperry states in her article on green renovations for old homes, “It’s more challenging to make major changes without compromising the structure’s unique period features… but green living and preserving a historic home don’t have to be mutually exclusive.” Here are 7 tips for green renovations in older homes:

  1. Replace old windows with energy efficient windows
  2. Seal windows, doors, and outlets
  3. Insulate pipes, ducts, attic floors, and basement ceilings
  4. Inspect paints, replace dangerous chemical paint walls with no-VOC paints
  5. Use water-based stains, water-based adhesives, and recycled wall paper
  6. Use local products and sustainable products, ie; sustainable harvested wood, recycled  linoleum, and local stone
  7. Replace old hardware and fixtures with water-saving models

These green renovations will leave the structure of your old home intact, but improve the energy efficiency overall. You also have the option of installing or improving wall insulation, however this can “compromise period features and permanently alter the home”. No matter the age or condition of a home, there are always options for improving the efficiency and over all sustainability.

As a focus on sustainability spreads and strengthens worldwide, sustainable building companies are beginning to provide user-friendly resources for understanding and connecting with their mission of sustainable development. Even if you aren’t directly involved in green building, everyone can benefit from a mission to build and maintain our physical environment for living, traveling and working. One unique company, Sanksa, has decided to offer free insight for its customers, suppliers, public and even competitors.


Sanksa is a leading international project development and construction company, developing offices, homes and infrastructure projects, such as schools and roads. This green building company creates sustainable solutions and aims to be a leader in quality, green construction, work safety and business ethics. Skanska is one of the world’s ten largest construction companies, with 52,000 employees in selected home markets in Europe, the US, and Latin America.


What does all of this mean? As a consumer uninvolved with green building, it’s hard to know what green construction entails. Through Sanka’s user-friendly online resource, you can search for, identify, access and download over 60 case studies according to a range of sustainability criteria including; energy and climate, materials, ecosystems and local impacts. Everyone can get involved in the future of green building!


Check out case studies like this one on a green McDonalds in the US, at Sanka’s interactive website. Explore best practices for sustainable building and project case studies yourself!

Sustainable Industries began in 2002 as a printed newsletter, and has now evolved into a West Coast-based creative and informational resource for Sustainable Businesses. It’s an authentic resource for information on the future of “green” thinking, which is essentially sustainability. It’s a place for businesses that care about sustainability to connect, and become inspired. Sustainable Industries provides news and analysis on ecofriendly economic development.

Yearly, since 2008, a panel of expert judges and Sustainable Industries’ editorial team have voted the top 10 sustainable supplies from a pool of more than 100 products nominated by readers, and others in the industry. Winners are selected based on environmental performance, scalability/market impact, innovativeness, design aesthetic, value and compatibility with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. This year, the company has launched a brand new website, which features information on the winning items since 2008.

The Top 10 Green Building Products Website is a great tool for Businesses and Consumers to become visually familiar with what the future of ecofriendly building is. Find links to the products, and information to explore just why they are the best of the best. Also find information on the judges who analyzed and scored the efficiency of the green products. It’s exciting to see people coming together for a positive cause- living and building sustainably.