These two lists of conventional and “alternative” criteria are not mutually exclusive — the issues currently addressed by the construction industry are important to all builders. In order to create a new, more sustainable home, or to significantly renovate an existing home, we will need to combine these lists into a comprehensive whole. Experience has shown that most green building projects address the following list of concerns, with greater or lesser emphasis on each category:
1. Ecosystem impacts
2. Carbon and energy impacts
3. Energy efficiency
4. Indoor environment quality
7. Occupant input and durability
8. Material costs
9. Labor costs and sources of labor
10. Code compliance
The path to a successful and satisfying building project requires us to fully understand our goals. That journey begins with a comprehensive understanding of each of these goals. Once we understand our goals, we can then define exactly how we envision meeting them.
For many people, the notion of a green home begins with reducing the impacts the home will have on the planet’s ecosystem. This sounds simple, but a building can require hundreds of different materials that come from sources all over the world, each with unique impacts on the ecosystem. Often, there are two distinct phases to investigate: the harvesting of raw materials, and the manufacturing process(es).
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Is the material based on renewable or nonrenewable resources?
Renewable resources are those that can be regenerated through biological processes.
Rapidly renewable resources — Like straw, hemp, cotton, and mycelium — are regenerated within a single growing season. Other renewable resources — like trees — can take decades to regenerate.
Nonrenewable resources are those that exist in finite quantities on the planet, and for which there is no ability to generate more of the resource biologically.
Abundant nonrenewable resources — Like limestone and clay — exist in large quantities and may be relatively straightforward to access.
Scarce nonrenewable resources — Like precious metals — exist in relatively small quantities and can be difficult to locate and access.