Building Green, Living Better in Energy-Efficient Homes; Week Four of Building Safety Month; New Builds or Remodels

Contact: LARA Communications 517-373-9280
Agency: Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

May 31, 2013 - Whether building a new home or looking to increase the energy efficiency of your existing home, there are several things you can do to make your home more sustainable and green. That, according to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs' Bureau of Construction Codes as it celebrates the fourth week of Building Safety Month by offering tips for building or remodeling green.

 

The practice of green building is taking an integrated approach to building construction, building infrastructure, and building site to provide a more environmentally friendly, healthier, and energy efficient place to live. When starting your plans for your new house, remodel, or other project, there are many advantages to going green: savings on energy and water bills, along with helping out the environment.

 

Green practices in home building and remodeling have come a long way. Homes built today are 100 percent more energy efficient than homes built in the 1970s. Building green doesn't always mean more expensive. In fact, when you build green you can often reduce the overall expenses by using traditional materials in more efficient and environmentally friendly ways. 

 

When building a new home:

  • Position the house on the lot where energy consumption will be the most cost effective, where it will best capture sunlight in winter and reduce heat gain in the summer; the most favorable is the east-west axis. 
  • Always locate the house on convex, not concave terrain for the best drainage. The ground extending from its foundation should be graded at least ½ inch per foot downhill for 10 feet in every direction.
  • Build up instead of out. A multi-story house has less roof and foundation area than a one-story house of the same square footage home
  • Build the size home you actually need. A smaller house requires less energy to heat and cool over the life of the structure. 
  • Make use of energy efficient foundation, framing, plumbing, wiring, and HVAC systems now available.

 

For new builds or existing homes:

  • Choose energy-efficient, sustainable building materials
  • When it comes to roofing, to be green you have to be cool. The roof should reflect, not
    collect the heat; install lighter-colored shingles. Consider installing solar panels if shingles are exposed to sunlight for several hours during the day.
  • Use eco-friendly adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings and carpeting that emit low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC).
  • Install more insulation in walls and attics; seal air leaks.
  • Incorporate whole-house ventilation and ceiling fans; install or replace exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens and make sure they vent to the outside.
  • Have your home tested for radon and lead-based paint.

 

Green plumbing and heating upgrades lower operating costs and that means higher efficiency, less energy and lower utility bills. Consider installing high efficiency toilets, bathroom sink faucets and accessories such as faucet aerators that can reduce the standard flow by more than 30 percent without sacrificing performance; green shower heads can cut water usage by two thirds. The average home, retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, can save 30,000 gallons per year. Replace that old water heater with a new energy efficient unit.    

 

A new high efficiency heating and cooling system will help you save on your energy bills. If you are not ready to replace, be sure to tune up your existing heating and air conditioning (AC) units, as neglect is the number one cause of furnace or AC breakdown and wasted energy. Clean or replace the furnace filter often during the heating season to reduce energy use. Install a programmable thermostat. For every degree you adjust your thermostat you could save up to three percent on your heating or cooling bill. Adjusting your thermostat when you're away from home will also save energy. 

 

If you are planning to remodel or if your home has damaged drywall and insulation that is falling apart consider having your home inspected for asbestos by a trained and accredited asbestos professional who knows what to look for and will take samples for analysis. Do not try taking samples yourself. There may be increased health risks if fibers are released and incorrect sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Generally, you can't tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos and leave it alone. If building materials in your home aren't damaged and won't be disturbed by a remodel, you do not need to have your home tested for asbestos.

 

LARA's Bureau of Construction Codes works to ensure that the built environment and the systems within are sound, safe, and sanitary; the public's health, safety, and welfare is protected; and that, through a coordinated program of code compliance, investigation and training, there is consistent application of standards. For more information, go to the Bureau of Construction Codes website at www.michigan.gov/bcc

 

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