Sustainable Building Materials and Practices – It’s Easy to Be Green!

Beautiful sunny kitchen and dining room

Homeowners today don’t want to just build well, but build responsibly.

How so?

Well, many traditional resources used for home building and remodeling are being replaced by equally-functional, practical alternatives that make less of an impact on the environment.

Let’s take a look at a few popular examples of energy-saving, ethical upgrades.

Green Flooring Alternatives

Hardwood flooring is popular, timeless, and adds value to any home. Unfortunately, it’s a limited resource, and forests take decades to regrow and replenish themselves. Ethically-sourced hardwood options are certainly out there, but many harvesting practices are contributing to a shortage.

What are your options?

There are also new flooring products that emulate the look of solid-sawn wood, but are infused with an acrylic that adds stability and longevity. Not only does this increase their durability, but it also reduces the number of trees that are cut down to meet manufacturing demands.

What other options are there for ethically-sourced, natural wood?

Bamboo and cork are two of the most popular. Bamboo in particular grows at a staggering rate, establishing itself as a renewable resource that can sustain regular harvesting without issue. It’s also durable and easy to care for, and available in a wide variety of finishes.


Cork is also renewable, as it’s derived from the fast-growing bark of cork trees. Comfortable underfoot, durable, and hypoallergenic, it has a lot going for it.

Have You Heard About 100% FSC-Recycled Hardwood Flooring?

Here’s a little bit more information about popular and practical recycled hardwood flooring:

  • Durable finish – Matte sheen, UV-cured acrylic urethane with scratch-resistant hardened top-coat
  • Hydronic radiant-heat compatible – Warranted for use over hydronic systems
  • Sustainably sourced and manufactured – 100% FSC-recycled wood from furniture scraps
  • Eco-friendly – Made with a formaldehyde-free adhesive

Using Renewable Resources During Your Kitchen Remodel

Rather than go with the classic hardwood floors and granite countertops, consider these stylish alternatives during your kitchen remodel:

  • Butcher-block counters are an attractive option on multiple levels. Some are made from reclaimed or recycled lumber, while others utilize handsome but lesser-known tree species that have been sustainably harvested.
  • Bamboo countertops
  • Stainless steel countertops
  • Concrete counters
  • Recycled glass countertops
  • Bamboo cabinets
  • Wheatboard cabinets, made from compressed plant fibers
  • Check to see if your kitchen’s wood is FSC-certified, guaranteeing that it’s being sourced responsibly
  • Eucalyptus looks like traditional hardwood, but it grows at 4x the speed (similar to bamboo)
  • Recycled metal tile for your backsplash
  • LED lights are a bright idea, offering decreased costs, efficient energy usage, and practical power

Low-VOC Interior and Exterior Paint

Fresh paint may look awesome, but the smell leaves something to be desired. What you’re smelling is the release of Volatile Organic Compounds, often included in the solvent portion of your interior or exterior paint formula.

Answering the need for a better, more environmentally-friendly alternative, most major manufacturers provide low and even zero-VOC options. The good news is that these products are proven to perform just as well as their antiquated predecessors, but offer a whole lot of fume-free peace of mind.

Creative Ways to Save on Utilities

Image Credit: Gerety Building & Restoration

Remodeling and building isn’t just a way to update your living space, but update the way you use daily resources too. Consider these ideas as you plan your must-haves:

  • Tankless water heaters provide efficiency, savings, and an all-important floorplan flexibility. And, thanks to its on-demand capabilities, you will have a constant supply of fresh, clean, hot water when you need it.
  • Radiant heat systems that course through your flooring offer not only toe-warming comfort, but they also retain heat well. This means you’ll enjoy energy cost savings right away.
  • Closed-cell spray foam insulation offers one of the highest returns on investment of any energy-saving upgrade available. It may cost more initially than typical options made with cellulose or fiberglass, but you will recoup your investment within just a few years.
  • There are also natural, sustainable insulation options to consider that are made from hemp and wool.
  • Solar panels – no longer just a novelty, but a real, valuable, practical option in many cases.
  • Have you heard of flexible water piping? Made with bimodal polyethylene, this piping is recyclable, does not impact the water’s taste, resists the effects of chlorine, and function just as well as typical pipes. As an added benefit, flexible piping is easy to install!
  • Ditch the jacuzzi and install a walk-in shower! Roomy, comfortable, and available with water-saving features, you can enjoy luxury without the massive water useage.
  • Energy-efficient appliances
  • Smart thermostats allow you to maximize the comfort of your home while minimizing the the necessary heat/cooling
  • Update your windows and doors as a priority, ensuring that your efficiency doesn’t go right out the window
  • Green roofing alternatives made from recycled waste materials like plastic, rubber, or wood fiber. Some products are made from clean, post-consumer waste (waste from homes), others from post-industrial waste (factory waste). Recycled-content shingles are amazingly durable, and they look nice, too. You’d never know they were made from “waste” materials!  
  • Rainwater harvester
  • LED lighting
  • Automation Software – There are intelligent tools available that help you manage your utilities and energy consumption as efficiently as possible. You can control your heat, air conditioning, and more right from your smartphone, and even be notified if an issue like a water leak should occur.

What Makes a Building Material or Practice “Green”?

In a nutshell, green building and remodeling is all about making conscientious choices that minimize any negative impact on the environment. And, thanks to creative ideas, solutions, and options like the ones outlined above, you don’t need to sacrifice style and comfort in the process.

As you choose a building contractor, we encourage you to ask them about their familiarity with green building practices, and what they suggest. If they are at a loss or don’t seem to put a high value on your priorities, you may want to keep looking. It’s important to partner with a knowledgeable, experienced green building professional who can really share your vision.

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