10 Green Building Myths Debunked

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Just a few decades ago, the idea of “green”  building conjured up ideas of hippies living in adobe homes surrounded by compost heaps and solar collectors. Today, green building isn’t just becoming mainstream…it’s becoming a preferred building method that can save both you and your contractor money during a home renovation or construction project.

But despite the fact that more and more people are building green, many people still are confused about some stereotypes that persist about green building practices. Here are 10 green building myths that some people still believe…

1. Going Green Costs Serious Green

Many people still believe that building with green materials or renovating to green specifications is cost prohibitive. While some environmentally-friendly materials do cost more than their traditional equivalents, that money is usually recouped by lower energy costs. In addition, a number of green home materials like solar panels, low-e windows, or energy-saving appliances can help you to qualify for federal tax credits.

So why do so many people associate green building with deep pockets? “A lot of the high-profile green projects that get builders’ attention are very high-end, and that’s one reason this myth is still around,” says Alex Wilson, president of BuildingGreen Inc. in Brattleboro, Vermont and executive editor of Environmental Building News. “But the simple fact is that there are plenty of strategies for inexpensive green building, from right-sizing the structure to optimal value engineering to reducing waste, among many others.”

2. Green Building Doesn’t Use Cutting Edge Technology

A lot of people taking on home renovations want to use products that are going to last, and for many that means using top-rated materials made to the latest specifications. But does going green mean that you have to use all-natural materials, or use techniques developed half a century ago? Absolutely not.

In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website states that “Green building research is being done by national laboratories, private companies, universities, and industry. According to a USGBC report published in 2006, over 70 percent of the green building research is focused on energy and atmosphere research.

The next largest category of research is materials and resources.”

3. Green Appliances and Fixtures Don’t Work Well As Traditional Ones

Many Americans want top-end appliances in their homes, and tend to be doubtful that green items like low-flow toilets or Energy Star-approved dishwashers will be powerful enough to get the job done.

However, this is just another myth. While it is true that appliances and fixtures can vary greatly from model to model, most low-flow toilets and similar products on the market have been around for at least a decade, and have been tested by numerous consumers over the years.

If you are concerned about the performance of a given green-friendly appliance or fixture, you can easily find product reviews online or in magazines like Consumer Reports.

4. You Can Only Go Green By Buying Special Materials

So you want to start a green building project…I guess that means you’ll need to buy materials made from all-natural and recycled waste, right? Wrong. Green building involves making smart decisions about sustainable building materials, but that’s only a fraction of the picture.

Green building is also about reducing energy costs (and thereby reducing your home’s carbon footprint), as well as making use of the environment around your home, such as designing a home that can be heated using passive solar energy.

5. Green Renovations Have to Use Solar Technology

Mention “green building” to some people, and the first thing that comes to mind is a home covered with solar panels or solar collectors. But solar panels can be very expensive, and solar energy is not always the best option for working towards a greener home.

While the solar panels are arguably the most visually striking feature of many eco-friendly homes, the energy benefits that they can provide often are not maximized until the rest of the home’s energy concerns have been addressed. For homeowners looking to create a “net-zero-energy” living space, solar technology is just one small part of the equation.

6. Going Green Means Living in a Wacky House

Lots of people still labor under the delusion that ordinary homes can’t become green-friendly; that the greenest of homes are made of adobe, are placed up in a tree, or are shaped like a geodesic dome.

While it’s true that some materials and shapes are better suited for green building, a “normal” home can easily be made more eco-friendly with any number of simple improvements.

7. Finding Green Materials is Too Difficult in My Area

Finding green materials seems to get easier with every passing year. Granted, even a decade ago it was hard to find eco-friendly or energy-saving materials at a reasonable price, but today green building is more popular than ever…and also more accessible.

Between internet shopping and the willingness of your local home improvement superstore to special order the items you need, sourcing green building materials is easier than you think.

8. Green Techniques Are Just for One Type of Building

Green building techniques and materials can be used during projects at homes, office buildings, schools, factories, hospitals, and nearly any kind of building where people work, live, or play.

Existing buildings can be retrofitted with energy-saving materials, and buildings under construction can take advantage of natural solar energy, topography, and other natural features of the area.

9. Green Building Only Benefits the Homeowner

Not only can green building help you save energy costs and protect the environment, but it can also help boost your local economy. Obama has promised to spend $150 billion over the next decade on promotion green energy practices, and numerous states around the company are helping out-of-work construction workers train in green building techniques to help them find more lucrative jobs in the industry.

10. Green Building Isn’t For “Average Joes”

After reading this article, it should come as no surprise that this last myth is also busted. Green building and renovations aren’t just for hippies, the affluent, or celebrities looking to make a cool political statement.

Everyone from federal agencies to public schools to local non-profits in your area are investigating the benefits of going green, and over 40 percent of Real Estate Investment Trusts in the United States are actively pursuing energy efficiency and green building upgrades. The bottom line is this: green building benefits everyone by invigorating the economy, protecting the environment, and saving you money.

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