The Green Building Resource Guide

The Green Building Resource Guide

Building or remodelling a home, but want to keep your environmental impact to a minimum? Architect John Hermansson’s Green Building Resource Guide has you covered.

First published in 1997 by Taunton Press, the green guide is a comprehensive database of over 600 environmentally sound building materials and products.

Rather than simply focusing on what we may first think of as energy-efficient measures in the home such as solar panels and heating upgrades, the green guide looks into residential construction products like flooring, framing and siding materials.

Hermansson, a specialist in environmentally conscious building practices, rates each product based on its specified purpose and usefulness in the building and design process in addition to its green content.

Included in the Green Building Resource Guide are sustainable structural and finish materials such as reclaimed lumber and recycled paint, as well as recommendations for energy-efficient application.

Each listing in Hermansson’s green guide includes supplier contact information, a carefully researched description of the product and a price comparison between the product and its traditional alternative. Surprisingly, many of the green alternatives are not much more expensive and some even cost less than conventional materials.

The Green Building Resource Guide is aimed at anybody involved in the home building process who wants to make informed decisions on the most sustainable option, from builders and architects to homeowners who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

What are green building materials?

To qualify for the Green Building Resource Guide, building materials must have at least one of the following characteristics:

  • Nontoxic: a product that the manufacturer claims is not poisonous or harmful if used correctly.
  • Recycled content: materials manufactured from used products or by-products of other processes.
  • Resource-efficient: products and materials that use less energy during production than the conventional equivalent.
  • Long life cycle: products and materials with a longer life span or those that require less short term maintenance than their traditional counterpart.
  • Environmentally conscious: products must have a less negative impact on the environment than similar building materials.

Where can I purchase green building materials and products?

These days, much of the materials in the Green Building Resource Guide can be purchased from mainstream suppliers. However, there are still some that will need to be specifically ordered from the manufacturer.

The green guide contains contact information for over 800 of these suppliers and manufacturers, organized by Product Index, Manufacturer Index and Construction Specification Institute (CSI) format for quick and easy reference.

Guidelines for choosing green materials

There are a number of factors to take into account when choosing your materials, according to the green guide.

How suitable is the material in your weather conditions?

Firstly, consider how your green building materials will stand up to the weather conditions in your area. Most of the products listed have a limited range of conditions where they will perform best.

Something that works in a mild climate may not fare quite as well in a part of the country that experiences long, cold winters. A material that’s perfect for a home on the north coast might not be so ideal for somewhere with warmer summers.

How environmentally sound are your building resources?

The main aim of the green guide is to increase awareness of environmentally sound materials. From sourcing and production to use and installation, every step of the process must be done in a way that limits its negative effect on the environment.

If wood, for example, comes from a sustainably managed forest, rather than a tree farm, that allows for the forest to remain a place of recreation and wildlife habitat, instead of contributing to pollution, climate change and deforestation.

Products in the green guide must also be safe for those who install them and the people who will live in the home, so materials such as paint and adhesives should be non-toxic, which will also help improve the indoor air quality.

How efficient is your material?

Let’s face it - there’s no point in sourcing green building resources if simply getting them to you has a significant impact on the environment. Therefore it’s best to buy locally sourced materials that don’t require being transported long distances.

Another factor the green guide considers with regards efficiency is how much processing the material needs or whether it can be used in its natural state. For example, wood and stone can be used with minimum processing, while regular carpeting and vinyl use a lot of energy and water to process.

Also, you should decide early on whether the material serves more than one purpose and can save on other resources. A rammed earth wall will not need to be insulated or painted, whereas a wood frame wall would, for example.

Although not necessarily a book for your bedside table, the Green Resource Guide could well inspire you to consider making small changes to the way you approach home renovation, which can only be a positive thing on our path to net-zero.

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