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Episode Info: When we think of sustainability we most often think of “green homes” being sustainable to the environment meaning that it does not degrade the environment through its construction or use. The definition of sustainability describes the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. Over the years as I have learned more and more about sustainable homes I have discovered that a sustainable home can benefit much more than just the environment by being: More cost effective to construct. More cost effective to heat, cool, and operate. More durable and cost effective to maintain. More conducive to the health of those who live in it. More comfortable. Better able to meet the habits and needs of those who live in it. While we mostly speak of homes as being sustainable to the environment I propose extending that definition to include the items above to account for how sustainable a home is to it's owners, occupants, and their finances. So let’s dive into the aspects of this re-defined sustainability… (I am only going to provide brief outlines for each of these aspects below and in the future will expand more on each of them in their own episodes) The Environment Environmental sustainability is fairly well known and it’s necessity often debated in modern society. Sustainable homes most often strive to use materials and construction methods that have minimal environmental impact and in some cases provide a net benefit to the environment. Different areas that are looked at are: Energy used during construction of homes and production of the construction materials. Depletion of natural resources such as forests, water, minerals, and stone. Damage to natural habitats. Impact on the environment when construction materials are disposed of or recycled at the end of their life. The environment is often the main point of discussion around sustainable homes and rightly so. We can’t just order a new planet to live on if this one goes bad and expires. We need to ensure we are taking care of the Earth and preserving it not just for the next generation but for the many generations that will follow us in centuries to come. Construction Cost Effectiveness When a new home is being designed the potential construction costs are often reviewed to ensure that it will be within the home-owners budget. Wouldn’t it be disappointing to build your dream home and then having to eat rice and beans for the next 10 years to afford your mortgage payments? Just Sayin’ When construction cost estimates are above the budget of the future home-owner this results in going back to the drawing board and finding areas where costs can be reduced. Most often this results in losing those granite counter tops or settling for less extravagant plumbing and lighting fixtures. Rooms may also be sacrificed at this stage… so much for that home theatre room I’ve been dreaming about….. not to mention my Man Cave. One thing that is not often looked into is using more cost effective construction methods or materials. You may have really wanted to have that nice stucco finish on the outside of your house but if you switch to a cementitious siding (Hardie Board) you can usually save 30% or more on the cost of cladding your home and are still left with a very durable product. And what about the main structure of your home? There are many options out there besides the most commonly used structure of wood framing on a cast-in-place concrete foundation. It’s worth looking into what other construction methods are available in your area that may be able to cut costs slightly while still providing you with an enjoyable and structurally safe home. And what about efficiencies in saving materials during construction? The traditional method of framing a home with dimensional lumber is somewhat wasteful (Especially if the trades are unskilled or unorganized). An alternative method of using the same framing ...Read more »

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