Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Green Building Myths

Here is a list of Holladay's Ten Myths: 
1. New York City is an environmental nightmare
2. Walls have to breathe
3. Renovation is less expensive than new construction
4. Spray polyurethane foam creates an air barrier
5. Caulking the exterior of a house reduces air leakage
6. R-value tests only measure conductive heat flow
7. Air conditioned homes don’t need a dehumidifier
8. Efficiency Rating Labels On Appliances Account For All Types of Energy
9. In-floor radiant heating systems save energy
10. Green building helps save the environment 
He mentions David Owen's latest book, "Green Metropolis," as the latest evidence for #1. I just finished this book and will review it in a coming blog entry.  Per ca pita, rural areas have higher carbon footprints than dense cities like NYC, which is arguably the most important metric when considering what's "green". But a rural area may seem "cleaner" because of the lack of air pollution (which can be concentrated in cities), green spaces, clean water, and the general aesthetic and aromatic pleasantness that comes with a lower population density, like lawns, gardens, and contained trash.

We also just touched on #10. Green building done correctly can reduce the building industries' impact on the environment, but it's still just a lesser evil. A mostly necessary evil, unless our population growth slows and there is no need for new housing stock, which is doubtful-and not desirable for those of us in the building profession! 

In an ideal world (a perceived ideal world based on Holladay's myth #10), everyone would grow old in the house they built over the years with their own hands. But, most of will live in a few developer/production builder produced spec houses over the course of our lives. And with the trend of green building, our kid's homes and our next homes will have a little less detrimental effect on the environment than they would have. Yes, we can do better. Maybe within the building industry we have been patting ourselves on the back too much for marginal improvements, or improvements that are inevitable at best. This is only a problem if it causes complacency. If the industry is excited about green building, and consumers want it, innovation will be spurred, technology will improve, more efficient products and processes will be developed, and we can be a lesser and lesser [necessary] evil. 

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