Tag Archive for: Green Building

Are Concrete Countertops Green?

Building green is trendy these days in the construction and remodeling industry. There are environmental experts who point to concrete as a suitable material for green construction, including concrete floors, concrete homes and concrete countertops.

Concrete countertops are increasingly popular because the offer a wide array of design options – they can be formed into dramatic and amazing shapes, sculpted before curing, inlaid with tiles or designs, and most impressively they can be made in just about any color and finish. They offer all the beauty of natural stone, all the customization options of a synthetic material, yet they’re incredibly durable and surprisingly affordable.

But are concrete countertops a “green” option, or are they just greenwashed? How are concrete countertops better for the environment over other alternatives like stone or tile? The answers lie in how the concrete is made and treated before the countertop is installed in a customer’s home.

Can Concrete Be Environmentally-Friendly?

Concrete is made primarily from gravel, sand, and cement. Gravel and sand are 100 percent natural, so they can be an Eco-friendly choice. However, these aggregates can also be a source of pollution – especially if they’re trucked in from long distances. Therefore, you and your installer need to determine if the concrete aggregate is local or not when determining the Eco-friendliness of this option.

One alternative to standard gravel and sand aggregate is to use recycled material such as paper, coal fly ash, and glass. When mixed with cement, the finished concrete can be comprised of as much as 75 percent recycled materials, meaning that the finished product has very low net emission levels. This might be a good option to investigate with your installer as well.

The biggest environmental issue with concrete, however, isn’t the aggregate – it’s the cement used to bind the aggregate together. Creating cement emits mass amounts of CO2 emissions, which is by far the most serious concern pertaining to global warming; for every ton of cement produced, there is an equal amount of CO2 emitted. While there are concrete production options available that lessen the impact on the environment without compromising the positive attributes of concrete, these cements must be specifically requested as they are more expensive.

Finally, it’s also a good idea to ask your installer about recycled concrete. Left over cement and concrete can be partially re-used to create new concrete, further reducing the environmental impact of any concrete installed in your home.

The Verdict

Recycled concrete can be used in floors, walls, outdoor effects, and even countertops to provide stunning and environmentally friendly additions to any home or business. Concrete’s unique properties – it can be custom-sculpted, inlaid with tiles or designs, and amazing color array – allow designers to create dramatic looks in the kitchen, bathroom, or outdoors. However, the method used to fabricate the concrete needs to be taken into consideration when choosing supposedly green concrete. While concrete can be made into a green building material, the opposite can also be true. So ask your installer.

Finally, don’t forget to compare green concrete counters to other alternatives. Granite countertops, for example, may seem very natural and therefore very “green,” but in actuality they may have tremendous amounts of CO2 emissions because the stone must be excavated, polished, and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles before install. The same goes for other natural stones.

Author Miguel Salcido writes for Premiere Vanities, a company that makes bathroom vanities from a variety of materials incorporating a range of textures, including fiberboard, laminate and various types of wood.

Goodwin Company

More and more, homeowners as well as commercial builders are realizing that there is a virtual treasure trove of building materials already at hand, and using some creativity along with a generous amount of flexibility, one can create masterpieces with reclaimed materials. Gone are the days when only bargain-hunters are on the lookout for recycled building materials. In fact, some of the most unique and interesting interiors employ antique and reclaimed materials. One of my favorite coffee shops in Paris features ornate doors and window frames salvaged from local renovation projects as the interior decor, and the shop draws visitors from all over the city.

Here in the USA, there are salvage depots and warehouses in every locale, but three of them have gained a national reputation for those on the lookout for quality reclaimed materials.

Heritage Salvage

Heritage Salvage in Petaluma, CA has more than three acres of reclaimed building materials including everything from reclaimed old growth redwood lumber to bar tops and barn doors. In addition to salvaging and restoring building materials, Heritage also crafts custom furniture and other pieces from reclaimed wood. Heritage’s commitment to reducing waste through reclamation is not its only green initiatives. Many of the stacks of wood are protected from the Northern California drizzle by former billboards that owner Michael “Bug” Deakin buys in bulk for rain protection that is both durable and recycled. In addition to its huge collection of reclaimed building materials, the Heritage Salvage Yard is home to organic gardens and beehives. Deakin plans a water catchment system in the future.

ReNew Salvage

ReNew Salvage, based in Brattleboro, Vt, is a non-profit architectural salvage yard committed to reducing construction waste and help low income families build affordable yet high quality housing. Proceeds from the salvage yard support ReNew Salvage’s other programs, which include deconstruction services, community workshops on topics related to green building, and job training for at-risk youth.

Second Use

Founded in 1994 by a contractor and environmentalist who became frustrated after seeing the large amounts of waste produced during construction and demolition of buildings, Seattle-based Second Use remains committed to reclaiming and reusing building materials to reduce waste and create unique and beautiful eco-friendly buildings. In addition to the large salvage yard, Second Use offers demolition services and hosts free workshops for contractors, home owners, and others interested in building with reclaimed materials.

Thanks to Green Marketing (Original link: http://www.greenmarketing.tv/2010/07/19/how-to-start-an-eco-friendly-architectural-salvage-yard/)

Goodwin Company

From Earth911’s Alexis Petru: Planning a home improvement project this spring? For more tips on greening your home remodeling projects, visit nonprofit Build It Green’s website. There is no “one size fits all” test to determine if a product is sustainable, but you can assess a product’s eco-credentials by identifying what it’s made out of and how it will consume resources (water, energy, etc.) during its operation.

Recycled-content building materials make a great eco-friendly choice, like recycled plastic decking, recycled carpet or recycled glass countertops. Or choose rapidly renewable materials like cork or bamboo for counters, floors or other surfaces.

If you’ll be using wood, look for sustainably harvested products, preferably certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

And if you’ll be buying new appliances like a clothes washer or installing new cooling and heating systems such as a furnace, request models that conserve water and are energy efficient, certified by the EPA’s Energy Star program where applicable.

Green Building

Many floor covering products contribute points toward a LEED green building certification. Here are a few of the points you can look up under the standard for more information: MR 4.1 – post-consumer plus ½ pre-consumer for 10% or 20% of cost of project materials receives 1 or 2 points MR 5.1 or 5.2 – […]

Green Building Fortifies Floor Covering Futures

Green building involves health, water conservation, energy efficiency, disaster mitigation and, of course, sustainable floor coverings. A certified green building is intended to keep you

Reclaimed Wood Flooring is Green

Reclaimed Wood Flooring is Green

healthier, save you money and help ensure the building’s durability. There are several national certifications and over half of states have regional, state or city certification programs.

Builders generally believe that green building certification is not worth the expense and time. Those who do get certifications most often opt for Energy Star or just a HERS rating. There is an expectation that many builders who currently get Energy Star certifications will drop out of the program when Version 3 goes into effect in January 2012 due to added challenges for thermal enclosure and preventing water intrusion.

Builders need to explore the costs and benefits of certification and incorporate certification into their business’s marketing plan. Average certification costs, including the third party certifier and the fees to the certifying organization, for a building of 1,750 square feet or less range from $600+/- for a local program to $2,500+/- for one of the national programs, according to Dr. Jennifer Languell, Trifecta Construction Solutions, Ft. Myers, Florida.

The Appraisal Institute offers a green certification for appraisers. Recently they announced an addendum to the Fannie Mae Form 1004 that lets appraisers add the contributory value of a home’s green features. Some builders have seen an increase in appraisal values from 8% to 20% for green features if they spend time with the appraiser and give them a copy of the homeowner’s manual, case studies from the Green MLS Tool Kit and carefully walk them through the home.

Green building products entail an even more complex list of third party certifiers and a good deal of “greenwashing” as well. To have some fun do a search on the term ‘sins of green washing.’ A few of the certification bodies to know about that relate to floor coverings include: CRI’s Green Label Testing Program certifies low-emitting carpets, GreenGuard certifies a wide variety of floor covering products and Scientific Certification Systems have developed a broad range of product certification programs since 1984…stay tuned, to be continued!