The 'Green' Standard

By Townsel, Lisa J. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

The 'Green' Standard


Townsel, Lisa J., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Lisa J. Townsel Special to the Daily Herald By Lisa J. Townsel Special to the Daily Herald

It's easy to become foggy about the many terms that define environmentally friendly housing and building materials. Words such as "green," "sustainable" and "healthy" are often tagged to such properties.

But what is clear is this: investing in a healthier home can easily translate into more money for you, the homebuyer.

For more than a decade, sustainable living practices have gained momentum and become an integral part of the building industry. Developers, focusing on customer desires and a change in the industry itself, have begun to use less wall-to-wall carpeting, for instance, in light of allergy concerns, opting for solid flooring. Those same air-quality concerns with standard paints and staining products have given rise to the use of versions with little to no VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

Homebuilders have become chief proponents of recycling, reusing and repurposing materials, easily selling such concepts to buyers who want to embrace a healthier environment and use of less energy.

Just pick a space, and there have probably been some energy-saving updates made to accommodate those interested in buying "green."

In kitchens, you can get energy-saving appliances that carry the Energy Star seal. Items like induction ranges, which heat and cook in a hurry, might even surpass that standard. Solid granite countertops that often require long journeys to reach a job site, and create waste afterward, are gradually being replaced by composite countertops that make use of ground-up stones, with no waste, which can be delivered in a fraction of the time.

Charles Wilkins, owner of C&M Wilkins Inc., says more often than not, cabinets are made with faster-growing trees, the left-behind wood chips are used in biofuels, and the resulting products contain less caustic chemicals, such as formaldehyde. Those shopping green become invested in the process of their products, he says, so when they buy their green-certified cabinetry, for instance, like the semi-custom line carried by Fieldstone, "they know that everything possible was done to leave a smaller (carbon) footprint."

In bathrooms, some builders are installing toilets that employ a single or dual flushing system, thus requiring less water than standard commodes. Faucets throughout the house are thoughtfully made to reduce the amount of water dispersed.

Tankless water heaters, which provide heated water only when needed, are becoming standard or at least available in some higher-end constructions.

And insulation, which used to be typically made of fiberglass, now warms the home even more thanks to such family-friendly products as a denim insulation made by Bonded Logic. Both insulation and drywall, in many cases, are also formaldehyde free.

While many of these updates impact what can be seen, Scott Simpson of Scott Simpson Builders says it is best to tackle what is out of sight first when it comes to greening a home.

"Go after the envelope, the waterproofing, insulation, the seal on the outside walls, the floors -- those things are the threshold to building green," Simpson said.

Then, he says, work inside on using local materials, reclaimed materials and materials that will last a long time.

Simpson and his team recently garnered a Platinum LEED-certification for a traditional farmhouse they built in Glencoe. The house includes solar thermal panels, which heat the domestic hot water and radiant floor systems, and to offset peak summer electricity use. …

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