Our strategy for the selection of materials for our home was guided by a principle that we will call "responsible practicality."
First we ensured that the material we are choosing is not egregiously unfriendly to the environment. As an extreme example, hardwood floors from a rainforest.
Then, we evaluated all of our options. When things were equal or nearly equal, we went with the "green" option. However, because of the finite budget ... when the "green" option was substantially more expensive, we instead focused that investment on insulation, efficiency, water conservation, and the like.
This is what we did; it is not the only approach and it may not be the best, but it's what worked for us.
Foundation, framing, and structural materials
There are many things that the Ackers know a lot more about than we do ... such as building durable houses. Our approach was to allow them unhindered authority to choose the materials they believe will yield the best quality structure. Of course, we asked whether the items were "green" and claimed points where we could. Among the standard features in all of Acker's construction:
- Metal reusable concrete forms, to avoid waste of lumber
- Recycled fly ash concrete (15+%)
- Low toxicity form release agents
- Engineered wood "I" joists for floors
- Engineered lumber products for beams
- Finger-jointed studs
- Drywall with 90% recycled content
- High strength 1/2 inch drywall instead of 5/8 inch drywall
- Insulated sheathing
- Weather protection for materials stored on-site
We were uncomfortable with vinyl siding, both for its harmful effects on the environment, and its tendency to discolor, crack, and degrade over time. We chose instead to use fiber cement siding, which is substantially more eco-friendly. Certainteed fiber cement products are manufactured with fly ash and recycled content (source).
We will have a small amount of stone on the front of the garage and the front porch pillars. The stone we chose is an engineered product that is produced in Ohio. We are proud to "buy American" and also reduce the transportation needs for this heavy product.
Our house will feature ceramic tile in the mud room, bathrooms, and laundry room; wood in the foyer, hallway, kitchen, and dining areas; and carpet elsewhere.
We knew early on that we wanted to look at bamboo -- not only because it regenerates itself so fast, but also because we like the appearance. In fact we selected Drexel Interiors because they were eager to work with us on bamboo, whereas others had less selection or wanted to push traditional products. Ultimately we did choose bamboo for all "wood" areas, at an only slightly higher overall price as compared to a traditional hardwood.
The carpet pad is 100% recycled content. This Stainmaster pad helps repel spills, prevent mold, and extend the life of the carpet.
The carpeting is made from renewable resources in a process that uses 30% less energy than production of an equal amount of nylon. We chose Mohawk SmartStrand because it bears "Green Label Plus" IAQ certification from the carpet and rug institute, and it is a durable product. Drexel Interiors, where we purchased the carpet, has also agreed to take it back at the end of its useful life, for recycling.
Waste reduction / recycling
In addition to taking up less space in a landfill, it makes good economic sense to reduce the amount of waste material. Acker Builders is actively encouraging its employees and subcontractors not to dispose of material that can be used on other projects. For the material that is discarded into the dumpster, City Waste is sorting out recyclables.