Our Discovery Network sister site How Stuff Works does one of their thorough analyses on How Green Building Works, trying to answer the question:
"Green building" and "sustainable development" are the hottest terms in construction right now, but what do they mean, exactly?
It's a real challenge, because nobody has come up with a satisfactory answer yet. But they do cover green building materials and more ways to go green. There are no perfect answers and so much of this is new and hasn't stood the test of time, but here are some more ideas to throw into their wonderful resource:
Green Building Materials: Floors
How Stuff Works suggests that traditional hardwood floors are problematic.
The main problem with traditional hard woods -- like pine, maple and oak -- is that those forests take decades to regrow. Oak can take up to 120 years to fully mature [source: Treehugger]. But bamboo and cork are fast-growing: Bamboo (which is actually a grass) generally regenerates in about four to six years, and cork plants regrow in about nine years.
True, but FSC certified flooring is made from wood that is harvested sustainably, in a way that actually is good for the health of the forest. I concluded in the article that they referenced:
Right now if we had to chose between bamboo and, say, locally cut FSC certified maple flooring, a strong case could be made that the maple is environmentally a better choice. And don't forget Marmoleum!
Insulation: HSW says:
Recycled denim and shredded newsprint are quickly becoming the hottest green alternatives for insulation.
Yes, but they both can settle over time. Perhaps note should have been made about sprayed insulations that stick to the studs and have a higher R-rating per inch. Examples:
More Ways to Go Green: Solar Panels
HSW says "Going solar is definitely pricey, but you can expect to spend a lot less than just a few decades ago ." But they only describe Solar photovoltaic panels and do not mention solar thermal panels, (although they show them in an illustration on the LEED page.) They give a lot more bang for the buck, as we noted in Solar Hot Water First. Then Photovoltaics where I calculated the cost per unit of energy to be ten times as high; Stephen and Rebeka Hren do the math far more accurately in The Carbon Free Home and find it to be seven times as high.
But in the end, every architect, engineer and homeowner interested in green building is struggling to figure out exactly what works best, what is cost effective and what is safe. How Stuff Works was brave to take it on in these times when hardly anyone agrees about anything. Well done.