Green Building Myths

by Rachel Laurendeau on September 10, 2012

There are a number of misconceptions and myths regarding green or sustainable building practices. Here we’ll bust three of the most common myths.

Myth #1 – Building green costs more
Of course, if you calculate the cost of building a new home on a price per square foot basis, it will undoubtedly cost more to build an eco-friendly home. In green building, you are spending more upfront on things like better insulation, using sustainable materials and finishes and installing more efficient systems.

However, there are two arguments to be made here. First, when working with general contractors who are experienced in green building practices, sustainable homes are usually well planned and designed to cut down on superfluous square footage. That means you may pay more per square foot but with a smaller surface area it can work out to a similar price as a conventional house. Second, while it may cost a bit more to build green upfront, over the life of your home, you should save substantial amounts of money on energy and water bills as well as costs associated with health or medical issues arising from poor indoor air quality. As well, you will likely need to make fewer upgrades to the house over its lifetime. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, the resale value of green buildings is generally higher than that of conventionally built homes.

Myth #2 – Building green is only about energy savings
Yes, part of building a green home is to build a more energy efficient and water efficient house but it is also so much more than that. When building green, you take into account the materials and finishes in your home: do they come from sustainable resources? Are they harvested or manufactured in such a way as to minimize their effects on the environment? From how far away are they being harvested, manufactured and shipped? How will they affect the health of those living in the house in the short and long term? Besides the building materials and energy savings, other factors such as the design, orientation of the house and windows, size and location of the house also affect how “green” it really is. Building a mcmansion with bamboo floors and low VOC paint a two hour commute to and from work does not make for a green home.

Myth #3 – If the label says it’s “green” or the sales person says so, it must be environmentally friendly
Since being eco-friendly is becoming ever more popular with consumers, many products are labeled as being “green”. In many industries, there is no certification so manufacturers can make any claim they want to. In other cases, they will find loopholes in the regulations and simply change their ingredients slightly to comply with minimum government standards but the product will still be laden with toxic products that are either bad for the environment or for human health. Additionally, the actual manufacturing, harvesting and shipping processes are not taken into account on labels. This idea of using the term “green” for non-sustainable products is often known as greenwashing. Unfortunately, certification and labeling regulations have not kept up with the development of products and manufacturing or the changes in the marketplace. Hopefully standards and regulations will catch up soon to make choices easier for consumers.

Many factors come into play when building sustainably. If you are building a new home or trying to find ways to make your home improvements greener, do plenty of research to make sure that you aren’t buying into any of the unfounded myths but rather, making choices that really are environmentally responsible.

Resources – TLC’s How Stuff Works and Green Building Supply

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