Monthly Archives: May 2013

Installing Water and Sewer

Installing water and sewer services is easiest done before any footings, or foundations, are poured.

Our excavation contractors were not expected back for a few days, but they were rained out at another project. They surprised me by appearing yesterday morning with their crew. I quickly rescheduled my material delivery to allow them time to install the sewer main.

The first step is to make a connection to the man hole.

Installing water and sewer starts at the man hole

Where is that connection?

Install the cleanout, and we are ready for back filling.

installing water and sewer

Finishing the sewer main extension.

By that afternoon, the sewer main extension was complete. Backfill and finished for the day

installing water and sewer

Back fill, and that parts finished

Next morning they are back to do the house connections.

installing water and sewer

Starting the sewer connection.

Installing water and sewer

Insulation protects against frost where water and sewer are nearer the surface.

installing water and sewer

I installed the water meter and temporary connections for the motor home.

installing water and sewer

connecting to the sewer main.


installing water and sewer

hot tap to water main is done and about to turn on the water.


Below is the street, back in service and better than before.



installing water and sewer

All finished and the street is like new.

installing water and sewer

The framing packge arrives and things get a bit crowded.


My framing package arrived just before we finished. Things got a little crowded.

Below is our guest house. It actually holds a double bed, a sofa, and a table with 4 chairs


The guest house

Ricks motel

It has been raining, or threatening rain, for the last few days but the project fit right in between showers. Someone is on my side.

This has been a huge first step. I have no nore excuses. I have to go to work. If my ICF forms arrrive by the middle of next week, there should be no delays.

Thanks to a very efficient crew.



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Foundation Excavation

Foundation excavation is the beginning of real construction.

Since I am doing the entire job without hiring trades, there should be no more significant delays. The only limitation will be my own stamina. I am certainly glad to be at this stage (about a month later than planned).

before foundation excavation

Our building site first thing this morning.

Notice all the nice yellow flowers we are about to destroy.

It is not evident from this picture as a nice rain came to our rescue, but we have been getting fuzzed by our trees. The native quaking aspen to the south of our property are shedding seed. It looked like snow yesterday. I love trees, but like my wife, they can annoy me at times. I had better say it again. I love my wife. She might read this.

A excellent tool for foundation excavation

The best way to do an excavation

Thompson Ditching from Lacombe moved this nearly new track hoe  to the site last night and Tony started digging first thing this morning. It was immediately evident that he was a very experienced operator with top notch equipment at his disposal.

precision equipment for foundation excavation

Find the laser level

If you look carefully in the top left corner, you will see a laser level. On board technology allows the operator to dig perfectly level.  No extra help is required, and the operator never has to leave the cab. Amazing equipment that saves a lot of time, work, aggregate, and concrete. Not to mention much less aggravation. I probably won’t have to start my shovel. Never could find the switch on the darn thing.

Almost finished foundation excavation.

Finished very quickly

Finished very quickly. My coffee barely got cold.

A near perfect job of foundation excavation

A near perfect job

Soil conditions turned out to be excellent with no surprises. Coupled  with a good excavation, things are much easier. Done my layout in just over an hour. checked the levels with my own builders level and found them near perfect..  I can place my footing forms right on the dirt with only a little fine tuning being necessary. It is hard to beat equipment and operators of this quality for this type of job.

I had enough time left to go to town, pay for my framing package, and arrange for delivery tomorrow. No more excuses, now I have to go to work. Well, it is close to my bed, when this old bod wears out.

Living by our foundation excavation

My wife, Bobbi, is making this look more like a home by the day

We are starting in the hole, but it is all up for a while now.

Thank you Steve, Tony, Nathan

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Size Matters When Building Your House

Size matters to the planet and to your wallet.

when size matters
RowdyKittens / / CC BY

Is it practical to reduce the size when building your house? Does a smaller car make sense?

As you may know from previous posts, we have been living in a in a motor home for the last six weeks, as we get a start on our new house. This isn’t a new experience. We recently lived for an entire year in motor homes while traveling. It has given us a perspective on what our real need for space might be.

For an excellent photo essay about a tiny house, follow this link

Of course a motor home is not exactly a house. If you don’t like your neighbors, the climate is unsuitable , or you want a change of scenery, it only takes an hour or so to pack up and move. This will be the first time we are permanently (for the summer) in one location.

There are quite a number of people experimenting with permanent RV living. Often they are snow birds, who move to more pleasant climates as the seasons change. Of course this option is rarely open to people with children or jobs. It does serve to illustrate that there is a large proportion of the population who do not really need houses at all.

Over time, many of our wants seem to become needs. Only by doing without, do we really find out if we miss things or not.

size matters to the environment
ecstaticist / Travel Photos / CC BY-NC-SA

Our living space while building was less than 8 feet wide and about 35 feet long or about 275 sq. ft. (26 sq. m.). Is this livable? Yes it is. It is even quite comfortable as long as we have some extra storage and outdoor living space.

Disadvantages? Well, our hallway is 22 inches wide, which is just over my shoulder width, so passing each other is a squeeze. Space around our double bed is quite limited, which makes getting in and out awkward. Getting dressed is also a little awkward. The dinette is cramped which is uncomfortable for a fella as large as me. We do have a bar and ice maker which we barely use. Without these, the dining area could be much larger. The driving area takes about 15 square feet away from our living area. The kitchen area leaves room for only one cook and there is no dishwasher. It is, however, remarkably efficient when you get accustomed to it. There is no comfortable office workspace, and it was a little awkward typing this. It is difficult to find a place to put your shoes and jackets. We do not have laundry facilities.

This is an older unit which is not designed for long term living. It is, however. not intolerable given outdoor living space, and serves to show how little our needs can be. There was a time when many mobile home were not much larger.

The advantages? There is not much area to clean. There is not much space to heat or cool. We use less than 30 gallons of water per day which is only about a cubic meter per week. Laundry may increase that to 40 or 45 gallons. Our electric and fuel use is very small. Although we have 2 furnaces and 2 air conditioners, neither have been turned on since we moved in. .

Size matters in a bedroom

Our bedroom

This motor home has a comfortable double bed. Although we have, for years, been accustomed to a queen size bed, we adapted with no problem at all. So why do we want larger?

The kitchen counter has a built in food processor drive which accommodates several kitchen appliances and saves lot of storage space. This seems like a better option than more cupboard space.

The last couple moves we made showed that we had kitchen stuff we had not used in at least a year. There were still empty spaces in the cupboards. This was just a typical 10 x 10 kitchen but I am sure we could have done with half the cupboards. Counter space always seemed to be at a premium but part of that was because we had a lot of unnecessary stuff parked there.

We are definitely limited, when it comes to indoor entertainment, or overnight guests, but we have found ways to cope. Winter, of course, would make things much more difficult, even if the RV was built for cold weather.

All this has convinced me, that a comfortable home for 2 people, could be designed in about 500 sq. ft.. The 1000 sq. ft. home we are building may seem palatial by the time we move in.

What is the purpose of this little exercise? I think it shows that most of us could do with much less space than we suppose.

Less space means less environmental impact. It also means less initial cost, less maintenance, and less money spent for heating and cooling.

So why are we building a house more than twice that size? A difficult question. Particularly as I am a huge advocate of small.

size matters when you sell
i am real estate photographer / / CC BY

We do require reasonable ease and value in resale. We are quite old, and things could change rapidly for us. I don’t believe the market, in our area, is quite ready for a 500 sq. ft. house. We require a second bedroom for a handicapped daughter who spends about 4 nights with us every couple weeks. We occasionally have more overnight guests, so have included extra multiple use space. I do need a comfortable office and computer station. Because of frequent guests and our age we believe two full baths are necessary.

These may be fairly valid arguments, but they do not prevent me from feeling just a bit guilty, for using more resources than we might need.

We did plan for an open concept plan for our kitchen, dining, living and office areas. This allows for some adjustment of the spaces as the need arises. We also planned for the house to be easily expandable, if the need should arise for future owners. The house has no basement. Expansion that way is not an easy option.

I do ease my guilt, and my wallet, by purchasing used material where possible, and by building an efficient house.

I have no guilt at all about our vehicles, another area where size matters. We live in a rural area, and at least one vehicle is an absolute necessity. We drive a compact car in a five door, or hatchback, configuration. It gives us as much room for cargo as many large cars. Ease of parking, small turning radius, low initial cost, and of course excellent fuel mileage, make me a real fan of small cars. Comfort may suffer some, but not significantly. I feel I gain some prestige in showing my concern for the environment.

car size matters with a family
Mikey G Ottawa / Family Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

Compact cars are probably not an option for families with children, Mini vans are a good choice in this case.

Some will argue a safety difference. In my opinion a large car may not be maintained as well, because of cost. You are also carrying a much larger load of a very flammable fuel. Agility and stopping distances may be reduced with a large heavy car. Survival in a small car may not be as good when in a collision with a larger vehicle. However, doesn’t that make the large car the killer?

size matters
mrpattersonsir / / CC BY

Of course, you can own a big car and still have no more impact on the environment than me. You just have to drive less at sensible speeds. Considering the cost, you likely will.

We also own a small truck (a Ford Ranger,) needed for construction, and as backup. Fuel efficiency is reasonable but not exceptional. We avoid using it if we can.

I have been told that size matters in other fields of endeavor. I think they were talking about my waist size. It certainly reduces my agility and costs a lot to maintain.

Update — we recently disposed of our truck and purchased a minivan with stowaway seats. It can haul as much cargo as the truck and can also tow a trailer for dirty loads. It is a multi use vehicle that still has a quite reasonable fuel use.

Nine ways to make your home more energy efficient. 

Energy efficient building material

Impact of cars on the environment

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Easy Efficient Radiant Heating

This is an easy efficient radiant heating system, of my own design, that I will be using in our new house. I have used this system in the past. It has worked very well, both for in slab radiant and under floor heat. I am not specifically recommending this system. It simply seemed like the best choice for our house.

In the past I have used the tankless water heater for both heating and potable water. Current codes,as I understand them, do not allow for that without a heat exchanger to prevent mixing of heating and potable water. The concern seems to be for bacteria growth in heating coils during periods of low usage.

easy efficient radiant heating

Underfloor Heating

My own belief is that using temperatures of 140 F. (60 C.) or higher will minimize this risk. Codes may require a mixing valve so that potable water is delivered to faucets at lower temperatures. However, it is better to go with safety over economy, so I would suggest that completely separate systems are a safer choice.

It is difficult to understand how a heating circuit could be any riskier than a garden hose left out with a nozzle, or municipal water lines dead ending in vacationers houses, or waterlines to an unused bathroom.

Of course, if glycol, or other chemicals, are to be used in heating circuits, then there must be no connection with the potable water system.

A simple solution may be to run all water use through the heating coils, so that the water has no time to stagnate, and municipal treatments are kept to the highest level possible. Another method is to use a timed valves to periodically flush the coil contents to a drain. This should replace the heating water with freshly treated water from the municipal system. The remaining levels of chlorine or other treatment would have to be sufficient in order for this to be effective.

When designing a heating system, it is useful to forget everything but your goals. My goal is to provide a comfortable living space, at the lowest initial cost, and the least ongoing fuel cost, with the least environmental impact and with maximum safety. Compromise between these goals may be necessary but safety comes first.

The first consideration is an energy efficient building envelope. Given that, providing efficient heating (or cooling,) becomes much easier.

In our climate and location, natural gas is the least expensive fuel. I will be using a Navien 240A tankless water heater, mostly because they provide the highest efficiencies for heating water. I was also able to obtain one very inexpensively. It has features that are unnecessary for this use that will be disabled.

At about 199,000 BTU, this unit is much larger than needed, but in this case, that will have little effect on efficiency. The point is that a much smaller unit could be used. The only relevant factor is the efficiency of the unit and the cost of the fuel used. Other water heating methods such as solar could be used if climate or location allow. Conversion in case of changing market conditions is also relatively easy. You only have to change the heat source.

In my case heating coils will be spaced at 16 inches, or one run between each set of floor joists. That provides about 750 ft. of coil for the entire house. Past experience has indicated that this will be sufficient, but it could easily be doubled if necessary. The length of each coil is reduced by using manifold to split the flow into three. In a larger house you may need more. Balancing is done with valves to control flow. Another option would be zone valves to control heating in separate areas.

Since we are building on a conditioned crawl space we are using only R.12 insulation under the floor as per the diagram. This should be suitable if you are on a heated basement as well. If building on an unconditioned crawl space, much more insulation would be appropriate. I would suggest R.34. Be sure to allow for an airspace. If your coils are in slab, no insulation is needed underneath but perimeter insulation to at least 24 inches below ground level should be provided. The exception would be if groundwater is present near surface. Then under slab insulation may be needed.

I will be placing aluminum foil on top of the insulation. and placing both in the bottom portion of the joist space, leaving about a 5 inch air space. My goal is to provide even heating of the floor above. I believe that heating the air underneath to a few degrees above room temperature is the best way to accomplish this. Some volume and free circulation is necessary for this.

On one similar installation over a heated basement (with in slab radiant,) we found it necessary to turn basement coils practically off to prevent the basement from overheating. Zone valves may have been a better option.

You will hear all types of arguments related to the efficiency of a system like this. Most will be based on assumptions that only vaguely relate to the actual operation.

I have been told that the heat transfer from PEX is very inefficient, and that glycol in the system is the best way to improve that. The fact is that the efficiency of the heat transfer matters not at all, as long as enough is transferred to keep your house comfortable. None of this has any effect on the overall efficiency of the system. For a system to be inefficient there has to be a energy loss. There are only two areas of heat energy loss in your house, through the exterior walls and ceiling, or through the chimney (vent).

Choosing a high efficiency heat source addresses the chimney or vent loss. Choosing to build an energy efficient house addresses the other. The environment is best served by this approach as well. That only leaves comfort and safety as concerns. In other words, will the system work without blowing up, burning down your house, or making everyone sick.

With any heat source the dangers are fire or carbon monoxide. Although tankless water heaters have excellent safety features, there is no such thing as perfect security. Install and maintain smoke and CO1 detectors for peace of mind. If a heat source can be installed as direct vent, be sure to do so, for extra safety and slightly better efficiency.

It is safer to keep heating water and potable water completely separate or to purchase an appliance specifically designed for combination use. My own decision is to use separate water heaters mostly because I was able to keep the costs very low.

I will be setting the water temp at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for good heat transfer to the air space. I don,t expect air space or floor temperatures to exceed 75 degrees. A living area thermostat will control a water pump. Integral flow controls and temperature controls in the heater will control firing and water temperatures.

Experience has convinced me that this system will work well. Extra heating capacity could be achieved by adding more conductive surface between the air space and the water. In other words, by adding more coil length. This would have no effect on efficiency of the overall system.

There are several advantages to a hydronic radiant heating system. There is virtually no noise if the heater and pump are isolated from the living space. There is no fan forced air to stir up dust and allergens. It can be highly efficient. With no fan, electrical use is minimal. With no air filters, maintenance is reduced. With less air movement over walls and windows, conductive heat loss should be reduced, a tiny bit at least.

There is only one disadvantage that I can think of. Because of heat stored in floors that act as a heat sink, it may not be practical to use for occasional heat needed in the summer months. This would mostly be a problem with in slab coils, A  small supplementary heat source may be a good idea. Probably a good idea in any case or with any system.

There are some outrageous claims made by advocates of hydronic heating, Many will claim that huge savings in fuel can be realized. The fact, as I see it, is that a well designed house uses very little fuel, no matter the heating system. You may see some savings but they will not be that large. If doing a retrofit, the money might be better spent to improve the house envelope. Spending large sums on state of the art hydronic heating, may not be cost effective, Many gimmicks and fancy installations probably do nothing at all to improve efficiencies. They may only serve to burn up money. Keep in mind that maximum efficiency comes from minimum heat loss. Anything that does not reduce energy loss is probably a waste of money as far as energy efficiency is concerned.

One final caution, using a water heater for this purpose may void the warranty. Contact the manufacturer if this concerns you.

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House Building Progress to May 15

Our house building progress has been slow, with no physical evidence of advance. Things have been happening, though.

house building progress means getting the services dug inOur development permit required an agreement with the County, and a deposit, to insure our proper completion of a sewer extension. Of course, I was not aware of this. The papers were mailed to me, but had not arrived by the time I ran out of patience and visited the office. Once I was there, the staff was very helpful. Copies were made, signed, and as soon as I paid my deposit, I received my development permit.

Circumstances including the need for a sewer extension, staff vacations, and slow mail, made the the process over two months long. Part of the delay was my own. Snow had made it difficult locate the manhole ending the sewer line, and to take the necessary measurements. Since the situation was slightly unusual, the necessary steps for the issuing of a permit were not very clear to me. By the time we worked everything out, the delay was considerable.

Once the development permit was in hand, I could apply for the other necessary permits. I spent the weekend reviewing my drawings and filling out the application forms. It is a requirement here, to provide two sets of drawings. They must include floor plans, a cross section, drawings of all elevations, details of floor joists and supports, framing details, a description of heating and ventilation to be used and a drawing of electrical. This could vary in other jurisdictions.

A load too far
michaelhallca / / CC BY-NC-ND

Yesterday I applied in person to IJD Inspections Ltd.. The staff was very courteous and helpful. I was able to personally meet the Building Safety Codes Officer. He was very helpful in answering questions, and addressing some concerns that I had. I left with electrical, plumbing and gas permits in hand. Building plans are reviewed before the building permit is issued, so it will take a few days before I will receive that. I left with a very good feeling.

The cost for the permits was less than I anticipated, being 1147.74 in total.

I am going to stress again, the importance of acquiring all necessary permits before beginning construction. They are for your own safety, and inspections can catch possibly dangerous errors. Inspectors are usually very helpful, and available to answer questions. Don’t be a pest, though. Do your homework. Inspectors are helpful, but they are not your teachers.

You will be required to follow national, state or provincial, and municipal building codes. These can vary considerably by jurisdiction to address local conditions. There is a lot of difference between building a house in Southern Arizona and building in Northern Alberta.

Codes change continually in an attempt to keep abreast of conditions and technology. Often they add to the cost of construction and sometimes their justification escapes me. In most cases, though, the changes add to the safety and comfort of a building.

It is nice to have copies of the code books but they are usually quite costly. Changes are usually posted on the internet but sometimes are difficult to understand out of context. Ask your inspector or other professional if there are changes you should know about. Only a portion of the codes will apply to a simple single family residence. Often, books are available, at low cost, that explain codes and practices applicable to building a house.

There may be additional permits needed, in some situations, and some subdivisions may have covenants that need to be respected. Again, do your homework and legwork.

Back to our own situation. Delays have put me about three weeks behind on my start. Not too serious, if I don’t experience other significant problems.

First meet with Cherry blossom this year!
autan / / CC BY-NC-ND

We have been able to use the time productively. We have found more bargains on materials and tools, and have been working on landscaping the part of the lot that won’t be disturbed during construction. We planted our first tree. An Evans cherry, which should provide us with many pies in the future.

One change has been made to our plans. I had thought to use a PWF ( preserved wood foundation) on a concrete footing. I was informed that this option would require an engineers seal on my plans, and an on site inspection by an engineer. Available engineers are apparently very busy. Since our project is in a rural community, I anticipated costs to be high and delays possible. I made an on the spot decision to use a ICF (insulated concrete form) foundation instead. Although a little more costly it takes less time and labor. It was an option I had been seriously considering anyway. The requirement for an engineer for the PWF narrowed the cost differential considerably. ICF is an easy, do it yourself method, that is being used more and more commonly. It does mean I will have to review my material list, before soliciting quotes.

I should be able to send a list for quotes to possible suppliers by tomorrow.

If my ditching and excavation contractor shows up soon, we should still be able to move in by first snowfall. If I don’t make it by then we may have to spend the winter in Arizona. Bummer!

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Environment as your responsibility

The responsibility for the protection of the environment is largely yours and mine.

our environmentI have little progress to report, as we are still waiting on a development permit. It should arrive this week, so actual construction should start soon. We have been spending our time cleaning up our lot and working on part of the landscaping.

It has also given me time to think. I have to be careful to not hurt myself by overdoing that.

The environment and saving money are two mountain environmentsubjects I spent a lot of time ruminating on. The result was a rather long essay. Too long, I felt, for a post. I have published it as a page under the title “The Environment, Global Warming and you.”

I know that everyone is, or should be, concerned with our environment. My take on what should be done is, perhaps, a little different. I hope you will find a little time to read this page and comment on it. Perhaps share it with your friends.

Beauty in the environmentAfter living all my life in rural areas, I have seen the environment degraded alarmingly. There have been many changes, including weather norms. Admittedly, some of the changes have been good and even beneficial to people and some wildlife. Other developments have been much less benign. Change, however has been constant.

It is my belief, that the environment is not directly the responsibility of government or industry. Rather, I believe that the responsibility for environment protection, lies directly on the shoulders of the individual. Government can influence the actions of individuals if it is politically popular to do so. Industry is governed by the buying habits of individuals. It all comes back to you and me. When enough people are willing to commit to a course of action, government and industry must follow.

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The environment and building your home

Most people today, will be at least some what concerned with the environment, when planning and building their home. Both construction and the ongoing operation of the house will have their effect.

The environment is everyones responsibility

The environment is everyones responsibility

The size of your home will have the biggest overall impact. If the environment is a primary concern of yours, carefully consider your needs, and build as small as you are comfortable with. This has added advantages in cost, and in future maintenance. There is much less effort, and cost, involved in keeping a small house clean and well maintained.

The material used, in building your home, will have varying costs to the environment. Although I lack the resources to be specific, I can list some concerns to be considered.

Reuse and recycling of material should be considered at every opportunity. The longevity of materials is important, as it reduces waste streams. Fuel use for transportation is also an important factor.

 Try for least environment impact

Modern home

Wood is used extensively in housing and furnishings. It is a natural and renewable resource. Carbon is stored in the wood for the life of the house. Replanted forests remove carbon dioxide from the air and stores it in the wood. Some carbon is transferred to the soil in the form of humus. The cost would be in the energy used for harvesting, transportation and replanting, and in land use. Recycling and reuse is limited.

Concrete is another common construction material. It’s longevity is excellent. Because of weight, transportation is a significant factor. The ingredients, though abundant, must be mined. The limestone used for cement must be heated in kilns to drive out the water. The carbon release to the atmosphere is significant. Concrete is not easily reused or recycled.

Cement manufacture

Steel, and other metals used, must be mined and refined. Many metals are becoming harder to find and increasingly costly to mine. This usually has significant effect on the environment. On the other hand, metals are relatively easy and economical to recycle, and a high percentage of metal products are from recycled material. Metal products used in house construction have excellent longevity.

Plastics are being used more and more in home construction. It is replacing metal almost totally in plumbing. It is also widely used for window manufacture, vapor barriers, insulation and fixtures. Plastic has a bad reputation in the waste stream. It is almost indestructible and recycling is not yet widespread. This relates largely to it’s use for packaging and for disposable containers. It’s use in housing does not contribute greatly to this problem. Plastics are commonly made from petroleum resources such as oil or natural gas or their by-products. It’s light weight and longevity reduces it’s impact on the environment when used in construction.

Plastic production.

Shattered Glass - Britney Spears
Mr. Carls / Music Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

Glass is a component of every home. It can be reused but is seldom recycled. An inert material, it is virtually indistinguishable from normal soil components, if crushed. Energy is used in it’s manufacture, and it’s weight adds to transportation cost. Glass fiber has widespread use as insulation, in shingles, and as a structural component of doors and fixtures.

Glass manufacturing.

Brick, tile and other ceramic material use considerable energy in their manufacture and they are heavy. Sun dried adobe is usable in some climates, and has less impact.

Asphalt, used in shingles or for driveways, requires some heat to remain liquid until used. The name is applied to the material used for roadways, even though gravel and sand are the main components. The same is true for shingles, where other materials make up the bulk of the mix. Recycling is possible where facilities or equipment exists. Transportation is a large factor in the economies of recycling. A petroleum by-product, asphalt may be a more finite resource than concrete, but likely creates less greenhouse gas in it’s production.

Oil refining and asphalt production.

Some materials, such as stone, earth, straw bales, or in some cases wood, have very little negative impact on the environment. If they are available locally or even on site.

Traveling to Albany
Barb Henry / / CC BY-NC-ND

Transportation of material is often the largest single source of pollution and greenhouse gases. The use of locally produced material can significantly reduce the impact of your project.

The longer the useful life of a construction material, the less it will effect the environment. Single use items, such as packaging and disposable containers, create huge problems in disposal. The near indestructible properties of plastics make them an excellent choice in construction, but the same characteristic is a problem when they are disposed of. Recycling helps to alleviate the problem, but faces problems of economics and logistics. Transportation of waste to recycling plants may cause more pollution than it alleviates.

Asphalt shingles are a good example. They are available in grades with life expectancies of from 20 to 50 years. Because the initial cost of a house is important for many reasons, builders often use the lowest grade, even though the long term economics strongly favor longer lasting products. Twice the lifespan means half the material use and half the contribution to the waste stream. Used shingles are usually sent to a land fill because of a lack of recycling facilities.

The ongoing operation of your home also has significant impact. Comfort and economics strongly favor an energy efficient home up to a point of diminishing returns. Current low interest rates, and rapidly rising energy costs, means more capital investment can be made in efficiency. Reducing the size of your home, to closely match your actual needs, can also make more money available. Your concern for the environment may trump pure economics, but don’t forget the impact of material use. The energy used to manufacture and transport material could negate any future energy savings.

|The simplest way to help the environment is to use less of everything. Use less heating fuel, water, electricity, consumables of any kind, and fuel for transportation. The earth will thank you.

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