Top 10 Myths and Misconceptions About Green Building

Take a look at ten of the most popular misconceptions about green building. Have any of those ever crossed your mind? If so, take a look at the myth-busting explanations and call us for a free consultation on how we can help with your future projects!

(article credit: TLC Home)

No, green building is not about hippies building hobbit houses out of straw. There is a lot more to it, it is a lot more widespread and it will soon be affecting everyone. But there are a lot of misconceptions out there. We attack ten of them:

1. Green Building is Expensive

On a price per square foot basis, there is no question that it costs more to build with sustainably harvested materials, to eliminate PVC to crank up the level of insulation and put in more insulation. But that doesn’t mean that the overall cost has to be more; with good design you can get just as much living out of fewer square feet. With cleaner, simpler lines you can eliminate a lot of surface area. Build a little less but build it better and it doesn’t have to cost more


2. Traditional Products Work Better than Green Products

One of the hoariest myths around, which appears to go back to the day when low volume flush toilets were first introduced and didn’t work very well. but that was well over a decade ago, and they work just fine now. In fact, according to Bill Gauley, the “Flusher King”, the current 1.6 gallon flush toilets work better than the old ones they replaced.

It was reinforced with the introduction of compact fluorescent light bulbs, that didn’t last as long as claimed and took a while to light up. But if you choose the proper bulb from a reputable supplier, they come on instantly, have good colour balance and last a very long time.

It is true that new technologies have a shake-out period, and that early adopters often have problems. But most of the green products we are talking about are no longer new.


3. It’s All About Saving Energy

A visitor looked at the floors of the Living Zero home(sponsored by Planet Green) and asked the builder “how do bamboo floors save energy?” But not everything green is about energy, it is also about the health of the people living in the home and the ability of our planet to support its manufacture. If you look at our green flooring guide, you will see that the green choices have nothing to do with energy, and everything to do with health and sustainability.


4. Changing Windows Will Save a Lot of Energy

Look in any newspaper; full page ads telling you to change your windows. People claiming that they can cut your heating bill in half. If you have old sashless sliders or jalhousie windows, maybe. But otherwise changing windows is about the least cost-effective thing you can do. Rob Moody at Green Building Advisor gives replacement windows a 100 year payback; the National Trust for Historic Preservation estimates 400 years. The National Trust also jokes that they are called replacement windows for a reason: you are going to have to replace them. See Planet Green: Home > Feature > Green-Materials-Guide > Introduction to Green Windows: Fix Before You Replace


5. Geoexchange Heating Systems Will Save Money and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Geoexchange is a less common name for what I and a few other diehards think are inaccurately calledgeothermal systems. They are a great advance in heating and cooling technology, as they essentially move heat rather than make it, moving three times as much energy per unit of electricity than straight heating would. But to get a million BTUs of heat while burning natural gas at 92% efficiency, you will produce 130 pounds of CO2. To run a ground source heat pump and buy electricity in much of the USA, you will burn coal and produce 140 pounds of CO2. So depending on where you live, you could actually produce more CO2 with a GSHP than by burning natural gas. And right now you probably won’t even see any financial savings, because natural gas is cheap and electricity isn’t. The cheapest heating system is the one you don’t use as much; put the money into insulation and careful design instead of into the heat pumps. But also don’t just listen to me; read the comments on the post Blowing Hot and Cold on Ground Source Heat Pumps and Jargon Watch: Geothermal vs Ground Source Heat Pump and you will see that just about half the world thinks I don’t know what I am talking about.


6. Photovoltaic Solar Panels Are the Most Effective Form of Solar Energy Production

The photovoltaic salesmen are out there chasing the window salesmen to your door, but is it the most effective way to harness the sun? A better investment would be a solar hot water heater. We calculated that the cost of energy from a photovoltaic system is ten times as high as that from the solar hot water system. See Solar Hot Water First. Then Photovoltaics. Rob Fanjoy spoke with Alex Wilson of BuildingGreen and found a few more myths and misconceptions: 6. Green homes are “weird” or “ugly” A green home doesn’t have to look any different than any other.


7. Building a Green Home is Too Complicated

As one builder said, “It all begins with a tight building envelope; the rest of it is not very exotic or akin to rocket science.” it can be very simple: Build it smaller, use high quality materials chosen for sustainability and efficiency, not for the fad of the month.


8. Getting it Certified is Expensive

Why do you need to know that your house is LEED platinum? Put the money into the house, not the label. Alex Wilson also wrote an article for Timber Home Living,listing some more misconceptions that I agree with:


9. Green Building is Mostly About Using Eco-Friendly Materials

Not at all. Green building is about how you design it, how you orient it, where you put the windows, and how far you have to drive to get to it. A monster house in the country is not green.


10. Green Building is a Fad

Alex says ” What has been a fad is the era of fossil-fuel dependence.” Designing walls of windows facing the sun and then running the air conditioning is a fad. Heating six thousand square feet for four people is a fad. Driving ninety minutes from a suburban house to a suburban office building is a fad. Building a healthy home that uses few resources where you can bike to a store, that’s no fad.

We are Urban Eco Group, a commercial general contractor in Atlanta, GA.  We not only build new buildings but also perform facilities maintenance and management.  We also specialize in green high performance solutions for building owners to save money on monthly building utility costs, while also improving public relations and the bottom line.Please contact us today for a free consultion or to engage us on your upcoming building project.

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