Green Building Conference – NAHB

Just back from a whirlwind trip to Raleigh, NC for the annual National Association of Home Builders – Green Conference

This fabulous bark sided house was part of the Green Building tour.  Bark siding – thick almost an inch – covered this well appointed custom home.  Note the nice broad overhangs.


I took the two day course  – Advanced Green Building: Building Science and attended the 3 day conference as well.   In a nutshell here’s what I learned …

Advanced Green Building: Building Science Course
Only a true building Geek can appreciate this – but its what makes quality buildings work !!!  In depth study of …

  • Heat movement in the thermal envelope
  • Water movement in buildings – bulk water, ice, vapor
  • Wall construction – all types
  • Vapor transmission – important issue as houses are better insulated and sealed
  • Climate zones and different building solutions
  • Building systems – walls, roofs, foundations
  • Mechanical systems Continue reading “Green Building Conference – NAHB”

Green Building 101-Quickstart Checklist

Green building is about efficiency, health, energy conservation and good design.  Quality builders have understood the concept of Green Building before it had the name!  A good design – well built – covers much of the Green build philosophy.  It doesn’t need to be complicated, and it doesn’t need to be expensive.  You hear about LEED, GreenBuilt, EnergyStar and hundreds of other green programs – many have expensive applications and inspection requirements.  Having said all this … quality design and construction of your home requires experience.   You wouldn’t want a first time surgeon doing your brain surgery – would you?  Find the appropriate people to help you achieve your green dreams.

An introduction to Green Building – Green Build 101

1. Site

For a new home –  conditions of the site are key.  The sun is our greatest source of energy – pay attention to how it moves across your land.  Your local climate conditions, solar exposure, wind and water effect how a building will work.   Additionally, most projects have particular “givens” – such as the entrance to the property – utility locations – existing trees and other landscape.  Working with the existing conditions is important when designing the site plan.  Try not to disturb the landscape where possible.  Consider a two story house instead of one story – requires less grading. Keep storm water on the site – use gray water systems.

2.  Design

Good design incorporates many things beyond “style.”  Passive solar techniques are crucial to energy efficiency.  Good shell design works with your environment – keeping heat or cool inside as required.  Shedding water – much like a duck! – is good building practice.  Protect your home from weather.  Incorporated natural lighting and ventilation.  Minimize “traffic” space and utilize space with various functions.  Smaller is better.

3.  Materials

Evaluating materials is not always easy.  Certain materials may seem “green” like bamboo flooring but if it is made in China, shipped to the US and filled with toxic glues – it might not be so green.

Some things to consider:
Is it local ?   Local materials don’t have the embodied energy of shipping
How is it manufactured?  Does it have a heavy environmental toll – such as cutting granite blocks out of a mine or manufacturing cement.
Is it durable?  The longer a material lasts the less often it has to be rebuilt.  Concrete ranks high on the durability scale but low on the manufacturing process.
High efficiency windows are a must.  I used to like the look of aluminum windows in a modern house but they aren’t energy efficient.
Insulation – you gotta have it – the more the better – many options here – check out spray foam.
What maintenance is required ?  Some products like wood clap board siding on a southern exposure may require repainting every two years whereas a fiber cement plank siding might last 15 years. 

4. Mechanicals

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning, HVAC, is the largest user of energy in a house.   Not only are efficient systems critical but these systems must be correctly sized and work with the passive solar design of the home.   the High efficiency Consider solar electric, solar hot water, wind power, geothermal or other renewable source of energy.

5.  Water

Some say water is the next oil!  Americans pretty much take water for granted.  We over water our lawns, waste water, and encourage water to flow off our properties down the street and out to the ocean (or river).  Water systems should be set up correctly from household (domestic) to landscape.   Water filtration for the home.  Use gray water systems (or at least prepare for a future system) – using lightly treated water such as shower water – to go back into the land and not into the sewers.   Storm water should be slowed, diverted, retained and encouraged to go back into the ground.

6.  Job Management

The construction process of your home requires a huge amount of energy and produces tons of waste.  How your job is run will effect your carbon footprint.   Every jobs starts with good upfront planning and detail construction plans.  On site supervision and efficient scheduling gets a job faster which reduced energy spent.  Other items to consider:
Storm water planning
Construction methods and material efficiency

7.  Landscape

Think about the nature of your land before houses.  Plant native plants – don’t cover your yard with water and fertilizer sucking grass lawns.   Retain water. Shade the ground.  Mulch – mulch and mulch. 

8.  Building Operation

Once your home is complete – your personal practices come into play.   Are you living a green lifestyle?  Reduce, reuse and recycle.

Please feel free to repost or use this blog as long as you keep the entire blog in its original form and with the following “signature box.”
Otis Bradley is a custom home builder in Southern California working in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.  You can see Otis’ work at his company web site Otis Bradley Company, Inc.
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Green Building Conference!

Click Here For the Green Building Conference Website

The NAHB, the National Association of Homebuilders, is the leading organization for home builders in the United States.   Besides the annual convention, the NAHB provides all kinds of learning opportunities for builders and those interested in building.  The NAHB also has their own Green Building Program and hosts a huge Green Conference this year in Raleigh, NC on May 16 – 18