Sus­tain­able @ Home

In­door air qual­ity, wa­ter and en­ergy con­ser­va­tion are good for your health and wal­let

Times of the Islands - - Home & Garden - BY CATHY CHEST­NUT

Sus­tain­able home de­sign has be­come a main­stream im­per­a­tive for per­sonal and en­vi­ron­ment health. Dur­ing the past 20 years, ma­te­ri­als, fin­ishes and sys­tems have ad­vanced to the point where it only makes sense to ap­ply green stan­dards in pri­vate homes and public are­nas. For the av­er­age con­sumer, prices have come down, op­tions have in­creased, and prod­ucts have been re­fined.

Parker/Mud­gett/Smith Ar­chi­tects prin­ci­pal Jeff Mud­gett says sus­tain­abil­ity is a sta­ple of for­ward-look­ing plan­ning and de­sign. Clients with sen­si­tiv­i­ties to al­ler­gens, in­clud­ing tox­ins, mold and or­ganic pol­lu­tants, de­mand sus­tain­able de­sign for their cus­tom, sin­gle-fam­ily homes. “It’s not just en­ergy ef­fi­ciency; a lot of it has to do with health­ier build­ings,” Mud­gett says. Since the 1970s, Flor­ida build­ing codes have tight­ened up, re­quir­ing build­ings to be­come more air-tight to max­i­mize en­ergy con­ser­va­tion. But a tighter build­ing en­ve­lope also

means that in­door pol­lu­tants can ac­cu­mu­late with­out proper ven­ti­la­tion. Ac­cord­ing to one es­ti­mate, we spend ap­prox­i­mately 90 per­cent of our time in­doors. “What’s in­side your build­ing is more im­por­tant,” Mud­gett says. “We have to be more care­ful with what we put into your house.”

Ap­ply­ing green stan­dards has be­come a global ef­fort. Ac­cord­ing to the World Green Build­ing Trends 2016 SmartMar­ket Re­port, “the per­cent­age of global builders with at least 60 per­cent of their projects cer­ti­fied green will dou­ble” from 2015 to 2018.

In­door air qual­ity is one of the main driv­ers be­hind a green home. So are wa­ter con­ser­va­tion and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, which re­duce car­bon emis­sions linked to cli­mate change while sav­ing home­own­ers money on their power bill. You may not be able to hire an ar­chi­tect to de­sign a green dream home, but there are sev­eral ways to retro­fit or up­grade older South­west Flor­ida homes.

A pri­mary in­door pol­lu­tant is the off-gassing of va­pors called volatile or­ganic com­pounds, or VOCs, from chem­i­cals found in all

types of syn­thet­ics, in­clud­ing fur­nish­ings, paint, vinyl, cush­ion­ing and clean­ing prod­ucts. VOCs have been linked to a cor­nu­copia of health prob­lems: headaches, nau­sea, al­ler­gies, eyes, nose and throat ir­ri­ta­tion, and some forms of can­cer, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency.

Putting a new pal­ette on the walls has got­ten eas­ier thanks to reg­u­la­tions for low-VOC and zero-VOC paints and fin­ishes. Ask a seller, dealer or de­signer about green-cer­ti­fied in­te­rior treat­ments, such as blinds and cur­tains, rugs, linens and other ac­ces­sories. “Wher­ever pos­si­ble, choose nat­u­ral fab­rics, such as cot­ton and linen,” ad­vises Jennifer Languell, Ph.D., who teaches lo­cal builders about sus­tain­able prac­tices through her Tri­fecta Con­struc­tion Solutions.

Re­place car­pet with an easy-to-clean hard fin­ish, such as tile, stone, wood or bam­boo, which doesn’t hold dirt and con­tam­i­nants like car­pets do. If you have your heart set on car­pet, seek the Car­pet and Rug In­sti­tute’s Green La­bel Plus cer­ti­fi­ca­tion so you know the car­pet will not off-gas chem­i­cals.

In the bath­room, in­stall low-flow toi­lets (or mod­ify your ex­ist­ing ones) and low-flow show­er­heads, uri­nals, sink faucets and sink aer­a­tors. Look for the EPA’s WaterSense la­bel on vary­ing prod­ucts from name-brand mak­ers that re­al­ize a sav­ings of up to 40 per­cent in wa­ter us­age.

En­ergy sav­ings are de­rived “in lit­tle pieces and you add up the lit­tle pieces” to see a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in your bill that

Putting a new pal­ette on the walls has got­ten eas­ier thanks to reg­u­la­tions for low-VOC and zero-VOC paints and fin­ishes. Ask a seller, dealer or de­signer about green-cer­ti­fied in­te­rior treat­ments, such as blinds and cur­tains, rugs, linens and other ac­ces­sories.

could be 10 to 15 per­cent, says Languell. Retrofitting light­ing fix­tures with lon­glast­ing LED lights will pay for it­self in less than eight months and a small sav­ings is re­al­ized im­me­di­ately.

“It’s a no-brainer pay­back,” Languell says. Up­grad­ing a 15-year-old air­con­di­tioner han­dler to a SEER 16 in a 2,400-square-foot home will re­al­ize sav­ings of as much as $100 monthly. (SEER stands for sea­sonal en­ergy ef­fi­ciency ra­tio.)

In new-home con­struc­tion or ma­jor ren­o­va­tions, tan­k­less gas wa­ter heaters, which heat wa­ter on de­mand, are pop­u­lar. If you don’t have nat­u­ral gas in your home, you can plan to run 6-gauge wires for an elec­tric tan­k­less. An easy sav­ings is buy­ing an En­ergy Star wa­ter heater when your old one kicks off, or putting your cur­rent hot wa­ter heater on a timer, so it’s not cy­cling dur­ing off pe­ri­ods.

In the yard, con­serve 40 to 90 per­cent on wa­ter us­age through strate­gic land­scap­ing and ir­ri­ga­tion. Ac­cord­ing to na­tive plant ex­pert John Si­b­ley of All-Na­tive Gar­den Cen­ter in Fort My­ers, prop­erly placed shade trees can re­duce home en­ergy costs by 30 per­cent.

Smart home tech­nol­ogy, such as Nest sys­tems, that ad­just your home ther­mo­stat and lights when you leave for the day are in­creas­ingly play­ing a key role in con­serv­ing en­ergy and sav­ing home­own­ers money.

Cathy Chest­nut is a free­lance writer and fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia who ex­plores the peo­ple and places that make South­west Flor­ida, her home­town stomp­ing grounds, unique.

In­te­rior de­sign el­e­ments fea­tured in homes built by Homes by T owne, a pre­ferred builder for Bab­cock Ranch in South­west Flor­ida. All of the town's 19,500 planned sin­gle-fam­ily homes must rate a min­i­mum Bronze cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by the Flor­ida Green Build­ing...

Home­own­ers are con­serv­ing en­ergy, and cut­ting their elec­tric bills, by con­trol­ling their ther­mostats with smart home tech­nol­ogy.

Who­ever said that green de­sign was bor­ing? The luxur y Ci­tyPlace apart­ments in Do­ral-Mi­ami were cer­ti­fied green by Jennifer Languell, Ph.D., and her team at Tri­fecta Con­struc­tion Solutions in Fort My­ers. She is a cer­ti­fy­ing agent for the Flor­ida Green...

Sus­tain­able home de­sign em­pha­sizes wa­ter and en­ergy con­ser­va­tion—a win-win for the planet and the wal­let.

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