Date TK, 20xx
The response to my last column on “Small Ways to Live Green” was terrific. Obviously, people are very interested in knowing more about how they can live more sustainably, even if by small measures. Many “green” building terms are being used in the press these days so I thought it might be helpful to list a number of commonly used terms, useful Excerpts from Good Green Homes (Gibbs Smith, 2003), to further increase awareness and promote discussion of green homes.
Certified Wood: Wood that is certified to have been grown and harvested using environmentally responsible forestry practices. Home Depot sells certified lumber for construction.
Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb (CFL): A fluorescent lightbulb designed to replace regular incandescent bulbs. It is three to four times more energy-efficient and lasts eight to ten times longer than an incandescent bulb. According to the EPA, if each U.S. household replaced one regular bulb with a CFL, consumers would collectively save more than $600 million a year. The energy saved would be enough to light seven million homes, and the greenhouse-gas reductions from power plants would be equivalent to taking one million cars off the road.
Cotton Insulation: Insulation made from recycled cotton-textile trimmings. It typically is treated with nontoxic fire retardant and sold as batting that fits between framing studs. I’ve seen shredded and bailed blue jeans for this purpose. Wool is another great natural fiber insulation.
Deconstruction: The practice of disassembling rather than demolishing a building so that its components can be reused. This is something to keep in mind in an area where tear downs are common.
Double-Glazed Windows: Windows with two panes of glass separated by air space. Compared to single-glazed windows, double-glazed windows significantly reduce heat and sound transmission. Some also contain a gas such as argon or krypton in the air gap to provide additional insulation.
Energy Star: A program sponsored jointly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy that promotes energy-efficient products, homes, and technology. These products and new homes are often 10 to 30 percent more efficient than their conventional counterparts.
Engineered Wood: Building products—including beams, framing studs, and floor and roof joists—that are made from wood fibers bound together with adhesives.
Formaldehyde: A colorless, pungent gas used in many glues, adhesives, coatings and preservatives. Products and materials containing formaldehyde can release this chemical into the air. According to the EPA, exposure to formaldehyde may cause allergic reactions, respiratory problems, or cancer in humans.
Green Building: A phrase referring to building practices that use energy, water, and other resources wisely.
High Performance: A designation for buildings or building components designed to be more energy- or resource-efficient, healthy, and comfortable than conventional buildings or building components.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): A rating system that provides a list of standards for environmentally sustainable construction.
Low-E (Low-Emissivity) Window: A window with a special coating that allows daylight to enter a building but reduces the flow of heat.
Offgas: Vapors that are released from a material through the process of evaporation or chemical decomposition. Many building products, furnishings, floor and wall coverings, and other products brought into the home can offgas formaldehyde or other potentially troublesome chemicals.
Passive Solar Design: An approach to building that allows structures to collect and store the sun’s heat, then release that heat into interior spaces and help warm the home naturally.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): A family of plastics, derived from vinyl chloride, with a wide range of forms and uses. PVC is used extensively in building products, consumer goods, and industrial applications. There has been considerable debate about the environmental impact of PVC manufacturing and the disposal of products made from PVC.
Reclaimed Material: A material that’s put to a new, beneficial use after it is no longer needed for its original use.
Renewable Energy: Energy generated from replenished resources such as wind, sunlight, and agricultural products.
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio): Indicates an air conditioner’s energy efficiency. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the air conditioner.
Sustainability: Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (as defined by the World Commission on the Environment and Development).
VOC (Volatile Organic Compound): A class of organic chemicals found in common building and home-furnishing products. VOCs readily release vapors at room temperature, and exposure can cause nausea, eye irritation, and headaches. The most commonly realized example of this is VOCs emitted from paint.