Sick Building Syndrome is a term that first surfaced forty years ago, long before anyone ever heard of environmentally friendly building materials. The structure was usually an office building, but not always.
The primary symptoms caused by Sick Building Syndrome are irritation of mucous membranes, sensitivity to odors, lethargy or fatigue, and headache, nausea, and dizziness presenting as chest problems, dry coughs, throat irritation, colds, sinusitis and itching eyes, sensitivity to odors, dry or itchy skin, difficulty in concentrating as well as a general drowsiness.
There are several environmental causes for Sick Building Syndrome, one of which points to the materials used in constructing the building. If the structure was built prior to 1980, chances are the contractor did not use environmentally friendly materials and there may be chemical emissions coming from some of the building materials. The fix may be expensive; however, you can significantly improve the indoor air quality by using low emitting building products when making the upgrade.
Building Eco Friendly Houses
Of course, when constructing a new building — whether home or office — to prevent the possibility of Sick Building Syndrome, use environmentally friendly building materials in the wood studs, insulation, plywood, roofing, flooring, cabinets, countertops, paints and stains. If you use traditional building materials in the new construction, all of these items have the potential for emitting VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) into the air.
The construction industry worldwide utilizes approximately three billion tons of unprocessed building materials each year, which places a heavy toll on the earth and environment. Therefore, using such building materials not only contributes to the well being of a person but to the well being of the planet. Eco friendly houses can make sense on many levels – both environmentally and economically.
Some of the earth and eco friendly building products being used today are:
- recycled denim
- salvaged building items
Bamboo, unlike forest lumber, is a renewable resource that grows quickly and can be used for a variety of home building items. Bamboo cabinets and countertops, and decks and flooring can be stained. Indoors, bamboo is used in place of traditional hardwood floors. Outdoors, reinforced bamboo is used in place of plywood.
Cork panels make a durable, soft floor. Cork, which is harvested from the bark of a cork tree about once every ten years without damaging the tree, is a renewable resource, making cork panels ideal environmentally friendly building materials.
Recycled denim is used as insulation in lieu of fiberglass, which is considered a health risk if the tiny fibers are breathed in. Cotton, which is a renewable resource, is used as an eco friendly insulation, and is often recycled from old denim cloth.
All types of buildings are destroyed each day to make room for new construction. Reusable lumber, bricks, stones and even cabinets are salvageable building items left after demolition. You might even find that these eco friendly methods actually significantly reduce building costs.
The various oils in soybeans are processed into environmentally friendly paint, finishes, varnishes and stains, as well as grout.
Wool is an excellent natural resource used to make carpets and rugs in a variety of styles, patterns, and colors. Because a sheep can be safely sheered over its lifetime, wool carpets are also considered environmentally friendly building materials.
Living “green” these days doesn’t stop with recycling your plastics and composting your kitchen scraps. Environmentally friendly houses are popping up everywhere as people work to both decrease their eco-footprints and save energy. Builders and developer are moving towards use renewable, sustainable resources to meet the demand for more environmentally friendly houses. And green architects are designing do-it-yourself kits for the ultimate enthusiasts to build their own environmentally friendly houses.
The number one benefit of environmentally friendly houses that catches the eye of not just the eco-savy is the long term cost saving that comes with cutting energy and water use and finding alternative sources. Most major cities have green environmentally friendly housing developments. Or kit home companies like Deltec, Gateway Homes, and Rocio Romero offer environmentally friendly houses that you can put almost anywhere you have land available. If you are willing to live in a small space these environmentally friendly houses can be affordable. However, the upfront cost can add up quickly depending on the size of the environmentally friendly houses. The savings start showing when you get your first electricity bill.
Even if you are not ready to spend the money necessary for completely environmentally friendly houses, there are ways to make your current home green. Most people already know that changing your light bulbs to florescent uses 75% less energy. But that’s not the only simple change to make, if you want to live green. Try these five other things to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint:
Replace your windows with double paned glass. This is a mainstay of environmentally friendly houses. Without properly insulated windows, you are constantly losing heat or cold through the glass and cracks around the edges. There is some cost associated with the environmentally friendly retrofit, but you will soon find it takes less energy to heat or cool your home. While your at it, also add window tinting to reduce sun glare and cooling costs.
Consider solar panels installation. When most people think of environmentally friendly houses, they think solar. If you live somewhere with lots of sun, that’s free energy waiting for you to collect, with out using up fossil fuels. Solar panels can also be costly, but look in your area for used panels. They might be quite a bargain.
Install low flow shower heads. Another mainstay in environmentally friendly houses, these are fairly inexpensive and can be found at almost any hardware store. Save more by doing the installation yourself. Instructions should come with the shower heads.
Use power strips. Even when they are turned off computer equipment and entertainment centers will continue to draw power while plugged in. Instead, turn off the power strip and stop the energy drain. If you are like most people, you probably already have one or two of these sitting around just waiting to be used.
Use a motion detector for outside lights. Having outside lights at night is important for safety, but they can be a huge drain on energy if left on all night. A motion detector makes sure lights are only on when they are needed. This is another device that is low cost and easy to install.
Environmentally friendly houses are not only good for the ecosystem but can be for your wallet too. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon even if your not investing in a new green housing development or the latest environmentally friendly houses kit. Just remember that some cost upfront, mean long term savings on your electricity bill and for the environment.