Natural Resource Conservation in New Home Construction – How Does Your Builder Rate?

By: Don Hannig

For over 200 years, Americans have been conquering Nature. We have held the belief that growth, development, sprawl, and business take precedence over all else – it’s been the American way. Thankfully, times are changing. We are noticing the decline of natural habits, open spaces, and the disappearance of the supply of our natural resources. We are recognizing the need for advance in building design and construction technique, in order to protect the natural environment. Many home builders are stepping up to meet the need for conservation and accountability head on! So how do you locate the best of the bunch?

Thinking Green?

Like many of us, if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint – as well as save on monthly utility costs, selectivity when choosing a new home builder is quite important. The good news is, many builders are constructing homes that are healthier for the environment and more cost-effective for homeowners. As the consumer demand for environmentally friendly homes increases, building greener homes is becoming a priority for many residential builders. Green building is here to stay!

Innovation in Design

Natural amenities, such as woodlands, hedge-rows, slopes, rock outcroppings, and streams or ponds, cost nothing in their pure state and provide lovely views for homeowners and families. Green belts and other open spaces, if designed for physical and visual access, can enhance property values of nearby developable lands, as well as your own home’s resale worth. Forward thinking in design is the hallmark of a great residential builder – here are some things you should look for during your selection process.

Water Conservation Techniques. This is more than just the installation of low-flush toilets – an innovative builder can utilize such state of the art features as bio-swales and permeable paving to reduce stormwater runoff and direct it into natural areas where it can be released back into the natural watershed. Low-water landscaping and energy efficient irrigation systems are also a plus.

Open Space and Natural Habitat Preservation. Look for thoughtful design that is integrated throughout the entire development. An environmentally conservative approach – such as using natural features like paths, wild areas, and native vegetation that increases habitat value for wildlife – is an excellent indicator that your builder is thinking green.

Integration into Natural Surroundings. Has the builder chosen a site that fits into the larger scheme of its surrounding environment? For example, a community located in the heart of the Pocono Mountains should fit seamlessly into the pristine forested land by incorporating wooded areas, paths, and other natural features, and provide nearby access to hiking trails and other environmental opportunities.

Accountability in Construction

It is estimated that building an average 2,000 square foot home will produce approximately 7,000 pounds of waste if careful management is not utilized. That is nearly 4 tons of debris, not to mention the wasted dollars in material costs! Conventional building construction consumes large quantities of wood, water, metals, fossil fuels and other natural resources – so how do you know that your residential developer is carefully managing the construction process, and using these resources wisely? Here’s what to look for.

Use of Durable Products in Building. An example would be high quality roofing materials with warrantees of 40 to 50 years, or decking materials made of recycled plastic mixed with wood waste fibers that can last up to five times longer than wood decking, never needing to be treated or painted.

Use of Advanced Framing Techniques. There are many well established home building practices that involve the use of FSC-Certified wood, engineered lumber, and advanced framing techniques that can substantially reduce lumber requirements without compromising structural integrity, thus helping to conserve natural resources.

Use of Recycled Materials When Applicable. A developer well-versed in green practice will utilize recycled materials whenever possible. An example would be the use of high-volume recycled flyash in concrete (min. 25%) or ceramic or glass tiles that contain recycled or reclaimed materials in the construction process.

Energy Efficiency Ratings. The incorporation of energy efficient appliances and lighting systems is the hallmark of a forward thinking home builder. Homes should be independently Energy Star Certified for energy efficiency. The National Association of Home Builders has a rating system in place to certify homes according to the National Green Building Standard requirements. Ask your builder about their rating!

A Future of Green Building

Increasingly, residential developers and environmental professionals, along with local and state government officials, are recognizing the benefits of greater integration between man-made environments and nature. When cutting edge building design meets with the smart-growth practice of accountability during the construction phase, we have a win-win situation for homebuyers and the environment alike!

“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.” ~Theodore Roosevelt, seventh annual message, 3 December 1907

To find out more about the benefits of energy efficiency and green building please call Keswick Point, the region’s newest PRD, at 570-646-4646, email us at info@keswickpointe.com or visit our website at keswickpointe.com.

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