Midwest’s Green Roots Grow Deep

Filed in Construction by on February 15, 2014

Green this, green that … you may be tired of hearing the word “green”. Alas, I would bet that you are green yourself, for we are all descendants of the Great Depression era, World War II, the energy crisis of the 70’s, oil/gas shortages and the latest energy push on these issues under the guise of a new marketing strategy: being green.

Growing up, I witnessed my grandparents saving anything that might have a future use. My own parents made us kids turn out the lights when leaving a room, turn down the thermostat when leaving the house, take a bath in the same tub of water in no particular order … ok, if I was too dirty, my mother would put me last in line.

Our region of practical people has been by necessity comprised of savers and all-around good stewards of our land and resources. It is a welcome remind, however, to hear about new ways to save money and help the overall need of less energy – which translates to less pollution and use of natural resources such as coal and oil.

How about the building industry? Most of us don’t build or remodel on a daily basis, but here are some random thoughts from an architect’s mind.


Reclaimed Wood Floors  Photo Courtesy vintagetimber.com

Reclaimed Wood Floors
Photo Courtesy vintagetimber.com

This is the re-use portion of things. When remodeling, consider saving the light fixtures, door and cabinet hardware to be sold on eBay or craigslist or at your local Habitat for Humanity Re-store. With the push toward retro style lately, these items are much more in demand, and there are collectors out there, believe it or not.

Salvage stores, those that will take almost anything of interest, want your items. It is a simple task to call them and ask about the things you may have – old doors and windows, hardware and especially unique items like old fireplace mantels, church pews or literally anything nostalgic that they could sell to someone else.

In building a studio above my detached garage, I am saving my 1×6 wood plank roof. I discovered that I had these planks instead of a plywood roof and love the idea of this aged and yellowed pine serving as a cottage-style floor or wall treatment for this new studio space. Since I am doing all the work, at least in my own mind, I have the time and patience to remove these planks one by one, remove the nails and store for a new use in an old structure.

While I’m also weary of hearing the word “green,” I do like being green – being one of those practical people who love a good story and love feeling satisfied in being practical and not being wasteful. It would be so easy to cut these out with a fun power tool, but there is no story to this other than throwing out old, replacing with new.

New Construction

Contractors in our practical Midwest have been doing “best practices” for ages. By and large our contractors now that their reputations are key to their survival, and they have done what’s best for the client and the house. As technology and building science have progressed, most builders adopt these new products and practices, although they want to see them time-tested first to be sure they will benefit their customers and their construction methods. No one wants an issue or a call back, and all builders want to be the customer’s builder-for-life.

Codes also come along for many issues, so if a builder hasn’t already switched his methods or products, code compliance is also another avenue for forcing change. most of the time these codes make sense, Controversies do arise, and time proves these out.

Recycled Glass Countertop Courtesy http://www.eos-surfaces.com

Recycled Glass Countertop Courtesy http://www.eos-surfaces.com

Better use of recycled materials in new products, reducing construction waste, making a tighter home, heating and cooling in a more efficient way and using less energy are the new mainstays of this movement. Most if not all of these concepts are here to stay, for they will save money in the long run for the builder and the customer.

We are in an era now where all sides of the green world are converging. New products, new building science and technology, government policies, local and federal codes and contractors are all focused on better buildings for a better tomorrow. It is an exciting time, but we Midwesterners are in familiar territory. We have long lived in a green world, just with a different name: practicality and stewardship.

by Phillip Stahl

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