Eco-friendly building incorporates a wide variety of concepts and strategies during the design and construction process. Eco-friendly materials, a vital component of sustainable building, come from renewable rather than nonrenewable resources. Such materials enhance the health and efficiency of homes, but they also promote conservation of dwindling nonrenewable resources worldwide and reduce the overall impact associated with resource extraction, including transportation, processing, fabrication and disposal of materials. (See References 1.)
Homeowners reap many benefits from eco-friendly building materials. Some of these advantages include reduced maintenance and replacement costs over the life of the home, increased energy efficiency and utility bill savings, improved personal health of home occupants and greater design flexibility. (See References 1.)
All eco-friendly building materials have resource efficiency in common, a criteria they meet in a number of ways. Materials may contain postconsumer or postindustrial recycled content, or they may be easy to recycle at the end of their useful life. Others are harvested from sustainably managed sources, often certified by third-party verification. Some materials are locally harvested, saving money and resources related to transportation. Others are salvaged, refurbished or remanufactured. (See References 1.)
Indoor Air Quality
Eco-friendly building materials enhance the interior air quality of a home by meeting one or more criteria. They can be low in toxins, including carcinogens and reproductive toxins, as proven by product testing. They may emit minimal levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some do not promote moisture or the growth of biological contaminants such as mold. A final criteria qualifying materials as eco-friendly is that they require cleaning with only natural, nontoxic cleaning products. (See References 1.)
Eco-Friendly Product Assurance
To ensure that products are eco-friendly, look for labels certifying that the materials have been tested and meet specific standards. Investigate individual certification companies to determine their methods and requirements. A few certification programs include Energy Star, Green Guard, Green Seal, Green Label Plus and Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) (see References 2). Additionally, the U.S. Green Building Council's "Green Home Guide" offers information, guidance and recommendations for eco-home building products and on finding professionals (see Resources 1).
Hailing from Austin, Texas, Beth Berry has been writing since 1995 about sustainable farming, fiber arts and parenting. She brings expertise in organic gardening, landscape design and domestic arts to her writing. Berry holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental science from Abilene Christian University and is a master seamstress.