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Architect/Builder -  Design Your Green Building
As an Architect or Builder there are many reasons to build green. These include a concern for the environment, an interest in building more efficiently, health considerations or a desire to create an environmentally friendly image for your business. By applying a sustainable perspective to design, construction and remodeling, green building brings the benefits of resource conservation, energy savings and healthy living.

Across the country, in response to buyer demand, homebuilders are constructing homes that are more energy-efficient, healthier and more durable – better known as “green building.” Builders are changing the way they design and build, while enjoying increased market share and faster sales.

Every builder struggles for market differentiation. Building green is a practical way to address issues buyers really care about. A green building dimension to your business adds a strong selling point.

Building green is good for both the economy and the environment.

In response to growing interest in green building, a variety of public and private entities, including homebuilder associations and state and local governments, are creating partnerships to help build and sell green homes and communities. These efforts help market the benefits of green building and recognize builders who are constructing healthier, more durable homes.

These Green Building Guidelines are the result of a collaboration among developers, builders, purchasing agents, sales staff, architects, building officials, green building experts, and staff of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Recycling Board.

Fundamental Objectives of Green Building
Green building is applied common sense. To demystify the process and move forward with your construction project, it is helpful to think of green building as the convergence of three fundamental objectives:
  1. Conserve natural resources
  2. Increase energy efficiency
  3. Improve indoor air quality
Conserve natural resources
 
Conventional building practices consume large quantities of wood, plastic, cardboard, paper, water and other natural resources that lead – unnecessarily – to their depletion.

For example, wood is one of the most common building materials, but is often used wastefully. We have already harvested 95% of the nation’s old-growth forests – a trend that simply cannot continue. We can now consider alternatives like using wood harvested from urban areas.

Builders have a rapidly expanding range of green building materials from which to choose such as: recycled content decking and thermo treated lumber. Reclaimed lumber and other products divert waste from landfills while providing quality and durability that often exceed conventional materials. For example, decking material made out of recycled plastic resins mixed with wood waste fibers can last up to five times longer than wood decks and never need to be treated or painted. It has been found that thermo treated lumber increases durability of the wood 25 times which makes the lumber more stable and improves resistance to rot.

When green building is designed into the project from the beginning, it need not cost more than conventional methods. Often, the homeowner and builder focus on the “up-front” costs (materials and installation) to incorporate green features into a home. When other factors are considered, such as lower maintenance and operation costs, many of the recommended strategies in these Guidelines offer tangible economic benefits to the homeowner. Energy upgrades alone usually result in a payback through lower monthly energy costs.

When considering green building measures, it is very important to balance product and installation costs with other significant benefits such as energy savings, increased durability, enhanced air quality and healthier homes.

How to Start Building Green
Building green means new ways of thinking about common building practices. Generally, it is best to build from your existing market base, adding green features as the market evolves and matures. If you start gradually, you are less likely to make expensive mistakes. It is critical to carefully consider the changes you make and the additional costs you might incur. The earlier you start integrating alternative products and green design into your building process, the less it may cost you and the consumer in the long run.

Getting Started
 
A strategic way to start building green is to develop green options, and then describe the environmental features and benefits to the homebuyer. Giving your customers a choice allows you to refine your product and market approach. Many home buyers understand and embrace green building when it is carefully explained in detail. Energy efficiency, improved indoor air quality, water conservation and saving old-growth forests are terms that may have different meanings to different buyers. All these things together mean a new home that offers more value and a more comfortable and healthier living environment.

According to the Survey, consumers were asked to choose their three most important upgrades when buying a new home. In top-down order, responses were: energy efficiency features, improved indoor air quality and kitchen remodeling. Consumers felt that the three most important environmental issues were: saving energy, using recycled content building materials and lastly improved indoor air quality.

When consumers think about a new home, they think about what it offers them, not necessarily what it does for the environment. Quality always rates highest next to location when buyers buy new homes. Green homes offer higher quality since most products were developed to perform better than the conventional products they replace.

The following measures should be considered in the initial site planning and community design stages of new home developments. By considering issues such as lot orientation, storm water management, access to transit and minimizing street widths, can result in many environmental benefits.

The following is a list of approaches that should be considered in the first stages of community design:
  1. Orient Homes on an East/West Axis for Solar Access
  2. Orient Living Rooms and Porches to Streets and Public Spaces
  3. Build Mixed-Use, Residential/Commercial, Walkable Communities
  4. Design for Diverse Family Types
  5. Provide Mother-in-Law Home Above Garages
  6. Build Within 1 Mile of Public Transit Hub
  7. Minimize Street Widths
  8. Locate or Cluster Buildings to Preserve Open Space and Wildlife Habitat, Especially Sensitive Areas such as Wetlands.
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