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Green-It-Yourself Resources

Where can I find information on landscaping?

To learn more about native plants, click here to read info from The Bruce Company.
Click here to read "Rethinking Yard Care" by UW Extension.

How can green building practices conserve materials and natural resources?

The immediate impact of using green building materials may be readily apparent-your energy and water bills may be lower, you home may not smell strongly of paints and adhesives and may be less dusty. However, the impacts of construction reach much farther than the walls of your home when we consider how and where the materials were made, what they were made from, and how they got here. Outlined below are some the basic principles behind choosing "green" building materials.
  • Reducing materials use - The pool of natural resources used in home construction is not bottomless, and fewer materials used in a home means more materials left for future uses. Patios require fewer materials than deck construction. Smaller homes use fewer materials than larger homes.
  • Salvaged materials - Many high quality building materials can be salvaged from buildings slated for demolition. A good example is wood taken from old barns, which can be used to make beautiful hardwood floors with lots of character, without contributing to the over-harvest of large-diameter old-growth trees. Using salvaged materials also reduces the number of building materials sent to the landfills. The EPA estimates that approximately 136 million tons of construction and demolition debris are landfilled each year.
  • Recycled-content materials - Recycled-content materials reduce the need to extract new materials and often make use of material that might otherwise be sent to the landfill. Some examples of currently available recycled-content materials include some fiberglass and all cellulose insulation, ceramic and glass tiles, roofing, decking materials and siding and trim.
  • Local materials - Locally produced materials cut down on the financial and environmental costs of materials transportation.
  • Durable materials - A key characteristic of green building materials is that they are durable. This means they will need less maintenance and less frequent replacement. Increased durability results in greater resource conservation.
  • Landscaping techniques - What homeowners do with the landscape around their homes can have significant impact on the environment as a whole. As Wisconsin residents we are well aware of the problems caused by excessive fertilizer runoff and weed growth in our lakes. As homeowners we are poised to affect the number of pollutants running into our lakes and streams by managing stormwater with landscape elements such as raingardens, and reducing our contribution to fertilizer runoff by being having chemical-free lawns. Landscaping techniques that utilize native plants will also save you money on your water bills.

Does the program "certify" building materials?

No, the Green Built Home program does not explicitly certify building materials nor does it endorse any company, product, or material. Instead, the Green Built Home program acts to grow the market for products and materials that offer distinct advantages for health, safety, environmental protection, and energy efficiency. Similarly, the Green Built Home program works to offer its builder and sponsor members market distinction by highlighting the benefits of their products while remaining neutral on the company and product itself.

Are recycled content building materials as durable a conventional building materials?

Yes. In many cases, recycled-content building materials are more durable. A good example is composite decking material, which is commonly made of recycled plastic and wood fiber. Composite decking requires no painting or staining and is available with a 20 year warranty.

Are engineered wood products necessarily better for the environment than regular lumber?

In most cases, yes. Engineered wood products such as floor joists and beams utilize fast-growth lumber rather than old-growth trees. In the case of insulated headers, using these products can make your home more energy efficient. Often, engineered wood products are stronger than using regular lumber and are a more efficient use of forest resources.

What is Forest Stewardship Council Certified lumber?

The Trademark of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) indicates that the wood used to make the product comes from a forest which is well managed according to strict environmental, social and economic standards. The forest of origin has been independently inspected and evaluated according to the principles and criteria for forest management agreed and approved by the Forest Stewardship Council. FSC is an international, non-profit association whose membership comprises environmental and social groups and progressive forestry and wood retail companies working in partnership to improve forest management worldwide.

Green Building and Remodeling Resources

Green building materials and practices reduce the ecological footprint of a home. Most "green" building materials fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Resource efficient - the product was designed to use fewer materials more efficiently, yet perform as well or better than standard products (i.e. engineered lumber, made from small-diameter lumber resulting in a product stronger than standard wood).
  • Healthier - the products are non-toxic or have reduced chemical content compared to other products (i.e. formaldehyde-free insulation, low VOC paints and finishes).
  • Recycled-content - a portion of product (or the entire product) is made with materials that might otherwise be bound for the landfill (i.e. carpet made from recycled milk jugs and soda bottles).
  • Locally-produced materials - long-distance transport of building materials can be very energy intensive.
  • Durable - the product will last longer, require less maintenance and save you money.
  • Made with renewable resources - the resource from which the material is made can be readily replenished (i.e. bamboo, used for flooring, which can be harvested every 3-6 years).