Green Communities

Green housing communities and residential buildings will continue to grow by large multiples over the next several years in the United States. McGraw-Hill Companies predict that the market share of green new construction be as large as 20% of all home starts and worth up to $70 billion by 2012. This sustainable housing market is selling strong despite the economic downturn since consumers recognize that the energy efficiency gains can amount to serious monthly savings. The danger is that "green" is a term used widely and is largely unregulated when developers promote their communities. Consumers are finding it more difficult to navigate the "green" housing market, oftentimes finding homes that claim to be green really aren't. This is called "greenwashing", a trend we will certainly see grow in the coming years. Fortunately, there have been several organizations which have created standards which measure all communities against the same benchmark. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has emerged as the most widely accepted. LEED assigns a rating to a home or neighborhood of Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. The rating is based on a set of six widely reaching principals designed to assess the environmental friendliness of the community. has created a national website which displays information about many of the nation's leading green developments in a non biased and easy to understand way. Interested consumers can confidently research different green communities and compare the ones which they like best for their green features. Features which are displayed for each community include Price, home type, heating and cooling systems, windows and plumbing used, access to transportation and much more. Through the website, interested consumers can request a brochure, floor plans, or MLS listings from green agents in each geographical area.

About the Author:
This article is written by Luke Blahnik for Green Housing Developments. Get information about USA green homes for sale from Green Housing Developments.

Green Energy Home

With all the advances in green energy technology, it is easier than ever to start converting your home into a green energy home. A green energy home utilizes renewable resources to provide electricity, hot water, heat and peace of mind.

There are several ways to implement your green energy home plan. The first is solar energy. In a green energy home you can install solar hot water panels which heat and store water for use and you can install solar panels, which use photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. These systems can be pricing if purchasing them and having them installed by a professional, but there are many great resources available to build your own solar panels and solar hot water systems that can reduce the cost greatly.

If you are just building your home, a great way to make it a green energy home is to implement passive solar design during construction. This means taking advantage of south facing sides of the house for heating and cooling. By installing lots of highly efficient windows and heat retaining bricks and stone on your south facing areas, you are taking advantage of passive solar techniques to develop your green energy home.

Another addition to the green energy home would be a windmill. Windmills are used to generate electricity from the renewable resource wind. Windmills can be installed on rooftops or in yards and offer pollution free electric. Windmills can be purchased from retailers or there are a wide variety of affordable kits available for the motivated do-it-yourselfers to handle the implementation of their own green energy home plans.

If you have a stream on your property, you may also add to the efficiency of your green energy home with hydroelectric power. This is also a great pollution free option that is easy to maintain and works as long as there is water available.

The ultimate green energy home would combine all of these resources. By using wind, water and solar to generate electricity you are looking not only at huge savings and possible profits from your electricity usage, but you would truly be green as each of these options contributes little to global warming. To further combine passive solar design and solar hot water systems, you are reducing your energy needs exponentially and truly living the dream of going green.

A green energy home doesn't require more maintenance than traditional homes. Solar technologies require little to no maintenance and wind and water turbines require only regular oiling for peak performance. There is no better time to create your green energy home and start living your dreams in green.

About the Author:
Susmanto Hadi is independent author and writing some books. Search Your Finance and Car to Shopping and Travel Around The World With Computer on Hand.Start here: and Stop Global Warming-Use Renewable Energy is here:

Today's Sustainable Design Home Plans

In today's world, it is important to make many considerations when designing a home. Going green is vital to our future and today's sustainable design home plans reflect this need.

Sustainable home design is defined as the philosophy of designing a home with its environment and services focused with emphasis on economic, social and ecological responsibility providing a minimal environmental impact.

When designing a sustainable home, it is an integrated design process between the architect, engineers, and design team and of course, their client at all stages on construction. From the site selection, design formation, material selected and how they are procured on up to their implementation.

The following are some options for sustainable design home plans. These include some building designs that have been in existence for quite a while and are now being reconsidered due to their beneficial nature.

Passive solar home. These homes can be heated almost entirely by the sun or can have south-facing windows that provide a fraction of the heating. The key to designing a sustainable passive solar home is to take advantage of the climate where you live and customize your home to maximize its benefits.

Earthships/Rammed Earth. An earthship house is made up of rammed earth and tires. When constructing this home, the tires are stacked like bricks with dirt packed in each tire firmly. Once the tires are packed, they create a strong and quite thick wall. These walls help make these dwellings energy efficient by storing heat and releasing it slowly. By doing this, the interior temperature is kept more constant. Another good feature is that these homes are fire and insect resistant.

Adobe. A more familiar option is adobe, which is actually the name of the construction material rather than the design. These homes are typically found in dry climates and the bricks are made with tightly compacted earth, clay, and straw. These natural components make this construction eco-friendly. A similar style of sustainable home design is a Cob House. Like adobe construction, the materials comprise of clay-like lumps of soil, sand, and straw. However, this material is not made into bricks but can be sculpted into the form desired.

Underground homes. These homes are also called Earth Sheltered Homes. These dwellings are characterized by being located mostly under the surface of the ground. By being underground, the home has natural insulation, making it energy efficient and inexpensive to heat and cool. Most homes are located on a hillside with good drainage. To provide more light, the windows may be oriented in a south direction or a skylight may be added.

Whatever your choice for a sustainable design home plan, you are guaranteed a unique home with energy efficiency and character. You can be happy that your impact on the environment is much less than with traditional wood-frame home construction. The eco-friendly nature of your home and the money saved in the long run make your choice to build a sustainable home the right one.

About the Author:
Whether you need architectural drawings in Toronto or Toronto drafting services, we offer professional drafting and project management services for any of your Home Improvement, Renovation, Building or Construction projects, and BCIN in Toronto.

Well, a lot of people assume that landscaping because it's with plants means that it's naturally green and environmentally friendly, but that's not true. There is a lot of plants that people use in the landscape that are very hard to grow here and they require a lot of work, pesticides, they require a lot of fertilizers and lot of care and water. So what I did here is look for plants that were native to this area, so that they had a natural resistance to disease, to the pest and water requirements.

The patio in the back is a flagstone patio, but it's set in a permeable base and what we did there, it's a natural drainage area for the backyard and we have to figure out what to do with the water but still have a nice usable patio. So what we do, we use some reclaimed concrete, it's called R base which is also environmentally friendly because it's not going into landfill. They crush it, we use that as the base below it and then we set the stone in and planted mondo grass and what that area does, it allows the water from the backyard to run into it and percolate through that down into the soil. It takes any pollutants, any pesticides, fertilizers out and allows the water to go back into the ground water clean.

The irrigation system is called the SmartLine by company called Weathermatic and it is designed to save water and to use water smarter. It's what it does, from the head that were used to the controller and it has a weather station. Now, the weather station allows it to based on your zip code and where you live and weather conditions. Everyday it measures evaporation, what they call, evapotranspiration which is the amount of moisture in the air and so it knows what's going on around your yard.

Building A Residential Solar Power System

One of the reasons that people sometimes hesitate to install a residential solar power system is that they're under the mistaken impression that solar power is not going to last. They may think that it's just some kind of modern fad, and that solar power has a good chance of going out of style in the near future. But in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Solar power is actually one of the few sources of power that is permanent. It goes back to the beginning of human history, and it will stay with us for as long as civilization exists.

In other words, next to solar power, the fossil fuels that we currently rely on are fleeting things. Against the backdrop of history, they'll be swept away before we know it. That's why, if you're thinking of building a residential solar power system, you're taking part in a long tradition, and you're making a statement about the importance of energy that is permanently sustainable.

Ancient Origins of Solar Energy

If you think about it, solar energy is what powers the Earth. It's what makes life possible; it feeds our whether patterns, it makes our crops grow; and it evaporates or melts the water that feeds our rivers. So, even before humans came about, the sun was doing it's work.

The Ancient Greeks were the first to consciously harness the power of the sun for light and heat. They invented the practice of building architecture specifically designed to harness the sun to create light and to heat the rooms inside of a building. This helped reduce the need for heat created through wood burning. It may not be the same as a modern residential solar power system, but it is a beginning.

Solar Power in Modern Times

The first modern versions of solar power were created in the late 1800s, when a few inventers pioneered the early versions of the systems that we use today. Although some working solar power collectors were created in England, France, and the U.S., all were too expensive to operate in the long-term, and plans for widespread use of solar power were abandoned.

The fact is that functional modern solar power depends upon the types of scientific advancements that weren't made until the early to mid 1900s. For example, Einstein's discovery of the photoelectric effect is directly applied in every modern residential solar power system.

But even when the science was there, for a long time, there was still no economic need for the development of efficient solar power systems. For much of the 20th century, we were just fine with our fossil fuel options. However, beginning in the 1970s, oil prices began to fluctuate wildly. Given the volatility of the international oil market, it was only natural that people would start looking into alternatives.

Finally, now that we have a better grasp of fossil fuels' negative effects on the environment, alternative sources of energy are beginning to make their way into the mainstream. In fact, in a few more years, a residential solar power system will no longer be considered "alternative" at all.

About the Author:
Rodney Strange is a environmentalist, writer, and contributing editor of the solar power system for home blog. To read all about solar systems for your home visit

Furniture with Recycled Materials
It has become evident that our lifestyles can either have a negative or positive impact on the environment. With dwindling natural resources and our environment becoming increasingly more contaminated with pollutants, more people are now choosing lo live in a way that has the least negative impact on the planet. One such way is furnishing our homes with furniture constructed of recycled materials. Many people are even choosing to build furniture using recycled materials. If you are going to build small furniture, there are numerous recycled materials that that can be used.

The following are a number of tips to build your own small furniture with recycled materials:
  1. When purchasing wood, use wood that has been certified sustainable wood. This is wood that comes from forests that practices sustainable harvesting. This ensures that you are not buying wood from companies that practices clear cutting. As well, wood such as bamboo is a popular green choice as bamboo grows back quickly so the forests are not being depleted when bamboo is harvested. Although bamboo is a grass, it can be made into flooring, shaped into furniture, and made into window blinds. Most bamboo growers do not use pesticides.
  2. Another method of making furniture is acquiring second hand furniture. You can strip the furniture, apply non toxic stains and paints as well make any repairs. Once completed, you will have a piece of furniture such as a dresser, desk, chair, and table that looks brand new. By reusing and recycling old furniture, you are contributing to the reduction of pollution and green office furniture going into the atmosphere due to large manufacturing practices of new furniture. It is important to look for furniture that is strong and long lasting. As well, look for furniture that is durable and fixable.
  3. Building furniture using reclaimed material is another way to help the environment. Reclaimed wood usually comes from industry left over wood, old furniture, wood from buildings and houses, or flawed wood that cannot be used by a manufacturer. You can use this wood to build just about any type of small furniture that can include chairs, tables, bed frames, desks, dressers, and much more. Small furniture made from reclaimed wood is an energy conserving and forest protecting way of building.
  4. Using recycled metal and plastic is a great way to build small furniture. Metal and plastic can be used for furniture legs, the backing to a seat, and for constructing patio tables and chairs.
Brand new industrial produced furniture contains harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are hazardous to one's health. The toxic off-gasses that are released into the air in one's home have been linked to health conditions such as cancer, and birth defects. As well, flame retardants and formaldehyde are common hazardous off-gasses released from new furniture. It is important to be aware of toxins and chemicals that can be present in the air of our homes. Building small furniture made out of recycled materials is one way we can help the environment and reduce the amount of toxins in our homes.

About the Author:
As you spend long hours at an office, having comfortable office workstation furniture is very important. While global office furniture offers multiple drawers, it helps to remain organized. Green office furniture also offers stability and interesting designs.

Building A Solar Powered Home

When you are considering building a solar powered home, you will be joining a legion of home owners who have decided to go green. A solar powered home takes its energy requirements entirely from a renewable energy source - the sun. You will not be locking into the local power grid. Which means you won't be saddled with high energy costs at the end of the month since solar energy is essentially free.

However, despite these advantages, there are still many people who are prevented from using solar energy in their home because of what they perceive to be the potentially high cost of installing solar panels. You can build a house that runs on solar energy pretty cost effectively. Here are a few factors to consider that will be a low cost way of building a solar powered home.

1. Getting the right materials
One of the best ways to cut down the cost of building your proposed 'green' home is to locate the right materials for the right cost. Get on over to your local hardware store and look for the materials that will turn your home into a solar powerhouse. Ask the store clerk if they sell any copper flashing. You'll need these to build low cost solar panels. Once you get the copper flashing, you will have to heat it for more than 30 minutes. This will oxidize the copper flashing. Next, place the two oxidized panels together with copper flashing that's not been treated. Then pour a solution of salt water on the copper flashing and enclose the materials in a glass panel that's sturdy. This is the solar panel prototype that you will use.

2. Place your panels in sunlight
The next thing you've got to do is place your panels in sunlight. The more sunlight hits your panels the better will be the energy that you get. Hence building a solar powered home largely depends on the location of the solar panels. You should ideally install the solar panels on the roof of your home. Fix the wiring as well so that you can get electricity to the appliances in your home.

You should contact a custom home builder to identify all the important factors when you want to go solar. When you hire a home design consultant that's well versed in sustainable home building, you will be building a solar powered home cost efficiently.

About the Author:
Janet J Strauss is a full time internet marketer. She has written a number of excellent articles on internet marketing topics for many popular websites. Her passion to help others, and to share knowledge has been the main reason for her presence in internet.

Parabolic Trough Solar Field Technology

The term "Parabolic Trough Solar Field Technology" may be quite a mouth full. But what does it actually mean?

This article will explain what parabolic trough solar field technology is and how this form of alternative energy works to provide solar energy on a broad scale.

Parabolic troughs are a solar energy collecting devices which are used to concentrate sunlight on a specific point.

To understand a little more about this you have to know that solar energy is split up into several different fields or methods.
  1. Photovoltaic Solar Energy: this is where solar panels are used to convert sunlight directly into electricity.
  2. Solar Water Heating: This is a method of heating up water through the use of solar energy, usually done through flat-plate collectors on the roof of a house. It is a very efficient and energy saving way of heating water even in colder climates.
  3. Concentrated Solar Power: Concentrated solar power is created by redirecting or focusing direct sunlight on a certain area in order to heat up liquids or gasses which are then used to generate electricity. Currently this last method is one of the cheapest ways to convert solar energy into electricity.
Concentrated Solar Power

Parabolic troughs belong to the last category I mentioned, concentrated solar power. It is one of the ways of redirecting sunlight and focusing it on a central point.

The focal point (the point where all the sunlight converges) will become extremely hot - hot enough to melt steel, in fact, if a large enough parabolic reflector is used.

To utilize the heat generated by the parabolic reflector, a tube is placed at the focal point and a liquid is pumped through the tube. Due to the amount of heat generated, the liquid inside the tube is heated rapidly, and turned into steam.

Steam then travels through a piping system to a steam turbine, where it is used to generate electricity. And that is what concentrated solar power is in all its simplicity.

Several different methods of achieving the same result have been developed, all of which fall under the category of concentrated solar power technology. Another good example are solar towers.

Parabolic Trough Solar Energy Plants

A parabolic trough power plant consists of a solar field, a number of parabolic mirrors in the form of troughs alongside each other. There are many parallel rows of these solar collectors across the solar field (see picture).

A heat collection element, in the form of tubing placed at the focal point of the troughs, fluid is then pumped through the tubing and is heated as it passes along the sections of parabolic troughs.

The heated fluid is then converted to steam and lead to steam turbines which in turn convert it into electricity.

That's the basic setup of a parabolic trough energy plant.

Sustainable Living Articles @

About the Author:
Anna supports the use of solar energy for a cleaner environment and a better future. To learn more, visit her website on Solar Power and Alternative Energy.

Energy Efficient Windows

In an age of increasing environmental awareness, resource conservation, and ever rising energy costs, why not accessorize your home with energy efficient window treatments and enjoy the multiple benefits of this responsible and conscientious option. Since windows account for approximately 30-50% of all heat loss or gain, taking advantage of the many more efficient choices will not only contribute to reduced home energy bills both in summer and winter, but will also assist in maintaining a more comfortable and consistent indoor temperature.

Thermal curtains, cellular or solar shades, wood blinds, or shutters can help insulate your home in the winter, repel heat in the summer, reduce glare while working or watching TV, and protect against damaging ultra violet rays that can fade upholstery, furnishings, and flooring. And since energy efficient window treatments usually provide more complete coverage, you will also appreciate the extra bonus of their privacy, security, and sound-reducing benefits.

Room darkening and energy efficient window coverings were often avoided because they were heavy or bulky and, though they served an indisputable purpose, they offered very little style or character. However, amazing new technologies have found ways of creating energy conserving window treatments that are lighter, practical, stylish, and affordable.

Whether you want cozy comfort or modern pizzazz, classic durability or trendy flamboyance, room darkening for sleeping or sound deadening for studying, energy efficient window coverings are available in a variety of styles that will appeal to your pocketbook without compromising your decor. And making the switch to more efficient window treatments also benefits the environment, reducing the demand for energy and dramatically decreasing the by products created by heating and air conditioning. You can even appease your inner environmentalist by purchasing some of the many eco-friendly products made from recycled materials, chemical free ingredients, and long-life components; thus, reducing landfill waste.

While energy efficient window treatments are a wise choice for both the environmentally and financially conscious, not all products are created equal. New and improved technologies have increased our options and helped make practical choices more attractive; however, since a significant investment is usually required, it is important to make educated and well informed decisions.

With words like R-value, UV transmittance, shading coefficient, and solar reflectance, shopping for the energy efficient can become overwhelming, But don’t let that deter you. A little research and a few brief discussions with window treatment experts will assist you in making the best selection for your home.

Whether you go with simple and easy to clean shutters, elegant and fashionable curtains, or sleek and sophisticated blinds, energy efficient window treatments are both beautiful and manageable, allowing you to control everything from decor to indoor temperature to heating and air-conditioning costs.

Become a green-conscious consumer today. The benefits are amazing! You will realize the immediate perks of a more comfortable home and a less stressed budget, and you will be doing your part in protecting the environment. Energy conservation and cost reduction never looked so good! Not only will your home be beautiful, but both your wallet and planet earth will thank you.

About the Author:
With years of experience in window treatments and design consultation, Mary Hamilton offers insight and tips on choosing and installing window coverings, hardware, and accessories for your home at and includes creative solutions and professional information on the latest energy efficient window treatments available for the environmentally conscientious consumer.

Article Source: - Accessorize Your Green Home with Energy Efficient Window Treatments

Sustainable Green Roofing

Heating and cooling a building is an important design consideration for any building. Construction of a LEED Certified green building opens the doors to many interesting and growing choices. In Louisville Kentucky in the NuLu district a building was built to meet the Platinum standard for LEEDS certification. With innovative designs and Louisville air conditioning service available for seldom needed Louisville air conditioning repair, this building will be a model for other green design buildings. A big component of designing a green building and reducing the demand for air conditioning is the design of the roof. Other elements include the construction design and materials used for the windows. Constructing a building to reduce its energy demand is a challenging and exciting project. Several strategies are employed in the design and construction phase. Some of the strategies that went into the Green Building in the NuLu district of Louisville are helpful touchstones in understanding green design.

Cities tend to be heat islands, absorbing and emitting heat that raises the temperature several degrees higher then the surrounding rural areas. Finding ways to reduce the absorption and subsequent dispersion of heat energy is an essential component in designing a building that contributes to sustainable living. One of the simplest ways of reducing absorption is simply painting the exposed parts of roofs a light color. Black tar roofs in Louisville can reach 170 degrees in the summer. By painting them a reflective color the temperature is reduced, the building requires less cooling and the local aggregate temperature is reduced aiding in the cooling of the heat island.

A truly green roof consists of dirt and grass. This is an old form of roof building that uses the wisdom of ancient builders. Dirt roofs with grass offer several important features. The earthen foundation is cooling and insulating, making it effective in both winter and summer. The grass on the roof offers a cooling surface as well. One of the other benefits is in the water absorption of the roof. A common problem in cities is the vast water runoff that accompanies a rain storm. Most surfaces drop the water immediately into the storm system. A grass and dirt roof absorbs the water letting it seep out over several days, and reducing the amount of run off as the grass holds the moisture.

There are many benefits to creating and installing a green roof. There are some reports that indicate a green roof can cut heating and cooling costs by as much as 20 to 30 percent in a one story building. It can also increase the longevity of a roof by reducing the impact of UV rays on membranes and increasing the waterproofing capabilities. Green roofs can also act as a noise buffering system. Another obvious benefit is the conversion of carbon dioxide into oxygen by the plants on the roof.

There are many reasons to consider a green roof when renovating or designing a building. Some considerations are the additional weight that the earth may require. The weight should be estimated with maximum water absorption considered. Beyond the contribution to a more sustainable way of building, green roofs can be aesthetically pleasing.

Connor Sullivan recently contacted a Louisville air conditioning repair specialist to fix a problem at his office. He scheduled a Louisville air conditioning service specialist to repair his parent's air conditioner.

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Green Architect And Contractor

For those who are planning to build a new house or do some major home remodeling, why not do such tasks the eco-friendly way?. The concepts of green building have taken a major foothold in the home building and construction industry.

Based on US Census figures, it was estimated that more than 1.3 million new homes were built in the United States in 2002, and remodelling and home improvement spending in 1996 amounted to $119 billion. Remodeling or constructing your home gives you a chance to help transform the marketplace towards a sustainability and environment-friendly one, and create living space that's better for you and the environment.

Homes Have A Major Effect On The Environment

It's a fact that homes affect the planet, from the use and depletion of natural resource, human health, to overall ecological integrity. Aside from basic health and safety measures mentioned in the building code, there's no requirement to minimize these impacts. A new home construction or remodel would serve an opportunity in creating a symbolic and physical representation of your commitment to caring for the planet, health, and in a vital and engaged community.

Why It Pays To Find Architects Or Contractors Who Espouse Green Building Concepts

One you try looking for eco-friendly home building concepts and practices, you'll be surprised to quickly find one once you tap into the local design community, that there are a number of firms that have gained stellar reputations for going green.

Upon closer observation, you'll notice that within the general category of green, each firm or architect will have its strong points, as some focus on healthy building, while other concentrate on energy efficiency and/or renewable energy, and some apply their expertise on green materials, natural building techniques, or building modular homes. Look for a professional contractor that has extensive applied experience in building green, and will gladly apply these elements to your home project.

Choosing Green Architects And Home Contractors

Check Out Their Previous Record For Demonstrated Experience

First, do a thorough background check on an architect or contractor's experience with green building. Find out if he or she can point to specific projects in their portfolio, and provide references as well. Aside from ensuring that the architect or contractor is licensed and bonded, ask if he or she is a member of green design organizations or has participated in any programs, and if the contractor follows construction practices that minimize pollution and protects indoor air quality and enhance worker health and safety as well.

Ensure That A Contractor Practices What He Or She Professes

Aska prospective home contractor or architect how he or she operates their business; like does he recycle in the office as well as on the job site? Find out if the green design elements evident,such as environmentally responsible materials and office supplies, energy efficient lighting, fixtures.

Check If Green Concepts Are Incorporated Into the Contract Details

Architects have standard specifications that lays out the orders for everyone involved in building the house, down to how the paint is applied and what quality of materials are chosen for the cabinets. These specifications are generally customized by each company, and further modified for each project. These specs are a powerful tool in green building, while at the same time, are a legal document, and can be tedious to review sometimes. Ask an architect or contractor to give you an overview of the specifications for your project, and ensure that they cover all these. - Real Estate PR

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Floor sanding is an excellent method to transform a room or rooms in a house where old wooden floors have been hidden under carpets. Wooden floors can be restored to their natural beauty making them a feature of the house, and actually increasing the value of your property in many instances. There are various necessary stages that a floor sanding london company will do such as block sanding, the replacement of damaged boards, repairing any cracks, dents or stains and refinishing the floor in laquer, oil or wood stain. Depending on how warm you want the room to feel or if you prefer to go for a light and airy look, there are numerous choices of stains available to suit your chosen finish.

So although many people choose the option of floor sanding for the potential beauty they can achieve with this method, some people are also aware and influenced by the sustainability of their choice.

From a health perspective there is more and more infomation coming to light about the potentially unhealthy effects of carpets and PVC flooring, both of which are two of the most popular choices in Great Britain. In the case of carpets they are a comfortable home for dust which in turn means a build up of dust-mite allergen as well as pet allergena dn also toxic pollutants. PVC holds toxic pollutants also. Animal owners will especially appreciate the issues with carpets as anyone who has had a puppy or kitten will remember the very difficult to destroy stench that remains in a carpet, therefore illustrating how easily other unhealthy things could continue to reside there!

It is indeed a good thing that awareness is growing especially for those with young families who do not need their children to suffer unnecessary health complaints which could be eliminated by taking up the old carpet and deciding to have a floor sanding company in to do the job. One organisation that is championing the awareness cause is the Healthy Flooring Network, which is a group who are concerned about allergies, asthma and other health issues potentially affected by certain types of flooring.

Of course apart from the health sustainability of floor sanding there is the environmental and cultural sustainability to consider. It does not require a lot of common sense to realise that when you take up your old carpets and restore the wooden floor below you are of course recycling. Bearing in mind these days that 80% of our ancient forests have already been destroyed and our remaining 20% is under serious threat from illegal logging. On top of this there are approximately 1.6 billion people who depend on these forests for their livelihood. In case this was not enough to convince you there are the serious effects of de-forestation, with the loss of bio-diversity which is continually adding to the worldwide climate changes.

Floor sanding can add value to your home, while letting you and your family feel healthier living in a cleaner environment. You should also sleep better at night, partly due to a lighter, clearer concscience but also the air quality in your home will be improved, as these floors are then easily maintained and cleaned.

About the Author: Jackie de Burca is co-owner Creative Web Advertising, which is an International internet media consultancy specialising in Pay Per Click, SEO and web consulting. Contact Westend Flooring Masters for floor sanding london for an excellent result.


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Sustainable Interior Design

Green interiors: Where to by sustainable decorative materials,
finishes, surfaces and flooring

Decorating homes with the environment and health in mind can be done without any loss of style Although we understand the health benefits of eating natural or organic food, perversely we have been slow to recognize that how we decorate our homes can also affect our wellbeing. Modern paints, for example, are typically made from vinyl resins and petrochemicals. These not only ‘out-gas’ volatile organic compounds (VOCs) but being non-porous prevent walls from breathing turning rooms into plastic boxes. Non-toxic, breathable finishes – using linseed oil, natural pigments and minerals, and even milk, say – rival and often surpass their modern counterparts for longevity, colour depth and finishes. To partner these, there are masses of stylish options for natural or eco floorings, like linoleum or coir and seagrass matting, and surfaces and wall coverings using recycled glass or old Wellington boots, would you believe it?

Surfaces Dapple Glass
Shimmering accent tiles created from glass cullet to resemble crushed jewels.

A tactile, solid-surface material available in an extensive range of speckled colours. Designed for worktops and tabletops it can also be cast into basins, shower trays and baths. Made with 50% recycled plastic it is itself 100% recyclable.

Eight Inch
Jazzy, hardwearing composite material made from 85% recycled glass chips and solvent-free resins. Available in numerous color combinations and aggregate sizes it can be cast into practically any shape or used as a seamless flooring screed.

Energywise Recycled Glass
Recycled glass tiles available plain or patterned in clear, blue, green or amber.

Smile Plastics
Fun sheet materials suitable for flooring, worktops and cladding and the like, ingeniously recycled from Wellington boots, squeezy bottles, yoghurt pots, bank notes, reject toothbrushes and crisp packets.

Smith & Wareham
Recycled glass mosaic tiles in 16 colours.


Concept Carpets
Luxurious tufted carpets made in Britain with Jacob wool. Free from bleaching agents, chemical dyes and insect and stain repellents, the Jacob’s Velvet comes in three natural colors – cream, pewter and dark brown – as well as five attractive marled versions.

DalNaturel is a ‘new generation’ natural rubber floor covering featuring over 90% natural ingredients (most ‘rubber’ flooring is actually made from SBR, a petrochemical by-product).

Retro-style Marmoleum flooring is made from linseed oil, chalk, wood flour, and pine resin. Available in a wide selection of plain and marbled colours, it comes as both a 200cm wide sheet and as a tile (333 by 333mm square).

Kersaint Cobb
Natural coir, jute, seagrass and sisal floor coverings backed with natural latex.

Panda Flooring
‘Hardwood’ flooring made from bamboo, the most environmentally friendly plant resource on account of its growth rate.

Siesta Cork Tile
Insulating, noise-absorbing, flexible cork floor and wall tiles made from harvestable tree bark in numerous colours, thicknesses and finishes.

The Waveney Rush Industry
Sweet-smelling carpets and matting handmade from natural, renewable rush fibre.

Paints and Finishes Auro
Gloss and eggshell for woodwork and various wall paints as well as a huge range of wood stains, waxes, oils, decorating adhesives, fillers and even paint stripping paste, all free from petrochemicals.

Francesca’s Paints
Traditional lime wash (interior and exterior), ‘chalky’ emulsion, flat oil, eggshell, gloss, masonry and water-based, breathable ‘eco emulsion’ paints, all tinted with natural pigments and mixed by hand in 146 shades.

Georgina Barrow Natural Paints
Matt, water-based emulsion and interior and exterior eggshell paints in 30 muted colours

Precious Earth
Environmentally friendly, low-impact finishes and flooring outlet in Ludlow offering a specialist design consultancy.

Ray Munn
Stockists of the Beckers range of eco-friendly paints, varnishes and finishes from Sweden, which offers a computerized colour-matching service.

Contemporary furniture for the home. Storage, shelving and home office furniture, offering contemporary style and sustainability Further information on eco furniture, eco designers and eco-retailers is available on this site.

About the Author: Contemporary furniture for the home. Storage, shelving and home office furniture, offering contemporary style and sustainability Further information on eco furniture, eco designers and eco-retailers is available on this site.


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Shipping Container Home

Have you ever considered looking into shipping container homes? If the answer is yes, then you are in for a real surprise. For starters, shipping container homes are the most environmentally stable and sound form of home development on the market today.

Using only a tiny percentage of the typical materials to build most standard homes, costs and labor to actually create one of these is astounding compared to constant price increases of your average house today.

The overall structural strength of a shipping container allows the builder to develop multi-story dwellings, offering a larger living space without expanding its footprint. The heavy corrugated steel framing allows the unit to withstand 65,000 lbs of stacked weight.

It has been estimated that 86% of the materials used to build a shipping container home have been recycled. Also, the main foundation design is not as expensive and uses a fraction of material which is much quicker to assemble.

If you are concerned about the transportation infrastructure of these containers, no need to worry because it already exists, so the container homes can be easily moved by train, ship or truck, thus reducing major transport time.

Everything needed to complete the final product is delivered in one trip. An investment is already made by not having to pay extra money for several deliveries and separate construction materials.

Many people today have explored the possibility of getting a shipping container home. With a little research on the internet, you will be amazed at what is available today. The cost of regular constructed houses are sky rocketing as we speak. Even the materials being used are getting cheaper and seem to not last as long as they once did in the past. With the money you can save by investing into a container home, a bright future is in store for you.

Anyone who would like more information on shipping container homes, please visit my site below.
Container Homes

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Sustainable Kitchen Design

There is a looming reality taking place in the society today. Increasing concerns on global warming and rising energy prices are on the loose, and so, the concept of high-performance homes and sustainable designs are considered to be urgent issues. The need for more energy-efficient utility and facility designs is inevitable.

A home's energy and conservation points are located within the house itself. A large part of domestic costs are from maintenance, service, and energy. Reports on energy analysis have shown that homes together with buildings, commercial establishments, and facilities contribute tremendous consumption of resources especially energy, which accounts nearly 40 - 60% of the total consumption. Lighting, refrigeration, plumbing, and fire-fighting facilities represent the largest percentage of structural energy demand. Because of the impact on energy, it is important that efficient facility designs are integrated into a home or building.

These things when left unattended can wreak havoc not only to the structure's life cycle but more importantly on its operation and maintenance cost. With this, it is not surprising why homeowners do not just entrust facilities design to ordinary contractors. They assign it to the best professionals in town who can weave in all aspects and engineer the whole into a fine working specimen that can breathe efficiently for years to come.

Considering the many parts of a home, the kitchen is considered to be one of the most important sections. This is where the family's food are being stored, prepared, and cooked.

Hence, it is important to maintain safety and security at all times to ensure harmonious work in the area. Additionally, this is where most of the appliances are located. Hence, among all other parts in the house, the kitchen contributes almost half of the total energy consumption. With this, it is equally important to create a kitchen design that will match the requirements of integrated or sustainable design.

Why Sustainable Design?

Sustainable design, when incorporated within a home or building, triggers high performance and various advantages and keep energy consumption at a minimum. Creating sustainable kitchen design includes putting together "green design strategies" into standard design criteria. With this, you may consider the following areas:

1. Lighting design

Lighting efficiency is an essential factor in developing high-performance in homes. Like HVAC, several factors are necessary to ensure sustainable development in building operations - quality of lighting, aesthetics, energy efficiency, etc.

Designs that provide occupancy or light-level sensors, lighting controls, and dimming systems to determine when lights are illuminated, optimizes lighting needs, and provides homeowners with timed overrides. With advanced lighting designs, modulated lighting levels in proportion to available daylight are possible, which, in the end, saves energy. With this, you can maximize light coming from natural source. You may also use window panels that are specifically designed for optimizing the principles of sustainable development.

2. Materials

Wallpapers, table countertops, wood cabinets, carpet tiles - every material used in your kitchen should be designed according to the current standards of sustainable or green design. In this way, you can be sure that whatever material you use in your kitchen, you can be sure that you do not just provide clean living to your family but you also help protect the environment.

3. Appliances

To match the sustainability of your kitchen, make it a point to use appliances that provides high energy savings and are environmentally friendly. Among all appliances being used in the kitchen, refrigerators are considered to be the most important. This is where you keep and preserve your food.

Temperature control is critical to food safety, shelf-life and quality. However, in most cases temperature control and energy consumption do not go along together. You want to keep food fresh by providing better gauge on the temperature, which will eventually put an impact on your energy consumption. Higher temperature means higher electricity bills. But with a good refrigeration design, you can be sure that you can keep these two factors working harmoniously together.

With increasing requirements for energy efficient facilities in most countries and with the growing environmental awareness, the idea of incorporating sustainable design into your kitchen will not just provide your family a better environment within your home but also offer the community a better place to live.

Jo is an author and publisher for 'Benchmark Interiors' - - a UK kitchen furniture company that focuses in bespoke handmade kitchens, bedroom and home office furniture development and fabrication. If you are eager to create a sustainable kitchen design and want it to be austere yet useful or just want to know about bespoke kitchens design then you ought to have a look at Benchmark Interiors.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about sustainability rebates - Sanctuary magazine issue 9

Energy Efficient Homes

With all costs on the rise, adding up to the already huge problem with the New York housing crunch and worldwide economic woes; more and more people are searching of ways to cutback on costs. In our homes, one of the largest shares where our hard-earned budget goes to is the energy bill, thus making the efficient use of energy a great way to reduce monthly expenses. With that said, let us look into superb ideas to achieve energy efficient homes which are practical whether you are in Long Island, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan or Queens.

Energy Efficient Homes Idea #1:

Proper and Enough Insulation and Sealing

Other than maximized indoor comfort and increased home value, proper and enough insulation and sealing also makes your HVAC systems work less hard thus resulting to less operation costs and lower energy bills. Unknown to many homeowners, a well-insulated home extends beyond just the exterior walls and the attic. You should also ensure insulation in these areas: floors, ceilings especially those below unheated areas, basement walls, kneewalls, overhangs, and between interior walls.

Air leaks are silent predators that waste much energy even if you own a set of state-of-the-art energy efficient systems. Sealing should be approached in such as way that the whole house is benefited starting from the systems alone with its series of ducts and pipings to the walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors, electrical outlets, and lighting and plumbing fixtures.

Energy Efficient Homes Idea #2:


Saving energy with lighting can be done in many ways.

• Replace existing lighting fixtures with efficient models that give off as much brilliance but uses up less electricity like compact fluorescent bulbs, reflector lamps and tungsten halogen.
• Make use of lighting controls such as dimmers and other devices that reduce the time that lights are on unnecessarily.
• Make full use of natural lighting.

Energy Efficient Homes Idea #3:

Solar Panels

When thinking of energy-efficiency, nothing beats making full use of natural resources as not only are they powerful, they are free as well. One of the most popular innovations in natural resource-use is solar panels. Solar panels can come as solar thermal collectors with which the energy from the sun is used to heat water or liquid fuels, or solar photovoltaic modules that convert sunlight into electricity.

Energy Efficient Homes Idea #4:


A good percentage of energy consumption in homes results from operating appliances. When shopping for appliances, it would be wise to pick those with the Energy Star label. Though the initial cost would be much higher, think about the long-term benefits. When computing the ‘real’ cost, you should also take operating costs and annual energy consumption into consideration. Looking into such factor proves that energy-efficient appliances are wise investments.

Energy Efficient Homes Idea #5:

Proper Maintenance of Appliances and Home Systems

Without regular cleaning and proper maintenance, appliances and HVAC systems would be working laboriously. This added strain would not only lead to damages but more consumption of energy as well. So, check your manuals for recommended ways of cleaning and proper equipment maintenance.

About the Author:
Eugene Makeev uses his skills and expertise to help home owners in Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island avoid the common pitfalls by matching their needs with prescreened remodeling contractors New York.

Visit us for more on Remodeling Long Island.

Article Source: - Ideas for Achieving Energy Efficient Homes

Sustainable Housing Design

Keys To Sustainable Construction

There are as many definitions of “green” as there are shades of color. Wikipedia defines a green building, also known as a sustainable building as “ a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner.”

Dade County Florida's Website reads that, “Sustainable building practices go beyond energy and water conservation to incorporate environmentally sensitive site planning, resource efficient building materials and superior indoor environmental quality.” The website lists five key benefits of sustainable construction that seems to concisely capture the “spirit” of the green building concept.

- Lower electric and water utility costs
- Environmentally effective use of building materials
- Enhanced health and productivity
- Long-term economic returns
- Reduced environmental impact

The need to reduce costs associated with energy production and importing building materials, the importance of conserving water and natural resources and minimizing environmental impact are challenges that are even more paramount within our island communities. Green initiatives provide excellent benefits but carry a pricetag asociated with implementation. We've looked at the benefits and the challenges, but what are the affordable solutions?

Lower Eletric and Water Utility costs
Thin-film solar and Atmospheric Water Generation are two affordable technolgies that fit expectioannly well in the Caribbean region. With the abundance of sunshine we receive intermingled with overcast days, it is still estimated that a solar radiation of 4-5 hours per day is typical for the region. Using lighweight thin-film solar, with a capacity of an estimated 5 watts/sq ft. a typical 1,200 sq ft home could easily support a roof laminted 3,000 Watt solar power system. A system of this size would generate an estimated 12-15kWh per day. By reducing electiical lighintg, cooling, and appliance loads to less than 4k the solar system can also be recued in size.

How do we reduce our electrical load calculations? Design and retrofit with L.E.D. Lighting, A typical home using high efficiency L.E.D. lighting would use just under 250 Watts for the entire lighting circuit and provide equal or higher lumen output than convenienal incandescent or CFL lighting systems. Heat pump water heating technologies provide an estimates 7,000 btu output and a max water temp of 135 while using less than 800 watts nominal. Air Conditioning units using proven ductless-split DC Inverter technologies provide remote controlled zoned cooling while using as little as 1,200 watts for a 11,000btu system. Energy efficient appliances are readily available and help to reduce overall electrical loads

A very natural solution for clean water production in the Caribbean has been around since the beginning of time. Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG) systems use the natural humidity in the air to produce up to 6gallons per day of pure filtered drinking water without the need for any plumbing or realated infrastructure. Dispensing 99.9% pure water, the AWG system can be operated directly from solar power or plugs into a standard household outlet. With a built in water heating element the units dispense hot or cold water on demand without the need for maintaining an inventory of bottled water. Production costs are estimated between $0.06 -0.14 per gallon of water.

Environmentally Effective use of Building Materials
What's needed is a building system that can resist high winds, is versatile, structural, provides a high level of insulation, minimim waste and is affordable. Concrete Structural Insulated Panels (CSIP) provide an excellent alternative to conventional concrete block construction in the Caribbean. Proven and accepted throughout the United States, CSIP's are pre-designed, pre-cut, professionally engineered, insulated, provide a strucural frame and exterior and interior concrete fire resistant surfaces for finishing. These lighweight concrete panels are produced by manufacturers that are members of the Unites States Green Building Council (USGBC) such as T.Clear Corp of Hamilton Ohio. Their ProTec® CSIP building system provides less skilled labor, reduces wall construction time to a matter days verses months and is competitively afforadble when compared to block or conventioanl construction techniques. The company literature states the panels are “framing, sheathing, insulation and interior wall surface all in one. This equates to building more homes in les time with fewer associated costs and waste.

Enhanced Health and Productivity
Clean water, fresh air, low VOC and no off-gasing products should be the benchmark for homes built under the “green” design concept. Energy conservation and eco-friendly homes do not happen by accident, it takes planning and design guidelines to ensure homes provide comfort, style and are also affordable. Choosing off the shelf products that are eco-friendly minimize costs and help descrease the time required to source specialized products that add time and expense to the construction process. Despite the misconception, “green homes” can be stylish, affordable and built on a reduced timeline.

The Protec® Building System is currently used by HDC Development Corp within the Bahamas to build as it describes, “Net Zero Energy Homes”. Recently receing apporavel from The Bahamas Ministry of Works, the Protec Building System® is meticuoslesy engineered to design loads of up to 150 mile per winds. According to the information from the company's website, these “Net Zero Energy Homes” gerernate more energy than they consume, have minimal environmental impact, resist high winds and are very compatiable to developers seeking higher construction productivity rates.

Long-term Economic Returns
Unfortunately, when green initiatives are initially introduced into some regions for the first time, typically there exists an entense amount of resistance as traditional stakeholders, with entrenched concepts and methods are challenged by the new technology. However, for the greater good of the entire Caribbean region, traditional beauracratis “red tape” needs to be pierced so that a new generation may benefit from the advances in proven technology and ensure our regions continued success in the renewable energy amd sustainable development sectors.

Openminded acceptance of proven “green technologies” will bring investment, trainig, jobs and prosperity to the Caribbean region. The region is ideal to capture the full potential of clean solar and wind power generation. Long-term economic growth is the fruit that's harvested when we plant the seeds of green initiavtes today.

Reduced environmental impact
Waste reduction, resource conservation and matinainting pure water inventories are important issues that face any region, but even more so here in the Caribbean islands. As our population grow so does the need to pay more strict attention to the subject of waste management and recycling. Education and acceptance of recycling is the key. Conservation is an adopted lifestyle and the population must see it as a benefit in order to embrace it. Tangible incentives such as reductions in Waste Collection rates for househgolds that recycle, reduced utility rates for homes with Solar or wind Power Generation systems and reduced municipal water rates for households with Atmospheric Water Generators would go a long way to helping the large public adopt and embrace “going green”.

Lets hope the islands of the Caribbean region can by careful and wise use of our startegic natural resources become the worldwide leader in the adoption and implemntation of proven green technologies. It is clear we have the most to gain and success will equate to increased toursim, investment, training, jobs and prosperity for our region.

About the Author:
Kanchoo - International Green Building Consultant, Desinger and Builder has combined 24+ years of construction, lighting, electronics and engineering experience into concise sensible solutions for designing and building Energy Efficient Panelized "Green" Homes from the foundation to the roof. Each article features practical and affordable solutions to design and build "Zet Zero Energy Homes".

Article Source: - How Green Are You? - Keys to Sustainable Construction

Eco Green Bathroom

While building a new green home may not be in everyone's household budgets, there are plenty of eco home renovation ideas for your current abode.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that between 1992 and 2002, Australians spent over $1.6 billion on home renovation. And with the current economic downturn, more and more homeowners are considering hanging on to their residents and giving them a new look instead of buying a new one.

One of the first renovation considerations for most homeowners is remodelling the bathroom. That salmon colour scheme with sea foam green might have been a great look for the 50s, but it just might not be your cup of tea.

For the eco minded renovation, there are many sustainable options for the bathroom. From tips to save water, energy - and some precious cleaning time - here are some Green Pages eco home tips for a sustainable bathroom:

Eco Home Tip # 1 - Up cycle/Recycle - Consider second hand pieces for furniture. An old dresser or buffet could make a great vanity. By visiting some great recycle shops, you may find a treasure trove to inspire the ecomagination.

Eco Home Tip # 2 - Lighting au natural - consider installing a skylight to let in natural light during the day. Many skylights can also be ventilated which will save on cleaning (see Eco Tip 5). For artificial, opt for energy efficient globes and fixtures.

Eco Home Tip # 3 - Hey you, try a water saving loo - Australians were the first to pioneer dual flush toilets, let's all be proud. The unique shape of the bowl is the secret behind this ingenious invention, which can save on average 35,000 litres of water a year. There's also the option of installing a waterless urinal in your home, the perfect water saving solution for a house of growing boys.

Eco Home Tip # 4 - Low flow taps and showerheads - Get your fittings measured up and put in flow restrictors or install some low flow fittings. When getting your plumbing put in, call certified Green Plumber who can answer many of our eco bathroom questions.

Eco Home Tip # 5 - Ventilation Revolution - Hate cleaning the bathroom? Here's a quick tip - by installing a fan or ceiling ventilation, you reduce the build up of mold, mildew and foul odors. This means less cleaning, especially with those harsh bleach based chemical cleaners. (which you should ditch for eco cleaning ideas)

Eco Home Tip # 6 - Eco IS a material change - there are eco option for practically everything, solvent free eco paint, sustainable timber or bamboo cabinetry, recycled glass tiles, screens, blinds, windows, everything you can think of.

Do your research on sustainable architecture and eco home products such as those listed on the Green Pages green directory for the green home.

And don't forget, once you have eco bathroom of your dreams, stock it up with some great eco home products. Delectably scented beeswax candles, luxurious organic cotton or bathroom towels, organic hemp shower curtains and organic soaps (and of course recycled loo paper!) are just some great items you can use to give the your own personal eco touch.

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Watch the 2009 LEED green building market and impact report webinar video.

Sustainable Home Building

Sustainable home building features the conservation of resources to a large degree. In a finite environment using resources efficiently is the hallmark of a new method of building your home. Using recycled products is part of this process.

In building a home with a view to conserving energy, your house will be architecturally designed to reflect this. When your home is energy efficient, you'll use less energy to power your house. Less energy means burning less finite fossil fuel. Therefore, you'll be responsible for less carbon emissions into the environment. You won't be contributing to the greenhouse effect.

Indoor air quality is another significant feature of sustainable home building. The better the flow of air in your home, the healthier your home occupants will be. Stale air is harmful for long term health. You should ideally get fresh air circulating through your home. With the right design, your home can be built in a way that maximizes the flow of indoor air and improves the air quality in your home.

In an attempt to conserve energy, the use of any source of renewable energy will be maximized. This means your home will be at the forefront of solar and wind energy usage. At least a part of your electricity requirements could come off the grid from solar or even wind power.

With solar powered heating and electricity, your energy and utility bills will likely take a nosedive. This is good news if you're keen on conserving your cash resources. Before you go about hiring an architect to design your home, you might want to consider sustainable home building as an option. Not only will you be saving money but you'll have a home that's ergonomically and holistically built.

As you'll be intimately involved in the design process, you can be sure that your home will be not only comfortable but totally in keeping with your unique vision. You'll enjoy the planning and building stages a whole lot better.

Contact a custom home builder for the best and most efficient homes. When you hire a custom home builder, what you'll actually be doing is engaging design and home building professionals who will design and build your home holistically. Your home will be viewed as an entire unit with many inter-connected parts that will gel together perfectly. Choose sustainable home building for your new home!

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Green Home Building

Green homes are expected to make up to ten percent of new home construction over the next several years, according to a study done by McGraw-Hill Construction. Homeowners are interested in purchasing green homes because of the benefits they offer -- from healthier indoor air to energy savings.

What are some of the primary benefits of a green home? Such a home is constructed with much thought given to the materials used in construction. Building materials are expected to be toxin-free, sustainable and energy-efficient. The use of toxin-free building materials helps combat indoor air pollution. Since we are exposed to the air in our homes as much or more often than outside air, indoor pollution can pose serious health risks to residents. A healthier home means fewer visits to the doctor and hopefully fewer respiratory problems.

Besides potential health savings, the net cost of owning a green home is typically comparable to, if not cheaper than a standard home. People who live in green homes save money by consuming less energy and fewer resources than standard homes. The savings add up over the years in decreased energy and water bills.

Insurance companies are becoming convinced that green may be the way to go. More and more insurance companies are offering discounts on policies covering green homes. Similarly, there are even a few mortgage companies offering discounted loan rates for home buyers buying green.

Here are some of the reasons for the heightened interest and discounts offered by the business community:

A green home is often more durable than standard homes because of its high-quality building materials and construction processes, requiring fewer repairs.

The value of a green home is often higher than that of a comparable standard home, and the market demand for green homes is expected to rise. A green housing development in New York has demonstrated the ability to command ten to fifteen percent higher rental rates than comparable units in the surrounding area.

And local, state and federal governments are increasingly offering tax breaks and incentives for building a green home or adding green features to an existing home.

What are some of the features of a green home? Efficient plumbing and bathing fixtures, drought-tolerant landscaping and water-conserving irrigation systems help green homes use less water than standard homes. This feature will become increasingly important as the prospect of water shortages loom in some parts of the country.

Because many green building materials incorporate significant recycled content, they require the use of fewer natural resources. The amount of excess building materials dumped in landfills is significantly less than the amount generated by traditional practices.

Some green homes incorporate carpets and floor tiles from recycled tires and bottles. Other homes use salvaged materials or renewable and sustainable products, such as bamboo, hemp and soybean. Homeowners can choose countertops made from recycled street lights and other recycled glass.

Low-volatile organic compound paints and finishes inside the home reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. Formaldehyde-free insulation also insures fewer dangerous chemicals are released into the atmosphere.

Energy-efficient appliances, insulation, roofing materials, doors and windows lower heating and cooling bills.

In many cases, builders are also including universal design elements into green homes. These designs, which include wider doorways, no stairs, flat entries and accessible bathrooms, sinks and showers, assure that people with varying abilities can live in and age in their homes and their neighborhoods.

Preston Sandlin is a home inspector and real estate investor in Charlotte NC. He has been performing home inspections and buying real estate in Charlotte NC for over 12 years. He is a member of the North Carolina Home Inspector's Association, the Charlotte Regional Realtors Association, and the BBB.

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Aesthetic And Sustainable Architecture

I recently attended a global eco design conference. Whilst the basic principles of a sustainable house such as insulation, ventilation and orientation to suit the climate were good - the resulting houses seemed to lack something. They didn't seem to have much intrinsic beauty or elegance.

The only principle that was mentioned that excited me was "bio-mimicry" - copying nature. Although the concept has been around for some time, it has been brought to prominence recently by by Janine Benyus in her book ""Biomimicry, Innovation Inspired by Nature". It was mentioned at the conference by Ray Anderson - an American manufacturer of commercial carpet tiles who is trying to make his company more sustainable and it was also touched on by Dr David Suzuki - the famous environmentalist - who also spoke at the conference. It seems to be the latest buzz word.

Perhaps it is the fact that Vedic houses - those based on ancient Sthapatya Vedic principles - are also based on natural design that makes them have a better feeling and which makes them look more appealing.

I have had a house built according to these principles. It faces true East and is aligned to the cardinal points. This design in accordance with natural laws is called "Vastu". You enter from the East and North sides only. One of the main guiding principles is that everything good comes from the East. But this doesn't mean that you can't also design your house to suit the climate (in my case the tropics) and filter the light if necessary and have large eves.

So the design corresponds to the effect of light on the earth - to the effect of the sun. In fact you can work out what true North is simply by observing what the sun does to the shadows it creates at different times of day. You can also use a GPS to confirm it.

In Vedic architecture the placement and dimensions of the rooms, as well as the length, width and elevation of the building are individually calculated. The measurements are based on ancient mathematical formulas. These formulas take into consideration, among other factors, the relationship of the house owner with the planets according to Jyotish (Indian Astrology). So the design relates to the people - it isn't based on some man-made notions of what would be good.

According to Vedic principles, the nourishing aspects of the house are placed on the East side of the house just as the rising sun coming from the East provides nourishment. So the meditation room is placed in the North East corner to nourish the spiritual aspects of the individuals in the house. The kitchen which nourishes the physiology is placed in the South-East. The North is considered the best side of the house in which to pursue creative activities and so that is where the study is located. The Western side of the house embodies the qualities of the setting sun - that being relaxation, calmness and restful sleep. So it is the best side on which to locate bedrooms and relaxation rooms. So in this sense, they are also mimicking nature.

I think that a lot of houses these days lack the fine details (see We used to have the beauty of ornate cornices and ceilings shaped like flowers and so on. When Ray Anderson talked about bio-mimicry he gave the example of his carpet tile designers going into the forest. They found that every part of it was different and that no two leaves or other parts of it were the same and yet the overall effect was one of unity. So he decided to make a range of tiles where no one tile was the same as the other. They were very popular. This also explains the beauty of marble tiles - no one tile is ever the same as all the others.

Vedic houses have this attention to detail and their aesthetic beauty arises as a result of it. For example, the house is elevated on a plinth which makes it appear more grand and stately and the roof is adorned with an intricately shaped and curved kalash. Modern sustainable houses need to learn some of these principles so that they too will be satisfying on all levels and not just functional.

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Sustainable Home Decorating

If your house was built before the eco-friendly design craze, you may be asking yourself how you can contribute to the "green movement" without the energy-efficient architecture or the 100% organic building materials. There are in fact many ways for homeowners with older residences to develop environmentally sound practices within their households. Improving your sustainability does not have to be expensive or time-consuming either; there are many quick and inexpensive fixes that make major differences.

Simple changes, such as switching from regular light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, are not only more sustainable environmentally, but also economically. Similarly, ensuring that you fix any major drafts in doors and windows will save energy as well as money off your bills.

Whether you have an older house that needs constant attention or your home only requires the occasional repair, careful thought should be dedicated to any renovation projects-big or small. Before beginning the work, plan out every detail involved in the design aspects as well as materials in order to avoid running into glitches that could potentially waste time, energy and supplies.

Consult online resources to determine which products have the least amount of environmental repercussions. If you are contracting out any work, evaluate the builder's familiarity with sustainable design and construction. For do-it-yourself projects, be sure not to overestimate your expertise because having to completely restart work is wasteful as well.

Decorating and interior design are also important factors in improving household sustainability. Because "organic" and "green" have become such trendy modifiers, make sure you are not tricked by misleading marketing. Just because a product's packaging is green in color does not make it green in concept. When it comes to decorating in a sustainable fashion, the options are endless. Today you can find organic or environmentally friendly alternatives to nearly every household item.

Investing in sustainable home decor can be a weighty decision since most furniture, lighting and accessories tend to have long lifetimes. If you are not ready to purchase a large item such as a couch or dining room table, accessories such as natural fiber area rugs may be a good first step towards sustainability. Just like any remodeling work, research is equally important when making interior decorating decisions.

Natural fiber rugs can be found very easily in retail outlets and on online stores. The name suggests an earthy, simple design; however, there are also very high-quality refined styles. Living interiors with any composition can be enhanced by the addition of a natural fiber rug.

Rugs vary in material and include sisal area rugs, wool area rugs, seagrass area rugs and jute area rugs. Weaves range in smoothness with some accentuating the fiber texture while others tend to hide it. Area rugs made of refined piled jute have a softer feel and a more sophisticated, contemporary style. The seagrass rugs found in the Botanical Blends collection by Fibreworks emphasize the beautiful natural materials. With style names like "Garden Grove," "Spring Twine," and "Summer Lace," you can imagine these accessories perfectly in a sunroom, screened-in porch or patio.

A potpourri look can be found in rugs with a blend of different natural fibers. This option portrays a traditional country feel that would warm up the flooring of a kitchen or family room. While neutrals and subtle tones are the norm for natural fiber rugs, you can also find varieties in vibrant colors to match any room accents.

Whether you are just beginning to "green-up" your living space, or you are well on your way, consider natural fiber rugs when making new home decorating decisions.

Rachel Messina is a decorating enthusiast, a writer and Internet marketing specialist with Mountain Media, an eCommerce solutions firm that works with clients such as Georgia Mills Direct, an online source for natural fiber rugs including seagrass area rugs and sisal area rugs.

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"The Natural House, is a thirty minute home tour, building and ‘workshop’ series that illustrates how homeowners incorporate innovative architectural design, natural building materials, and flexible construction techniques to create uniquely livable homes that reflect principles of harmony, economy, self-reliance, health and ecological balance. Each of the first thirteen episodes – and twenty six homes – will introduce viewers to unique houses and homeowners, forward looking builders, and visionary designers who have created sustainable homes utilizing the latest innovative sustainable and green technologies. In addition, each program in the series will include two on The Natural House pilot has been produced and directed by Ed Eberle."

"David Johnston and Scott Gibson offer guidance on environmentally sensitive home building in Green from the Ground Up: Sustainable, Healthy, and Energy-Efficient Home Construction (Taunton Press, paperback). The book is packed with information, tips, illustrations and case studies that offer wisdom earned from experience." -- Detroit Free Press (Michigan)
"Eco-friendly housing used to be thought of as expensive, ugly or just plain weird. Now it's becoming common. David Johnston and Scott Gibson offer guidance on environmentally sensitive home building in Green from the Ground Up: Sustainable, Healthy, and Energy-Efficient Home Construction. The book helps builders and homeowners create houses that conserve natural resources and are energy-efficient and healthful. It's packed with information, tips, illustrations and case studies that offer wisdom earned from experience." -- McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Natural Lighting, Sustainable Design, And Retractable Awnings

Natural lighting is one integral - but often overlooked - concept in both standard architectural design and sustainable design. Natural lighting is an appealing design statement because it is naturally lovely. It also is significantly more energy efficient because it reduces dependence on artificial light for most of the day.

The key to incorporating natural light is in providing brightness while managing glare - and that's where retractable awnings can be a crucial design element.

The Importance of Lighting in Architecture Lighting is an incredibly important method to highlight the mood and functionality of a space. In traditional architecture, natural lighting creates a specific mood to enhance comfort. Nowadays, sustainable design is introducing a complementary feature: to save energy.

One architectural book defines the patterns of light and dark as a "tapestry" that balances the room. Light highlights functional areas; it establishes and smoothes visual contrasts. Effective lighting strategies blend color, contrast, and shadows, which makes the variability of natural light attractive. The uniformity of artificial light can't bring the same delicate touch.

Additionally, artificial light isn't necessary. There is a giant (and electricity-free) light source right in the sky. Sustainable designs - called daylighting - use sunlight as an interior light source to cut down electricity usage. Because this is so energy-efficient, daylighting is a highly desirable component energy efficiency programs, even recognized by LEED certifications.

The key is to make the lighting scheme effective, so natural lighting has to: $ Mitigate heat gain. Too much heat, and air conditioning use becomes an energy issue. $ Control glare and UV rays. Direct sunlight can cause problems with normal tasks (reading or working at a computer). $ Optimize light. Sunlight can be a good thing, not just a thing. Good lighting creates a feeling of warmth, comfort, and well-being, as well as reduces headaches and eye strain.

Where Retractable Awnings Fit In The key to natural light is controlling that light, and that's where retractable awnings are a vital design concept.

Retractable awnings have long been incorporated in traditional architecture to produce translucent shading - in other words, diffuse natural light. As part of a lighting scheme, retractable awnings bring two important advantages: $ The fabrics of these awnings softly diffuse light, producing the warmth of the color reflecting from the fabric. $ The exterior shade from retractable awnings reduces glare and prevents UV rays from entering a room.

Retractable awnings enhance sustainable lighting design, as well, through better efficiency than windows, window tinting, blinds and shades, or fixed awnings: $ Retractable awnings reduce summer heat gain by blocking sunlight during hot, long-light months. This reduces heat gain by as much as 77% (up to 20 degrees) and cuts air conditioning use by 25%. $ Retractable awnings allow winter heat gain. This is incredibly important. Sunlight is crucial to providing natural heat during autumn and winter. Cutting off sunlight permanently through fixed awnings or heavy window treatments actually increases energy use in winter months - more than it saves in summer.

Designing with Retractable Awnings Design isn't a product. Design is a plan. Retractable awnings can enhance the lighting of a room or save money simply by being installed. But you can really maximize your investment and get truly spectacular results with a little bit of planning.

First and most important, look at the fabric. High-quality retractable awnings (even in budget lines) use solution-dyed acrylic. It's a durable, stain-resistant, fade-resistant fabric with excellent color quality. Even better, it's approved by the American Skin Cancer Association for its UV protection. Because solution-dyed acrylic is synthetic, it is available in an astonishing array of colors and patterns. For maximum impact on natural lighting designs, consider retractable awnings fabrics in warm, honey-colored tones like dark yellows, beige, orange, or cream. That palette provides very soft color that reduces glare while still being bright and cheerful.

Another major factor are accessories for the retractable awning. Motors are a cinch; motorized retractable awnings are used four times more often than manual retractable awnings according to industry research. Other features like remote controls or switches allow awnings to be installed in otherwise inaccessible areas - over extremely high windows, sides of buildings, or over walkways - and be opened and closed easily. Other features like timers, wind sensors, and rain sensors can protect the retractable awning in threatening weather (and times with lowlight, when any natural light should be maximized).

And always remember to look at the frame. Almost all of the function of a retractable awning comes from what it offers indoors (light control, energy efficiency) but its beauty comes from how it looks outside. There are many frame styles, and high-end assemblers can custom-size retractable awnings to the inch. Plan where you need an awning based on your lighting and energy needs inside - but match the style to the outside for the best curb appeal.

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Retractable Awnings offers afforable high quality awnings, which are durable and easy to install.