7 Questions to Ask Your Contractor About Green Buildings

The “green” movement is picking up speed, and we at Brown Wegher feel that it’s about time. When you can use sustainable resources, minimize building materials, capitalize on solar energy, and reduce your draw on the land—all while creating a safe, beautiful building that will protect your products, grow your business, or employ area residents—it’s a win-win.

While the question of whether or not to “go green” may be an easy one to answer, we recognize there are other questions you may have about how to make the most of an environmentally friendly building. And that’s why we’re here today.

Ok, so green buildings are awesome. But aren’t they also expensive?
Yes and no. Yes, the construction of green buildings is typically more expensive than conventional buildings. However, there can be substantial cost savings throughout the life of the building, specifically concerning maintenance, efficiency ratings, and energy costs. The return on investment for green construction is considerable, especially with larger buildings.

What’s the first thing I should consider to make my building design more sustainable?
In a word: windows. Did you know that over 50% of the electricity used in offices comes from lighting? If the majority of the work that happens inside your building is during the day, make use of that gloriously FREE sunshine as much as possible. Include large windows throughout your exterior, and try to limit the number of walls that make dark corners. Sun tunnels and skylights also are great additions. The use of natural light is a smart business move on many levels; it not only saves money, but it also has been shown to boost employee spirits and increase productivity.

If I have to put lighting in, are LEDs worth the hype?
Definitely. LEDs are currently the most energy efficient lightbulb available for residential and commercial use. While they are more expensive up front, like most sustainable efforts, they are over 75% more efficient than their incandescent counterparts. Bonus: they also don’t produce the wasted heat that incandescents do.

How much does insulation have a part in sustainability?
A large part, if interior climate control and energy savings are important to you (and we assume they are). Spending a little more up front on insulation with a high “R-value” is a great investment and will likely pay for itself quickly. Add to the savings by installing an energy-efficient roof, such as one that has a highly reflective surface.

Speaking of climate control, what should consider when buying an HVAC system?
Regarding efficiency, there is a huge difference between the cheaper HVAC systems and their more expensive competition. Higher quality systems save energy in a variety of ways, from using cooler outside air during spring and fall to incorporating geothermal energy for heating and cooling during the more extreme seasons.

If I already have an HVAC system in place, how can I increase its efficiency?
First, sign up for a full system semi-annual maintenance. Regular maintenance ensures your HVAC system continues to function efficiently. If you sign up for a semi-annual contract, your HVAC contractor will give your system a full check-up before every summer and winter. The increased efficiency usually pays for the cost of the contract, and the added comfort won’t go unnoticed. Next, install ceiling fans. And the use them. Air movement alone helps the environment feel three to five degrees cooler, reducing the strain on (and the cost of using) your HVAC system. Last, set all HVAC systems to the same temperature.

These seem like great ideas for commercial buildings, but what about homes?
Green construction isn’t limited to commercial buildings anymore. There are an increasing number of products that save a number of resources. By using sustainable building products, employing earth-elegant design techniques, and energy efficient appliances and systems, people can benefit from smaller carbon footprints AND smaller household expenses.

We’re happy to continue this conversation with you in person. Contact us to see how we can help you save energy, money, and the planet during your next construction project.

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