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Patrick Gibson

Green, sustainable building is conquering the world of architecture. It’s no wonder - building homes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient is rewarding on many levels. By building homes that are “green” you’re minimizing impact on both people’s health and the natural environment.

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Image Credit: GJ Gardner

What are the main characteristics of a green home? To begin with, it is a building that efficiently uses natural resources and alternative sources of energy. It is a home that preserves the health of its occupants and helps in reducing pollution, waste and environmental degradation.

Let’s see what every green home must include in order to be a true, eco-friendly building.

Materials used in green building

Whenever we build, there has to be some sort of environmental cost. We often use natural materials and expendable energy resources uncontrollably. People think that using only wood, for example, will immediately make their house or lodge sustainable, but this is far from the truth.

The first and the most important rule when it comes to materials is: always use sustainable, local materials that are recycled or recyclable. This often means reusing existing materials and reducing waste. Timber can be used in green building too, if it’s locally and sustainably sourced and FSC-certified.

Also, the more processed the material is, the more energy was spent (embodied) to produce it. Therefore, green homes should be constructed from materials that have low embodied energy. Alternative forms of concrete are always a better option than conventional concrete, the production of which is responsible for high carbon emissions.

Sometimes, even materials we consider “junk” can be used in the construction of a green home: tires, bottles, cans, materials left over from the pre-existing building, etc. Wood from fast growing trees (instead of hardwood), recycled stone, rammed earth, straw bale and mud brick are the traditional materials that most builders turn to nowadays.

Clever design for an energy efficient home

The design is another important factor in making a building “green”. Sustainable homes are smartly built – which means they are designed to last long, to fit the climate and use all the benefits their environment provides. Passive design almost always involves positioning homes in relation to the sun and shade to reduce the use of electricity. This can be done is several ways: by spatial zoning, orientation, ventilation, insulation, shading, glazing and using thermal mass.

The house should be placed on a ground that receives a lot of sunlight in the winter, with large windows facing the sun and collecting “passive” solar power. Prevention of heat accumulation in the summer can be obtained by strategically placing trees, roof overhangs and horizontal slats. A well-designed floor plan can only help in achieving energy efficiency. Also, adding solar panels can save energy even more and make a building truly eco-friendly.

Insulation

Adding good insulation is a crucial thing in the building process - it is the most effective addition you can make to your home. Insulation, shading and waterproofing can save up to an amazing 45 percent on monthly energy bills.There are lots of insulation options. However, the top sustainable insulation materials are sheep wool, cotton, aerogel, polystyrene and icynene.

We know that polystyrene doesn’t sound very “green”, but it’s an outstanding insulator that can be recycled. It brings structural integrity to walls and provides excellent thermal resistance. Wool fibers are perhaps the healthiest and most fire resistant insulation option.

Water management

A sustainable building must include water saving in addition to energy saving. An excellent way of saving water is rainwater harvesting – collection, filtration and use of rainwater. This reduces the need for main water supplies and can lead to significant economic and environmental benefits. Rainwater is collected in leak-proof tanks and can be used for many purposes.

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Image Credit: Wikimedia

Swimming pools are big energy spenders and a real luxury in water scarce areas. Therefore, modern green homes feature increasingly popular natural pools and ponds. Water in such pools and ponds is cleaned with the help of plants and bacteria and no chemicals are used in the process.

One of the steps in being a responsible water consumer includes using products and appliances that save water significantly. Your home must be equipped with adequate plumbing products, sanitary ware and white goods that use less water than others.

Patrick Gibson

What Is Organic Food?

Since there is not an "official" definition of this term, we'll consider that organic food, in order to be considered organic, must meet the following requirements:

- It was grown and produced without using artificial chemicals, such as artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

- It has not been genetically modified (GM), or exposed to radiation.

Why Is Organic Food Better Than Supplements?

The main reason is that when you consume organic food, you know that what you are consuming is what you think it is. It is not rare to see in the news that, as it turns out, a certain supplement contains banned substances, in spite of the fact that the label of said supplement states that it is perfectly safe and that it contains no illegal substances.

We don't have enough data about the health effects of the manufacturing processes that are used to manufacture these supplements. Take whey protein powder, for example. Whey is produced out of milk. We do not know what kind of food the animals that produced this milk were fed. Therefore, we really do not know what effects this whey protein powder will have on our body. It may not be harmful, but again, we don't know for sure, even if the ingredients of these supplements are perfectly legal. Organic food has a huge advantage here: you do not need to worry about how it will affect your health because that food has been produced the way it has always been produced by humans thorough history.

You do not need supplements to achieve your goals. If you are someone that is concerned with general fitness, or a bodybuilder or a strength athlete, for example, you do not need any supplement to achieve your goals. If supplements offered something that is impossible to get through real food, it would make sense to risk the health concerns related to supplement consumption; but they don't.

What Supplements Can Be Replaced With Real Food?

It is important to note that while this is a common question, it shows how important supplements are in the minds of so many people today. Food is not meant to replace supplements; supplements are meant to replace food, if you decide to use them at all, which is not necessary. You can have perfect nutrition without using any supplements. In fact, as explained above, there's a strong case to be made against the use of supplements when you have access to organic food.

With that said, let's see what can be used to replace to the most commonly used supplements:

Multivitamins: Fresh, organic fruits contain all the vitamins that your body may need. Three or four servings a day, along with the rest of your food, is enough. Spending time outdoors is good, too, for the vitamin D.

Protein powders: Grass-fed beef and eggs from an organic farm, for example, are a much better source of protein than protein powder.

A well-balanced diet: This is not a particular food item, but still. Health wise, a well-balanced diet is superior to any supplement you can find. A well balanced diet includes plenty organic food in the form of vegetables and animal products, and water. If you have this, no supplement is necessary, or even desirable.

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