Green Remodeling Made Easier

Remodel with eco-friendly options that work for you and your budget.
By: Dan McLeister

Green remodeling is simple. The idea is to change the world, one room at a time, says David Johnston, owner of the consulting firm What's Working in Boulder, Colo., and author of a book on green remodeling.

The hard part for a remodelers is helping homeowners decide just how "green" they want their rooms or homes to be. When it comes to green remodeling, you don't have to do everything, but anything you can do will help.

The most important thing is to provide the homeowner with a smorgasbord of options on green building. "Pick and choose among the options for the design features and green building products that serve the homeowner's best interests," David recommends. "There is no such thing as the right or wrong set of products. Building green is a thinking process, not a contest to see how many green things a remodeler and a homeowner can incorporate into a home. Do what you can within your budget and motivation."

Johnston's book, Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time, describes how to incorporate green-building features into every room of the home.

Busting the Myths

While many homeowners are interested in green building and remodeling, they may have some antiquated ideas about what it involves: Excessive expense, difficulty in getting green products, misconceptions about the aesthetics of a green house — even concerns about living like a hippie. These myths, Johnston says, can be busted by a little education. Remodelers can point out that most green buildings don't look different from conventional buildings. Most green elements, such as improved energy efficiency and air quality, are built within the structure of the home. And recycled products largely look the same as their conventional counterparts.

As for the cost of green remodeling, "Yes, some green building elements do cost more," Johnston says. "But many cost less. When it is part of the initial process of setting goals for the project, it becomes matter-of-fact. Many remodelers have found that the real cost is in the learning curve, not in the implementation of the building process."

Green products are also becoming increasingly affordable as major manufacturers compete and develop new lines to meet the green-building demand. All major paint manufacturers now offer paints that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can compromise indoor air quality.

"My work is based on the belief that each one of us makes a difference," Johnston says. "Collectively, Americans spend $160 billion each year on remodeling. If just a fraction of the money was focused on greener construction, we could restore a significant portion of the world's ecosystems, while immediately creating a healthier indoor environment for our families."

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