The Many Angles of Eco-Friendly Building

July 31, 2017 | by Dave Sweet

There are many angles to building an eco-friendly home including advanced construction techniques, using recycled building materials, and for many people, growing food and recycling the waste. For my project I’ve tried to cover as many “eco-friendly umbrella” areas I can. I’m installing tankless toilets for water conservation. We’re reducing our dependence on fossil fuels with a solar water heater. Our tight building envelope uses recycled commercial grade materials to reduce energy costs and consumption.

As the project continues, I’ve found myself looking at the various types of certification systems that provide guidelines for design and construction of eco-friendly buildings, and a method for evaluating overall performance. A certification will almost certainly increase our home’s resale value and give the buyer an idea of what they’re getting for their money.

One common certification is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), developed through the US Green Building Council. Another is ENERGY STAR, which typically means that a home is 15% more efficient than a typical home built to state codes. Many cities and states across the country have their own certification programs, so check around to learn more.

One road to certification is an innovative roofing system. I’m using a multi-layered system to complement the advanced framing construction techniques below it. A layer of GAF underlayment keeps water out, but lets the whole roof “breathe” by allowing moisture to escape. On top is eight inches of rigid commercial insulation.

Above that I’m placing 2x4s spaced about a foot apart with an additional inch of insulation to create an air cavity for roof ventilation, then the plywood and shingles. A ridge vent completes the ventilation, necessary in New England to prevent the roof from icing up during a snowmelt, and to vent moisture moving from the interior to the attic.

The R-value of the system is around 70, where most conventionally built roofs come in at around R-30. I built the whole system to work as one unit to keep my home as comfortable and energy efficient as possible. If you're looking to expand your knowledge about roofing ventilation, buildingscience.com has a good article that I found is a good place to start.

As I finished the roof, I got ready to install my underfloor heating system in the basement and garage foundation floors. Taco Residential Trainer and underfloor heating expert Dave Holdorf came down and gave me some insights and tips about the system. I’ll tell you about that in a later post! 

I like to keep up with what other eco-friendly homebuilders are doing here in Connecticut. I like to know when somebody takes a novel approach to building a home or incorporates features into their structure that I may have glossed over or not thought of. The Connecticut Green Building Council has a design and build competition for folks who want to build eco-friendly homes, produce their own power on site and the like. The Council awards cash prizes and provides educational at the show and online.

At the 2015 awards ceremony I spoke to the Torcellini family, who were tied for top prize. Paul and Julia demonstrated that the devil’s in the details. They picked kitchen countertops manufactured with toxin-free processes, without materials that give off a “new counter smell” odor, which Julia said can be toxic.

There are a lot of online resources that cover the fundamentals of eco-friendly homebuilding, but I can’t help but remember Paul’s words of wisdom and his family, who are ultimately the beneficiaries of Paul’s advanced knowledge.

This blog was developed by Taco Comfort Solutions. All posts, sponsored and un-sponsored have been reviewed and approved by the Sustainable Community Media Editorial Team to ensure quality, relevance/usefulness and objectivity.


Topics: Building Green

Companies: Taco Comfort Solutions



Dave Sweet
My name’s Dave Sweet. I’m an eco-friendly homeowner and builder who’s been building his own homes since the 1980s, and I’ve had a great time doing it. Each time I’ve built a home, I’ve tried to include as many environmentally-friendly features as I can. This time, my goal is to use as little energy as possible while maximizing comfort for my wife, my daughters and I. This blog is about helping each other - whether you’re a homeowner or a contractor in the field. Ask questions, exchange ideas, share resources, and more! I encourage you to be a part of this community, and share your experiences. www

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