Using Green Building Technologies in the Chicago Area
For decades, quality construction materials and techniques stayed remarkably similar. Then, due to concerns over changes to the climate and the costs of energy, the old standards were questioned. What is a better insulation? How best could these better insulations be installed? What is the cost and payback? What if the heat always present in the ground was used to heat and cool buildings? How can the energy of the sun be utilized? Could the sun be used to heat domestic hot water and/or power the electricity in buildings? Could it be done successfully in metropolitan Chicago construction?
Over the last 10 years or so, Jeff Cohen has considered questions like these and embraced the possibilities. Jeff has attended design/build courses in photovoltaic (using the sun's energy to generate electricity) and solar thermal (using the sun's energy to heat water) technologies from Solar Energy International and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. He has attended numerous conferences and seminars presented by construction associations and the US Green Building Council.
New techniques and products are everywhere. Unfortunately, not all builders embrace change. The excuses are numerous. Builders usually say that the reason they continue to do things the way they always have is that new techniques or products are ... too expensive, too difficult, not available, haven't heard about it, don't know where to get it...
Recently, Canada & Klein and its clients decided to disassemble an existing house rather than using a backhoe and carting the demolished structure to a landfill. Undeniably, disassembling the house took longer and was more expensive. However, due to a Federal tax code provision, a very substantial tax credit was available. The vast bulk of the house was recycled. It made good economic sense and was good for the planet.
Why don't more people do this? We all have heard it before. Too much work, too difficult, too slow, too expensive. These comments are simply wrong. It just takes some thought, a little initiative and the desire to explore the possibility of a more sustainable ethic of consumption. An energy efficient home need not look ultra-contemporary - although Canada & Klein admires that look. All four of the newly constructed houses in which Canada & Klein has installed energy saving systems are traditionally styled.
At Canada & Klein, we are continually seeking out new products and techniques. We are also staying informed of the rebates and tax credits offered by the state and federal governments. It seems that our clients now are also embracing these green technologies. The most effective insulation available, closed cell foam, has been used on many of our projects. We have introduced geothermal heating and cooling to our clients and have installed it in four new construction projects. Once our clients are educated about the importance of fresh air in their homes, they often decide to include energy recovery ventilators in the project. In addition to the products and technologies that save money and make homes more comfortable, our clients are interested in the use of recycled products, and they are asking questions about the sustainability of new products.
Canada & Klein believes that architects, contractors and homeowners should explore the new construction products and techniques that are out there. If even some of those things are used in a project, we will all be better off because of it.