Given the growing interest in green building practices and energy conservation, homeowners everywhere, including in condominiums, are faced with many questions and challenges. As with most new technologies, we need to know which technologies are best and most appropriate, when the options become financially worthwhile, and when is the right time to jump into the green pool.
In an effort to stay at the leading edge of the market and to answer the growing number of questions we are fielding, I have tried to stay educated on the options. Below is the second of a two-part article answering several recent inquiries regarding environmentally friendly choices for building construction and maintenance. I welcome additional questions or comments.
Q. With the ever-increasing costs of fossil fuels and products made with those petroleum products, are there opportunities for condominiums to utilize alternative building materials?
A. Asphalt roof shingles and vinyl siding/PVC trim are in the category of products with primary ingredients from fossil fuels. Roofs. Alternative roofing materials such as slate, rubber/composite slate, and metal roofing materials are viable alternatives to asphalt shingles. Their price points are much higher than asphalt, but they last longer, so they are worth considering. For properties with flat roofs, worth considering are "green roofs"-—roofs topped with a layer of soil and plants. The use of these products should be evaluated well in advance of your next capital improvement project to determine whether or not they are right for your condominium. A qualified professional should assess the costs and benefits. If a green roof is being contemplated, for example, a structural analysis of the roof is required, since this type of roof adds significant weight to the structure. Siding and Trim. What is "green"? This is not a trivial question. A Harvard study indicates that ethanol might actually have an adverse ecological impact. Is PVC trim green because it saves trees and decreases maintenance or does the reliance on fossil fuels to make PVC mean that it is doing more harm than good? This discussion is becoming more relevant as the highest quality lumber (i.e., Clear Vertical Grain cedar) is becoming increasingly scarce and costly. Are recycled products—composite decking for example—environmentally and financially beneficial? For the record, I believe that ethanol is not necessarily the answer, while PVC trim and composite decking are big steps in the right direction. While vinyl and PVC utilize fossil fuels, they are saving trees and significantly reducing the amount of maintenance required to keep those decks and trim fresh.
Q. Are there some short-term tips to cut the amount of energy we use at our condominium?