Building in Innovation

One of the things I like about building green buildings is discovering and including innovations.  These help keep the process interesting as well as making the building more efficient and sustainable. It is a way to push innovations into the market faster and help demonstrate possibilities.

Climate change is a primary motivation for green building. Buildings use nearly half of the energy in the United States and contribute nearly half of the greenhouse gases.

The ideal home would be net zero or produce as much energy from renewables over a year as it consumes while using renewable and recyclable materials in the construction. If climate change is addressed adequately, building will become more efficient and more carbon conscious.

Innovations and early adopters will need to play a big role.  The challenge for builders and buyers alike is in keeping up with the new products and calculating risks and benefits for each. One early experience I had was with using Borate as a termite treatment. It had been shown to be a good preventive treatment, but the city inspection office wanted documentation, which I had to find from an acceptable source to convince them. Once that had been established, using borate was easy and we eliminated the heavy chemicals of traditional controls.

As a small-scale contractor focusing on the more affordable market of single-family homes, there are a lot of variables to consider, cost being the most obvious. In the case of Borate treatment the added cost and risk were minimum. When considering how to make the building envelope more efficient, the costs can get considerable.  When does it pay to add insulation, and which kind and how much? When is it better to shift costs to invest in renewable energy generation? Are triple pane windows worth it in our Western North Carolina climate or can you add insulated shades for a lot less money but that are more dependent on the occupants involvement?

I remember a crane swinging our first Superior wall foundation section into place onto our 6 inch gravel bed. (2005)


I was equally excited and anxious.  This was a big change from poured concrete footings and a concrete block construction that would need poured concrete in some or all of the cells and water proofing and insulating. The engineering replaced a lot of material and time for installation. A lot like roof trusses. There had been  few in our area at the time, but with consistent success the benefits are now clear.

Every house is an opportunity and carries some risk. Adopting new products adds more variables to the mix but also adds interest and benefits beyond a particular building.  If we are going to meet the challenge of an environmentally sustainable economic system, innovations in building will have to be adopted early.

There are many sources for new products and green building strategies: https://www.WNCGBC.organd two local web sites with a lot of info and links. and two other good websites.