Green, as in go for it - Principles of building

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"The cancer has been gone for 12 years," says Lake. He believes now that "most disease is simply an imbalance in body systems."

A year after his encounter with the disease, he registered the domain name of GreenTV.com.

"In the back of my mind, I knew at some point that the computer and TV would be one," he says.

Today, he and his wife have 56 projects under way — from installing thermostats to low-flush toilets. New content about how to go green is posted regularly on the Web site. GreenTV is the vehicle John and Lori have chosen for getting knowledge about materials and component availability and sources to people who want to save money, and even the planet.

Principles of building
The Lakes cite five basic principles to green building, whether it's a home, kitchen cabinet or piece of furniture. The first two are straightforward: Plan your project as clearly as possible; research green alternatives. The next step is a little different, but makes lots of green sense. "Talk to retired people who have already gone through one or two energy crunches," says Lake. Not only should that increase your motivation, but you might uncover some "old-fashioned" ways of building that are more energy-efficient and environmentally sound.

Fourth on their list is to "be involved as much as possible to control cost and quality." And last, says John, "Never give up."

It seems to be the nature of green building, however, that practitioners rarely stop with just the wood, adhesive and varnishes. John says water from the kitchen and other sinks and bathtubs in the house is stored in a natural stone basin in the ground and used as "gray" water for landscaping, plants and trees. Efficiency also was gained, he says, by using tankless, at-point-of-use heaters for hot water.

Financial opportunities
Even the Harvard Business Review is seeing the financial advantages and possibilities of spreading the word about green building. "Building green is no longer a pricey experiment," wrote the author of a recent article in the journal. Materials such as bamboo, locally grown wood and nontoxic paints and stains are increasingly available. Other materials coming into the mainstream are building panels made of recycled materials, cork for flooring (the cork is, of course, the bark of the tree which is peeled off without killing the tree) and wheat board which is made from wheat straw. Countertops, made from either recycled paper and wood or recycled glass, come in a variety of patterns and colors.

The increased presence of green materials is being driven by consumer demand which is primarily driven by increased energy costs. The National Association of Home Builders survey claims a 20-percent increase in the number of homebuilders going green in 2005. a figure that was expected to increase. Not surprisingly, the survey, and publications as diverse as Mortgage News Daily, are advising builders and woodworkers to at least familiarize themselves with green building techniques. Woodworkers should, according to these industry publications, "establish the credibility of their products as green and market them accordingly."

Lori Lake is more direct.

"Green is now mainstream," she asserts. "Not only does going green create more demand for your services, but you are also helping your clients' health and their loved ones."

In addition, she says, building green adds longevity.

"Particleboard or cheap stuff will go bad in five, 10 or 15 years," she says. "My cabinets should last for centuries if properly maintained. That is a big selling point, along with the health factors."