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Know Your Three 'R's

Posted: 3 August 2011

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3R) are considered the three essential components of responsible, environmentally-friendly consumer living today. If you were asked how 3Rs relates to remodeling, what would come first to your mind?


Most people think immediately of reducing energy use in their home. They know they can save money on their utility bills by incorporating more efficient HVAC systems as well as receiving tax rebates through the purchase of certain Energy Star qualified products.. It just makes financial sense to make these considerations a part of your remodeling project from the very beginning.


reuse, reuse, recycle logo

However, Reduce has much wider implications. It means reducing use of any natural resource, if that use is not sustainable to meet the needs of following generations.


For example, a green remodeling project would look for applications of alternative materials, such as bamboo or cork, that may be replenished quickly and easily. Bamboo can be used for floors, as well as for countertops. Cork is a wonderful flooring material as well; cork can be harvested from trees every eight years vs. every 40 to 50 years for wood. Certified woods, from forests managed to provide sustainable harvest levels and prompt regeneration, are environmentally friendly as well.


What would you think of in terms of Reuse? This concept encourages homeowners to reuse items whenever possible, rather than placing them in a landfill. Designing your project to relocate windows or reuse fixtures is environmentally responsible, and can save you money. Although the deconstruction phase of the remodeling process will be more time consuming, the value of carefully salvaged items like solid wood interior doors, windows and pedestal sinks will more than offset this cost.


Antiqu planks from a dismantled buildilng were integrated into Clark Construction's  historic remodel of this Wilton CT home.While remodeling a 1850's home, we made beautiful floors utilizing antique planks from a dismantled building. In addition “being green”, aged wood has gained a depth and character that is not available with newly harvested wood. Old beams were used in this new great room to held the new spaces seem authentically older. Click here to see more images of this renovation.


Recycling is putting items to new and different purpose as much as possible.


In the case of a countertop—this would mean that the materials used to fashion the countertop were once used for something else. For example, colorful glass bottles that would earlier have gone into the landfill are now broken into small chips, embedded in a masonry binder, and used to form a strong and durable surface, such as Vetrazzo. Other counters with recycled content include Icestone, which uses 99% recycled glass, and Squak Mountain Stone, a rough-looking (in a good way) countertop made of cement, paper, glass and coal fly-ash blend.


As you are planning your next remodeling project, keep in mind that an efficient HVAC and a tight building envelope are only two aspects of an eco-friendly home. Be sure to know your 3Rs!


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