Green Building – Basics

There are many “shades of green” – you have to decide what your priorities are, everyone is different.

Use Non-Toxic Building Materials: You can find healthier products for you and your family. Products that are healthier for us are also better for the environment. You can find these products online and specialty shops, search “non-toxic building materials”.

Did you know you can buy insulation made from leftover blue-jean material (Denim)?

Denim Insulation

Denim Insulation

or buy prefabricated walls made of compressed wheat straw?

Agriboard - Boerne

Agriboard Residence and School - Boerne, TX

Agriboard Residence - Spicewood, TX

Agriboard Residence - Spicewood, TX

Below is basic list just to get a quick idea of better products available:

Building and Remodeling
Paints, Finishes, Sealants
Adhesives, Grouts, Thinsets, Caulks
Cements, Clays, Plasters
Alternative Wood Products
Alternative Building Systems
Insulation, Ductwork
Around The House
Air Filters
Water Filters, Air Filters
Insect Control
Organic Bedding
Shower Curtains
Wall, Window Coverings


Smaller is Better: A small home built with eco friendly techniques is going to have smaller environmental impact as against a large home. A house that is too large is likely to cost more to heat and cool. Try to keep the place manageable and cost effective. If you are planning to extend your family and bring in few relatives, you need to put proper resources and accommodation in place.

Energy Efficient Equipment: ENERGY STAR label on a piece of equipment states that particular product has been deemed as energy efficient by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA). ENERGY STAR is becoming well known label and consumers today choose energy star appliances for their homes. These appliances offer significant cost and energy savings without compromising performance.

Proper Insulation: Insulation is one of the most important ting that you need to consider while building a green home. Heating and cooling account for 50% of your home’s energy consumption. Air leaks such as around windows, door and duct work is responsible for building’s heat loss. Don’t let heating and cooling of your interior spaces air go waste through improper insulation. Proper insulation will not only reduce your energy consumption but will bring down your electricity bills substantially.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Reduce your need for buying new products that are not environment friendly. Reuse your old material such as wood floors, doors, windows in your next home. Recycled materials such as recycled glass, aluminium,  recycled tile, reclaimed lumber, recycled plastic can be used in green home building.

Use Sustainable Building Materials: If building a green home is your goal, then using environmentally or eco-friendly products should be on your list which can reduce the impact of construction on the environment. Each and every part of your house such as roofing material, building material, cabinets, counters and insulation to your flooring should be environmentally friendly. Use products such as reclaimed lumber, recycled plastic, recycled glass or natural products such as bamboo, cork and linoleum which are made of natural, renewable materials.

Solar Panels: Solar energy is clean and renewable source of energy. Solar panels are an emerging and hot technology for people who want to utilize the natural power all around us, the sun.  Solar panels may be expensive at first, but the long-term savings you can put into your pocket is a stunning example of the benefits of turning your life from black to green. The location of your house and the way you have constructed solar panels can determine how much power you can collect. By taking advantage of solar power you can bring down your energy consumption and supply excess energy, if any, to your utility company. Also, government grants, incentives and tax breaks are huge bonus to those who want to use solar power in their home.

Energy Star Windows: Energy efficient windows labeled as ENERGY STAR windows are new player in window market and are much more energy efficient than normal windows. The ratings for these windows determine how energy efficient they will be. The lower the rating, the more energy efficient are your windows. The energy savings provided by these windows are enough to cover the added cost per window.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems and Tankless Water Heaters: Install a rainwater harvesting system while building your green home to collect rainwater from roofs and then storing it in a tank. The collected water can then be used for other purposes such as toilets and sprinkler systems. Rain barrels are one of the most common methods of rainwater harvesting being used today.

With tankless water heaters, you need not wait for the water to get heated. Tankless water heaters heat only that much water that is needed as it is passed through electric coil. This gives you twin benefits. Firstly, it eliminates excess energy costs as it heats up only that much amount of water that is needed and secondly, you can get ample storage place by eliminating the hot water tank.

Eco-Friendly Lighting: LED’s use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Since they offer significant cost savings in the long run, they can be ideal for your new green home.

Water Conserving Fixtures: Low flow faucets, toilets, showerheads are few of the ways that you can use while building a green home to conserve water. They can cut down on your water bills cost and make your home much more environment friendly. Apart from that, consider buying washing machines and dishwashers that give you same kind of cleaning and can save water and energy.

Programmable Thermostat: We all know that almost 50% of our energy consumption goes towards heating and cooling of our home. The simplest way to cut down this cost and reduce electricity bill is to install programmable thermostat. Your HVAC system will work when the thermostat reaches the designated temperature. Also, a slight 3-5 % of your energy bill can be saved if you can set your thermostat 1 degree down in the winter and up by 1 degree in the summer.

HVAC System: Buy a high efficiency, Energy Star rated HVAC system based on the design and construction of your house that will help you save energy and money. A HVAC system needs to be properly installed so that it could perform up to its full potential. Make sure ducts are short, straight and air tight. The ducts need to be professionally tested with the goal of under 10%  leakage.

Efficient Landscaping: Shady landscaping can protect your home from direct sunlight during the summer and allows more sunlight to reach your home through windows during the winter. Planting trees on southern and western side of your home can keep your home cooler as they will block sunlight from falling directly on your home and during the winter, when trees lose their leaves, they will allow more sunlight to reach your home.

Harness Geothermal Energy: Geothermal energy is known as energy from the earth. Geothermal energy requires more upfront investment but provide unlimited energy to heat and cool your home. During the winter season, geothermal heat pump uses the earth loop to extract heat from deep underground to your home’s HVAC system; in the summer season, heat is extracted from the air and moved back into the earth through loop system.

Environmental Depot
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703 Wickford remodel

The Concept

This is a major addition to a one story residence, modern, blending in with the tress and Austin’s Mac Mansions laws. It also provides a chimney design for the least use of AC using natural ventilation.


Hard to get the whole picture, lots of trees around.

Preserving all the trees was one major aspect of the design.

The angles meet the street and parallel the house next door, which will undergo a similar renovation.

The inside chimney, provide lots of ventilation and heat escape.

Second floor, open to below and above.

Tree house in the city.

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Green By Design Workshop

December 3, 2011 8:30 AM

Austin Energy Green Building™ holds its one-day Green by Design workshop four times a year. Austinites preparing to build, buy, or remodel a home can learn how to improve energy and water efficiency, increase comfort, and reduce maintenance.

Space for this workshop is limited. We strongly suggest that you register as early as possible to guarantee your seat.
To register for the next workshop, print the Registration Form (pdf), fill it out and fax to (512) 482-5441; or e-mail. Registration fee is $35 per person. Check the website for workshop dates and deadlines.

The workshop is offered at just $35 per person. It includes:

  • A full day of instruction with Austin Energy Green Building staff
  • A comprehensive workbook, Green by Design
  • Free advice from local green building professionals
  • Continental breakfast, lunch, and break refreshments
  • A chance to win cool door prizes from local green businesses

What You Will Learn
This workshop will give you an overview of the green building process. You’ll come away with a framework for making better design and building decisions, including:

  • Assessing what your family needs in a home
  • Choosing a designer and builder
  • Selecting a lot or making the most of the one you have
  • Increasing comfort and reducing utility bills
  • Making smart material and appliance choices
  • Developing a beautiful landscape that saves water, time, and money
  • Creating a home that benefits your family and the planet
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Green – Healthy Building Seminars

George has been building and teaching healthy building practices for many years; come to learn about green building in general, or specifically to learn healthy building practices. More infor mation at

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Austin Emerging Projects

The quarterly Downtown Austin Emerging Projects map and database show both public and private-sector projects in and near downtown Austin that are currently under construction or in the planning phase.

Glimpses of Projects

Low resolution version of Downtown Emerging Projects Poster

24″ x 36″ PDF ‘poster’ of Emerging Projects in the lower part of downtown.

Updated July 16, 2008.

Graphics and descriptions of selected downtown projects.

Residential / Mixed Use





Art, Culture and Entertainment

Streetscape Improvements

Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities

Other Facilities

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Creation of a new material capable of eliminating pollutants by the hydrocarbon industry

This article is published at on 26-Feb-2008

A research team of the University of Granada has managed to produce the most useful material to date to eliminate pollutants such as benzene, toluene and xylene, organic solvents widely used in the hydrocarbon industry and generated by road traffic in cities. The world-wide problem of the exposure to aromatic hydrocarbons has mainly focused its attention on benzene, which is considered to be harmful to health, even in low concentrations.

This material is a monolithic carbon aerogel with the advantage of not only being able to retain these pollutants: it can also be easily regenerated and can therefore be used in several cycles. This research has been carried out by David Fairén Jiménez, from the Department of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Granada, and directed by lecturers Carlos Moreno Castilla and Francisco Carrasco Marín. The aim of this study was to prepare and describe a series of new materials – monolithic carbon aerogels – as adsorbers of benzene, tolene and xylene (BTX).

The study of the elimination of volatile organic compounds from anthropogenic sources – road traffic in cities, solvents, industry, etc. – such as BTX, is very important as these substances are highly pollutant. In order to eliminate these pollutants, “it is necessary to use materials with a high concentration of micropores, which is where the absorption of pollutants takes place, but these pores must be the correct size and properly arranged. Thus, we achieve a high level of efficiency when eliminating and retrieving BTX after the saturation of the material”, said David Fairén.

Furthermore, the design of the adsorbent bed must allow a sufficient contact for the elimination of compounds and at the same time avoid a decrease in pressure. Finally, the material used must withstand the mechanical forces of vibration and movement. David Fairén states that “the monolithic carbon aerogels, which are the materials we worked with, satisfy all these requirements”.

Twice the information
This research provides a methodology for the study of porous samples by comparing definition techniques of the more used surfaces, such as gas adsorption, with other difficult techniques, such as small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). On the one hand, these techniques provide information on the characteristics of these materials and about the physical conditions of pollutants within the pores. On the other hand, they have obtained materials with better properties than other results published in the bibliography regarding the elimination of pollutants such as benzene, toluene and xylene. This is because they have a high capacity to retain pollutant compounds and they can be easily regenerated and used in several cycles. The design of these samples, as they can be synthesized in the required way, makes them suitable to be applied in streams with a high gas flow without a decrease in the pressure of the adsorbent bed.

David Fairén Jiménez. Department of Inorganic Chemistry of the University of Granada.
Mobile: 0044 7504765078.
E-mail: fairen<@>

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MCS – a better location in Texas?


Kathleen wrote:
I saw your e-mail address on the MCS-Global website.
Just in case you could help us, I’ll ask….
Do you know of areas in Texas where chemically sensitive people have done better with their health? I see your specialty is the actual housing, which we may need at some point. But right now we’re trying to locate an area that would be more “healthy” for my husband who has MCS.


Well the only thing we know for sure in Houston has one of the worst air qualities in the world, so not there. I think in general the rest has to be look at by location – depending on sensitivities.

Most important is to look and see where the trade winds come from, and what is upwind from there. In general, prevailing winds in TX are NW during the winter and SSE for the rest.

Now to find out what industries are upwind from you

This website is a great resource in general to find out more about things we dont think generally affect us, like a concrete plant. Consider also allergens – molds, cedar, pollens and such. I had an mcs client that smoked but got send for spin if he took a whiff of pine.

Have you worked out a comprehensive plan for your husband? Using natural products at home and organic diets has a tremendous impact, and i have seen many recover, including myself.

Im sure you know you can think more clearly than him, he is lucky to have an understanding and helping partner!

A few documents of interest

Chemical Sensitivites documents
Chemical Sensitivities for beginners
Chemical Sensitivities-resources

If you need more help let me know, i do consults in all aspects of mcs.

Thank you,
Andres Schulz

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MCS – Safe Mobile Home?


In, Gretchen wrote:

Hello, We have an acoustical ceiling in a mobile home…it appears to made from a paper product. We need to use a stain blocker, then paint the ceiling. We know of Bin by Zinser for stainblocking. The ceiling is now painted with ‘flat’ paint.

Also, we are going to paint the closets with a formeldehyde blocking product. We have used Bin in the past. My husband is very sensitive to it, so is there another product you’d recommend?

We are also redoing the floors. Some areas of the subfloor(fiberboard) will need patching. We have plywood, which seems o.k. for us.

Also, the shelves in the closets are made from a fiberboard material which seems to be coated. Should we replace the shelves with Fir which does not outgas?

We will need to use caulk, wood filler, and other products to repair, maintain and upgrade this home. (It is a 1975 Viking mobile home).

Of course, it is not insulated well…is there a product we could affix to the paneling, like a wall paper? Some people replace the paneling with drywall, but I don’t know if we could do that and live in here at the same time.

People recommend that we replace this old home with a new one(toxic!), but we are in a situation in which our HOA is not friendly, so we feel that we have no choice but to fix this up and eventually sell it and then move to our ‘non-toxic’ home.

Thanks for any information.


Mobile homes are inherently toxic, that’s is a goal of mine, to build modular with good materials. Will keep you posted. But an older one is certainly better than a new one.

For any kind of sealants look at AFM products; they also have caulks.
afm safecoat products
For products also look at

The alternative is to remove anything that is offensive, not cover it up.
If you can find a local green building supplier, you can always try small samples of these products, remember everyone is different so there are no absolute solutions.

A product that seems to work for everyone – is alumna foil. Its not pretty, you cant paint it, but it seals and it doesn’t off-gas.
Here is a good list of these materials – i used to sell green building materials so this is from my old website
environmental depot

Again, if any of these interest you, talk to the people at or another green building supplier.

A few documents of interest

Chemical Sensitivites documents
Chemical Sensitivities for beginners
Chemical Sensitivities-resources

If you need more help let me know, i do consults in all aspects of mcs.

Thank you,
Andres Schulz

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