Incorporating Eco-Friendly Building Materials, Products Into Your Next Remodel

by Josh Knittel - May 6th, 2015
Posted in: Building Materials, Energy Efficiency, Home Improvement, Remodeling

While going green has made huge strides in new construction within the last few years – specifically with renewable energy like solar and geothermal. Yet it has not had the same impact on the remodeling industry as a whole.

You may wonder why that is.

First, there are two main parts to “going green.” There is the “energy and efficiency” side, which focuses on clean, renewable, and sustainable energy production, including solar, wind, and geothermal, as well as building efficiency – insulation, air sealing, et cetera.

The second part is “products and materials.” Before we dive into that, let’s briefly touch on the energy and efficiency side of things.

The primary focus of most remodeling contractors typically isn’t the energy and efficiency aspect of the home, given that a remodel is usually more about function and aesthetics than a tight building envelope and HVAC efficiency.

It’s already a challenge to balance time, budget and aesthetics in a remodeling project without having to dig into the underlying building systems – if it is not in the budget or scope of work.

This isn’t to say home remodeling contractors need to expand into this realm as there are a growing number of home energy pros out there who focus on exactly that. The main reason the demand for green materials / products isn’t higher has more to do with education and awareness, rather than the services offered by a particular remodeling contractor.

In other words, we don’t have to all become building science experts and drift away from what has made us successful. We just need to understand that there are a plethora of beautiful and cost effective eco-friendly options out there waiting for us to take advantage of them, and on behalf of the homeowner.

The second part of going green has to do with products and materials. Given that eco-friendly options are no longer cost prohibitive or “less than desirable” from an aesthetic standpoint, industry professionals have an opportunity to lead by example and educate homeowners in regards to their choices.

First, there are two main categories of classification in terms of either 1) Good for the planet (recycled, reclaimed) or 2) Good for our heath and safety (free of toxic materials).

Materials can include:


Recycled lumber & reclaimed wood from sustainable forests.

-Eco friendly and plant based products (bamboo, hemp, linoleum, cork)

Composite decking.

-Low VOC paint, sealants, caulking and adhesives
-High performance windows
-Water saving plumbing fixtures (“Water Sense”)
-High efficiency energy star appliances
-Tankless water heaters
-Photovoltaic solar panels and solar hot water heater
-Geothermal HVAC units


Recycled glass & stone countertops or paper based countertops.

 -In floor radiant heat

As we look into the future, it is believed we will continue to make large strides utilizing energy efficiency, products and materials within the remodeling industry. By reinforcing what “going green” is, we as an industry can better educate our homeowner clients and prospective customers in regards to the benefit of investing in eco-friendly products, materials and energy efficient solutions.

This sets us up for success in the remodeling industry while adding value to our customers and the economy.

Josh Knittel is a designer and project consultant with Modern Touches in Urbandale, Iowa.

Josh Knittel. Modern Touches


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