Reflecting on Earth Day
We have never posted anything for Earth day before or even talked much (publicly, at least) about the environmental impact of what we do. We understand, all too well, the toll that the built environment takes on the natural environment. When I started this company ten years ago, it seemed that every builder out there was touting their green credentials, much of which to me seemed like green-washing.
I made a very intentional decision, from the day that I started work as LWB, to do my best to walk the walk, but not to promote our “greenness” without putting in the years of effort to refine my practices and do the actual heavy-lifting of working to create an outfit that really works to lower the impact of our buildings on the environment.
I had a few good role-models in our community (Steve Cordell, Dick and Loren Stumpner, Chris Reinhardt, to name a few). I watched what they did and did my best to educate myself and our team on the viable options that were out there that we could employ to minimize our impact on the environment and maximize the performance of our spaces. While not every project that we have worked on has lived up to our expectations and we have had many learning experiences over the years, I am very proud of the work that we have done.
I firmly believe that in this changing environment, the work that we do around sustainability and energy conservation will be some of the most important and difficult work that we do as a community. Building sciences will continue to evolve, along with the climate, and we will need to continue to educate ourselves and learn and evolve with them. At LWB we are more committed than ever to conscientious construction and everything that comes along with that. Below are a few of the big and small things we do every day to live the meaning of Earth Day.
Here at the LWB office:
- We take all salvageable material to The Habitat For Humanity Restore where they have a second life (and help to fund affordable housing via Habitat For Humanity).
- We recycle, and compost. And buy range free eggs from our co-workers which not only is better for the chickens but better for the palette as well.
- Our office and shop are powered by the sun (thanks to MPI Solar for the install).
- We have an environmental impact committee that is working behind the scenes to vet materials and procedures to help us refine our own best-practices approach to minimizing the environmental impact of our work.
From a building perspective:
- Whenever possible, we ensure the roof has a south-facing slope to allow for a solar array. so in the future solar panels may be added.
- We go above and beyond local code on insulation and air sealing, not only to ensure that our clients are cozy in the winter and cool in the summer but to reducing the carbon footprint of the home.
- We source local materials and craftsmen to minimize the distance that materials and people have to travel to get to the project, thereby minimizing the embodied energy of the home.
- We attempt to reuse and recycle building materials waste, in an effort to minimize the impact on the landfill and to minimize waste.
- We do our very best to remove materials that outgas from our material palette. As buildings get tighter, the individual pieces that exist within a building take a bigger and bigger toll. The burden is on us to do our best to remove materials and finishes that can poison the air and the buildings in which we work and in which our clients live.
From a design perspective:
- We build homes modularly in order to reduce the amount of material waste.
- We aim to design homes and direct windows south-facing in order to get optimal light and reduce energy use.
- We are respectful of new sites. We do our best to find an ideal spot that both maximizes solar gain while minimizing the amount of tree clearing that needs to be done to allow for that home and drive to be built.
- We direct clients to more sustainable options when building a new home, both from finish and design perspectives.
- When possible, we work to use lumber cut from a site to be repurposed as trim, furniture, or fuel in that home.
- Many of the houses and businesses that we remodel are repurposing older homes and businesses that have reached the end of their lifecycle. This is reuse at its very essence. Sometimes it makes sense to tear a building down and start over. However, when we are able to remodel and rehabilitate that original building and breath new life into it, the energy savings are immeasurable.
We are far from perfect and the work that we do takes a heavy toll on the environment. This is why I would never call this a “green” building outfit. The only work out there that I would consider truly “green” is building homes that generate more energy than they use, including the energy that it took to build them. These types of projects are very few and far between.
That said, we commit to working every day to lower the impact of our work on the environment. I firmly believe that it is the duty of every builder (and ideally all of us) to work together to figure out how to minimize the carbon footprint of our buildings and of our work. Climate change is real and it is here and I believe that our most important task as builders in this era is to figure out how to work to counteract, or at least minimize our impact on this reality.
Photo credit: These photos were all taken by our crew and shared today in honor of Earth Day.