Changing The Way We Live

Look before you leap

Building a new home is a huge commitment. It's not for everyone. By just making small changes to the way you live will result in long-term savings, enhanced well-being and the reduction of global warming.

Project Criteria

Our home follows a few simple rules to ensure sustainable green building and development practices. Using nationally accepted criteria developed by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System the green log home will become one of the most efficient log homes in the USA.

Interesting Statistics

• The USA is the top global polluter in the world

• 2006 was the hottest year on record in the USA

• By the year 2020 (at the current rate) carbon dioxide emissions will rise by 15% in the USA

• Worldwide, electricity generation in 2030 is projected to total 30,364 billion kWh (kilo Watt hour), nearly double the 2004 total of 16,424 billion kWh

Alternative Energy Sources

Geothermal Energy - The earth's core is approx. 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the core heat continually flows outward towards the earth's surface. This heat - geothermal energy can be harnessed and used to provide continuous amounts of hot water, heating and AC, without polluting the environment.

Solar Power: Photo-voltaic (PV) Solar panels converts the sunlight into electricity. Units of light called 'Photons' are captured by solar cells that contain a semi-conductor, the energy on the semi-conductor causes electrons to flow freely and the flow of electrons forms a current. This results in a clean, never-ending source of electricity.

Wind Power: Another clean and never ending supply of energy. This uses wind turbines to harness the wind's kinetic energy to power a generator and therefore create electricity. This is a very efficient way to lower emissions and reduce on-grid power demands. (Best suited to costal areas and the great plains of the US).

Innovation + Design

There's a lot of scientific research currently being done to improve the design and construction of new log homes. E.g. experiments are carried out to attain better stacking of the logs and superior engineering of joins for maximum fit and efficiency. During our selection process MCLH (Moosehead Cedar Log Homes) was developing better bonds between their logs.

When designing our home we remained in constant communication with MCLH. We browsed many different log home layouts until we found one that closely fit our requirements. We modified the standard layout to meet different green criteria, such as:

• Ensuring maximum natural lighting in the living areas through strategic placing of windows e.g. in the kitchen i.e. this reduces the need for energy to run artificial lighting.

• Maintaining ambient air temperatures, by creating an entrance-hall that acts as an air lock, preventing circulation of cold air into the main living area, i.e. reducing the need to produce more heat to maintain a constant temperature.

• Adding of motorized skylights to the ceiling of the grand room using passive cooling technology and design to reduce summer cooling requirements. This will result in effective air movement providing more efficient ventilation i.e. less need for air-conditioning to cool the main living area during the warmer months. Overall we spent many months of careful project planning and designing to improve the coordination and integration of 'green practices' into our home. In the long run we hope that this will lead to lower costs and greater sustainability.

Location and Sustainable Site

When we were looking to buy a plot of land, we had to take into consideration how much environmental impact there would be at the construction site. In order to prevent any damage, the position of the house has to be far enough so as not to be too close to any natural water sources and endangered plant.

Most vacant land plots require the removal of vegetation and trees, we have to carefully consider the amount of clearing needed for the home site, ultimately ensuring minimum impact to forest land and surrounding countryside. Note: It is better to air on the side of caution; it takes more time and money to grow trees than it does to chop them down, without even considering the environmental impact.

FACT: An average American tree within a North American forest ecosystem absorbs approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, during its first 40 years of growth. Let's compare this to the average North American person, whose carbon dioxide emissions are approximately 7.8 tons per year. To remove the carbon dioxide produced by one average American requires 312 average American photosynthesizing trees a year!

We decided to acquire land that was relatively close to major highways to ensure fast access when moving building materials from the suppliers to our site. This reduces the amount of energy needed to move materials from one place to another.

One of the other more important location criteria is the consideration of a solar system. The orientation of the house and positioning of the photo-voltaic panels must be strategically placed in order to gain ultimate southern exposure. For this to happen the house will run from east to west, so that the longest side gets the maximum number of sunlight hours to increase the effectiveness of the solar system. Many inefficient solar systems come about due to poor location planning, too many tall trees and mountainous regions near to the home that obscure sunlight.

We have been learning that green building encompasses more that just the home itself. The whole environment around the home will be impacted in one way or another. The way the house is located and the landscaping around it can over time demand additional water resources, can produce run-off chemicals and pesticides that can seep into the ground. Even rainfall and soil erosion can influence the location of the home in relation to its surroundings. Preservation of natural plant species and the wildlife can be achieved through good landscape design. By walking the plot of land at different times, e.g. after heavy rainfall, (this gives a good idea of where run-offs occur) can help plan the location of the home and the landscaping more successfully.

Why go green?

It's a crazy thought, but the average American household generates over twenty-two tons of carbon dioxide each year. In the whole world twenty-two percent of carbon dioxide emissions are generated here in the United States. Demands for fossil fuels such as gasoline and coal are expected to increase sharply with the predicted growth of the U.S. and global economies.

When we use energy, we burn of fossil fuels and this results in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions. A combination of CO2 emissions [95%] and greenhouse gases (e.g. fluorinated gases [5%]) cause the earth to 'warm-up'. These emissions trap the earth's heat in our atmosphere and cause the average global temperature to rise. The consequences of these can be seen in increased extreme climatic weather. If we do nothing to change the way we live global warming will continue.

The climate changes will have major environmental consequences, such as:

• Flooding of people's homes and land caused from rising sea levels

• Less rainfall to water crops in agricultural areas

• Increased numbers of hurricanes and storms causing severe devastation

• Extinction of many species through the depletion of their natural habitats

If we act now, we can reduce the effects of global warming.

Government Incentives

There are governmental incentives in place to encourage the use of eco-friendly products and practices. One useful link that you may find helpful is: The 'DSIRE' website clearly outlines information about renewable energy and energy efficiency incentives, as well as regulatory policies administered by federal and state agencies, utilities and local organizations.

Energy + Atmosphere

The rising carbon dioxide levels caused directly by our consumption of fossil fuels speeds up the effects of global warming. As discussed in the previous section Why Go Green?

We are determined to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by opting for alternative energy sources to fulfill our modern day requirements. Although we will be connected to the electricity grid (in order to benefit from governmental incentives), we will be completely self-sufficient. By using a combination of geothermal energy to generate our hot water, heating and air-conditioning, powered by a photo-voltaic solar system that will be supplemented by wind-power from small Vertical Axis wind turbines - we will have ample energy to run our modern home. Combined with lower energy consumption 'Energy Star' appliances we are looking forward to a zero carbon footprint. As an added benefit we plan to sell any excess energy produced back to the utility company.

Using materials that are good insulators means less heat energy is lost in the winter and the home is maintained at a cooler temperature in summer. A combination of products with a greater thermal mass ensures that our home will be well insulated. We have researched our products at length and have chosen a combination of MCLH solid White Cedar logs, Pella windows, Tuff-n-Dri insulation membranes and an MBCI recycled metal steel roof to name but a few! To learn more about our product choices read the chapter Green Materials. Saving the environment was one of our incentives to find alternative energy sources, although the idea of never having to pay any more electricity bills certainly played a big part in our decision too.

FACT: Between 2002 and 2006 the average American household electricity bill increased in price by 23.2%. With continuing rising fuel prices we can expect those electricity bills to rise further.
FACT: During 2006 the amount of electricity used in the average American household was per month 920 kWh (kilowatt hours) at a cost of $95.66. What can we expect in the years to come?


Careful consideration has to be put into the materials used in the construction of a new home. In this instance our log home is predominately made from White Cedar. Cedar has a natural resilience to pests and harsh weather due to its dense cellular structure. The logs originate from an endorsed forestry management program that promotes sustainable forests, enabling ecosystems to be maintained and nurtured.

White Cedar requires less wood treatment and uses less harmful chemicals. The White Cedar will be stained, using an enviro-stain that doesn't emit any volatile organic compounds or any other harmful substances.

The logs will be ready milled and 'standing by' for stacking, this eliminates time wasted while constructing the home on site.

Sustainable home building also means using materials that do not require extensive extraction and processing techniques (which are energy intensive and use chemicals that are harmful to the environment). It also means using materials that can be sourced locally and don't require much transportation and therefore less fuel consumption to get to the required location.

Renewable materials such as bamboo and recycled glass will be used inside the home for cabinets, surfaces and flooring.

During the construction process the worksite will be well managed and clean. Recycling of any waste materials will be carried out using multiple bins and disposal areas.

Water Efficiency

Our water will be self-supplied, that is to say we will need to make our own well. However, we will need to design our water system to use less water than the current average American household.

FACT: On average the combined American households use approximately 340 billion gallons of fresh water per day. Once the water is used it is discharged back into the rivers, streams and other water sources from which they came.
However a deficit in the natural water available exists.
Annually the deficit in the United States is approximately 3,700 billion gallons. That's 3,700 billions gallons of water that isn't returned to the natural water sources. Our natural water levels are dropping fast.

When designing our new home we researched many different ways in which we can conserve water: from rainwater harvesting to double flush toilets to gray water-plumbing systems. If all goes well, we could reduce our water usage by 30% or more.

Indoor Environment Quality

All cabinets, surfaces and tiles will be made from non-volatile organic compounds. We will opt for products that don't contain urea-based formaldehyde as a bonding agent. The main bedroom will be fitted with an air-purification system and a humidity regulator; this will ensure a peaceful night's sleep!

FACT: The levels of pollutants at home (indoors) may be 5% or more than found outside!
Pollutants found in the home include (and are not restricted to) carbon monoxide, radon, formaldehyde, mold, dirt and dust, pet hair, tobacco and candle smoke. As well as other chemicals used in the garden: pesticides, fertilizers, solvents, grease, oils, degreasers, gasoline, antifreeze, detergents, thinners and oil-based paints.
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