When I interned at an organic farm in Moab, they called themselves Beyond Organic. In addition to meeting all the standards for USDA organic certification, they also took the extra time and care to be good stewards of the land and soil. They did this by soil testing and adding natural amendments, planting cover crops and using crop rotation practices, and using other tools for increasing biodiversity and supporting pollinators like companion planting and crop rotation.
Inspired by that, I like to think of our company as Beyond Green Building. Of course, we support the goals of the green building movement, but we are also also striving to stay on the cutting edge of new developments and research. Incorporating these new ideas can lead to the creation of an even better home, with a lower impact on the environment. Especially with remodel and retrofit jobs, we believe we can do better with more natural and healthy options. So, we like to look at an existing building holistically, first taking the data from an energy audit and materials testing, and then applying our knowledge and techniques to design the most green and healthy building we can.
Just by choosing to keep an existing structure, rather than demolishing it, you’re off to a great start. The greenest buildings are the ones we already have, because then you don’t have the initial carbon emissions costs of tearing down and moving the old building materials to a dump. With creative remodeling and potentially an addition, an old home can have a new life and all those useful materials are kept out of the waste stream.
Once a remodel has begun, there are many strategies we can turn to in order to take it Beyond Green. One is using carbon sequestering insulation materials like straw, hemp, cellulose, recycled denim, and wool. This helps offset climate change which would otherwise be exacerbated by the building industry. We also choose interior finishes that are VOC free to improve indoor air quality from the start. Additionally, using advanced air sealing membranes, efficient mechanical systems, and the use of a service cavity for utilities can turn an older leaky home into one that is air tight. That way we aren’t letting unwanted air move through small holes in the wall assembly where it can create condensation points and eventually lead to mold. Whole house continuous ventilation systems, which are quickly becoming a requirement for new buildings, can also drastically improve indoor air quality in older, remodeled homes.
A Living Craft designed remodel is meant to last for beyond the life of an individual, with means not only choosing systems that create a more durable home, but also using finishes and materials that are timeless. Plaster and wood finishes can be varied to meet the modern styles of today, but also have been used in homes for thousands of years, so they have better staying power in a fast moving design field.
We are constantly looking to keep ourselves up to date on the knowledge and new ideas in green and natural building and remodeling. Through this evolution, we hope to stay on the cutting edge and keep collaborating with other companies and individuals who have similar goals. It’s an exciting place to be!