Cemstone Concrete Solutions

Whether you're a builder who wants to offer customers the superior qualities of a sustainable concrete home or a buyer who wants to save money and conserve resources by living in one, here are six important action steps you should take to attain your goals.

Define your commitment to green.Before embarking on the home design process, establish your environmental priorities and level of commitment, suggests Green By Design author Angela Dean. Do you want to save money and resources by using fewer building materials? Do you want to achieve greater energy independence? Or do you simply want to create a healthier living environment? Dean recommends listing your goals in terms of budget, aesthetics, function, health, enjoyment, and environmental stewardship.

Do plenty of research.Visit some of the online resources provided at the end of this section to learn more about green building and the role concrete can play. Also research other environmentally responsible building materials that require little maintenance, don't need frequent replacement, and can be reused, recycled, or disposed of inexpensively and responsibly. One excellent online resource is the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, which has lists of certified low-emitting interior products and building materials broken down by product category.

Tap into the full potential of the home site.Properly orienting a home in relation to sun exposure, wind patterns, mature trees, water resources, and drainage flow can make a huge difference in optimizing performance. When meeting with the design team, make an effort to capture natural energy flows, evaluate potential hazards, connect to the community and services, design with sensitivity, and preserve and enhance natural assets, says Dean.

Check local building codes.Make sure the type of materials and systems you plan to use to achieve your goals meet the prescribed building code requirements in your area. Because approval of the home design will be up to the local code official, establish a relationship with that person early on to discuss your plans.

Get the right help.Search the database of the Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA) to find distributors and manufacturers of ICFs, experienced ICF contractors, ready-mix producers, designers, and even mortgage lenders that offer reduced interest rates for energy-efficient homes. Builders can find information here on ICF code interpretations, standards, and practices. You can also contact a concrete home contractor through the Concrete Network by filling out this form.

Follow a set of guidelines.If there's a local green home building program in your area, contact them for guidelines and assistance. The NAHB Research Center is also creating a set of model green home building guidelines for mainstream home builders.