Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Which is more important in green construction: materials or tech?


Green Materials
iStockphoto.com/Lacy Rane

Picture this scenario: You're building a home on a tight budget. You have enough money to build a comfortably roomy house, and everything is planned out to fit within the limited amount of money you have at your disposal. You love the idea of using renewable energy resources like solar power to run your home, but the solar panels are simply too much of an up-front cost to fit into your budget. In this scenario, it might seem like your options for building green are limited. But that isn't necessarily the case. Green building materials don't have to cost thousands more than the alternatives.

Affordable green materials include recycled insulation made from newspaper (celluloid) or from denim (cotton). You could plan to build a house with a cool roof -- which may simply require a special coat of paint -- to reflect a large quantity of sunlight. Not only do cool roofs lower heating costs, they lessen the impact of the urban heat island effect, a local atmospheric warming that results from the high concentration of heat-absorbing materials like concrete in urban areas [source: EnergySavers]. Even smart house design can lower your energy usage with passive solar heating, which uses strategically placed windows to harness the sun's heat.

All of these green construction materials and techniques can aid the environment without breaking the bank. Next we'll explore green technologies, but remember: Many current building projects neglect to use the resources mentioned above. Future technologies are important, but more widespread adoption of recycled materials alone would be a major step in the right direction.