Modern technology has brought with it many environmental problems. Because the consequences are now widespread and people are feeling the long-term effects, choosing nature-friendly products has become a popular outcry. There are some, though, who doubt whether green siding products are worth it.
There are certain misconceptions about what green means. For instance, some people think that such products are expensive and impractical. Others believe that because these types of products should be biodegradable, they might not last as long as other more conventionally manufactured siding types. However, knowing what green really means will put these apprehensions to rest.
The term “sustainability” is often bandied about when green siding products are being discussed. The word is used to represent the various principles used when determining whether a siding product is environmentally sound. Some of these principles appear to contradict each other. How these balance each other out determines how sustainable they are.
The length of time a material can last is one factor to consider that indicates a product’s sustainability. If a material is very durable, this means that it does not have to be replaced as often as a less durable one. This also means fewer waste pollutants released into the environment because fewer need to be manufactured in order to meet the demand.
The many possible ways a siding material may be utilized again increases its recyclability. This also means that material for other types of products need not be manufactured. The recyclable siding is disposed to a recycling plant that turns it into another type of usable product.
If the product needs to be disposed in a landfill, the more biodegradable it is the lesser its negative impact on the environment. It just becomes part of the soil in a relatively short span of time. Unfortunately, materials that are readily biodegradable are not as durable as those that are not. Wood siding products are the most biodegradable, but they are also not as durable as other siding materials without regular maintenance.
The toxicity of the siding material is another important consideration. Products that are toxic to people also cause harm to the environment. Most siding products only cause harm after exposure over a long period of time. This is one reason vinyl sidings are not supposed to be used inside the house. Its toxicity poses a danger to the home’s inhabitants.
Lastly, material that needs constant maintenance is not considered a good sustainable siding product. For instance, wood siding has to be repainted every year on a regular basis to maintain its beauty and rid itself of pests and insects. This implies that more natural resources are used up and more energy is expended in order to support the upkeep of this type of siding.
It is not only the material itself that determines whether a siding type will aid in preserving the environment or at least in minimizing the waste or toxins produced as a consequence. A product’s ability to lower a home’s energy cost will also increase its property of being a green building material. Furthermore, proper installation is another significant factor that contributes to this.
Siding that provides increased insulation, for example, can lower a home’s energy consumption by at least 5 percent. This does not necessarily mean that one is limited to choosing siding with high insulation properties. The addition of a house wrap can increase insulation by preventing air leaks and moisture infiltration. Another method is to add rigid foam underneath the siding to increase insulation.
One should not limit one’s thinking to the siding material; other details and correct installation are equally important. For example, seemingly small details such as proper sheathing and drainage planes can contribute greatly to decreasing energy consumption. This will help prevent rot, very important if the house uses wood siding. Sometimes an open space, called a “rain screen,” provides added drainage between the siding and the building paper.
Easily Overlooked Factors
Lead content is something that is easily overlooked by homeowners. Many paints used on siding contain lead. This substance has been found to be toxic to humans and to the environment at large. Toys painted with it have been shown to cause health problems in both children and adults. It is hard to imagine the impact of whole houses and communities sporting this very toxic substance.
People do not look at the manufacturer’s safety data sheet for the siding product. This sheet contains information on whether volatile organic compounds were used in manufacturing the siding. Factories using such compounds produce emissions that are dangerous to the environment.
For siding products composed wholly, or in part, of cellulose fibers, wood shakes, or natural wood, it is important to know where the material was taken from. Used or reclaimed wood is a green source, or they should at least be taken from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
The distance siding material needs to be transported from the factory or warehouse to the construction site is another energy conservation factor. An acceptable distance is 300 miles by truck or 1,000 miles by train; more than this entails too much fossil fuel consumption. This rule of thumb is stated in the Model Green Building Guidelines espoused by the National Association of Home Builders.
Aside from immediately feeling the lower electricity bill, using green siding products means that lesser pollution is emitted to the environment. There will be fewer toxins posing a hazard to humans and other living things. Natural resources are not used up at an alarming rate because what is at hand is recycled or extremely durable. The effects may not always be felt immediately or in the near future, but the legacy left by responsible choice of siding will benefit future generations.
Are green siding products really worth it? Yes, they are.