Green Building: Minimal Impact on Environment

A green building is any building that is sited, designed, constructed, operated, and maintained for the health and well-being of the occupants while minimizing the impact on the environment.

Green Building

Green building construction refers to those practices that promote occupant health and comfort while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. There are different degrees of “greenness.” Often it is necessary to strike a balance between many different sometimes conflicting “green” options based on the particular conditions of a given project. For example, a proper strategy for a sustainable retrofit project may differ from that of a new construction design.

Green building practices offer an opportunity to create environmentally sound and resource-efficient buildings by using an integrated approach to design. Green buildings promote resource conservation by including design features, such as energy efficiency, use of renewable energy, and water conservation.

By promoting resource conservation, green building design creates healthy and comfortable environments, reduces operation and maintenance costs, considers the environmental impact of building construction and retrofit, and concentrates on waste minimization.

In the interim, green building design addresses such issues as historical preservation and access to public transportation and other community infrastructure systems. The entire life cycle of the building and its components is considered, as well as the economic and environmental impact and performance.

Jim Graham, Las Cruces Contractor

Jim Graham overcomes the hype of going green

Sun & Earth lays the building blocks of energy efficiency

By Jonathan Butz, The Las Cruces Bulletin
Everyone seems to be endorsing “green” lately because of rising temperatures, higher energy costs and the endless mantra that seems to ring in every corner of our lives – green, green, green.

Despite the instant recognition people feel when they hear the word, not every product marketed as “green” is what it appears to be.

Sun & Earth Construction President Jim Graham hopes to clarify the current phenomenon of “green-sploitation” by providing realistic service in sustainable, energy-efficient building and remodeling.

Since the 1970s, Graham has been on the forefront of green building in southern New Mexico, making sure that clients get exactly what they expect from sustainable living.

“We’re cautious of green washing, which means applying a ‘green’ label on something just so you can sell it,” Graham said.

Passive Solar Home

Although green building has changed dramatically since the 1970s, Graham said he is still intent on building houses that adhere to Sun & Earth’s strict criteria of aesthetics, accessibility, energy efficiency, ease of maintenance, durability, safety, and comfort. Specializing in energy-efficient air conditioning, solar water heating, and sustainable roof coating, Sun & Earth Inc. strives to create a service and product that is more than just a buzzword.

“Green building has become more sophisticated since the ’70s and focuses not only on the sustainability of the house, but on aesthetics and livability,” Graham said. “At one time, green building was pretty raw. It may have been efficient, but it wasn’t comfortable to live in or pleasing to look at.”

Things have changed now, and more people are becoming interested in green building, Graham said. With more affordable options available, long-term utility savings, and a number of tax credits and incentives, Graham said it is becoming easier for individuals with modest incomes to have their homes remodeled or built to green standards. He said he remembers a time when he only saw a response from those associated with universities and research; however, he has seen his clientele base broaden, primarily among retirees.

“Affordability is a mainstay of what I do. If I do something more expensive than the mainstream it’s usually due to nicer amenities,” Graham said.
“I tailor to the clients’ individual needs and I try to be realistic about what I can do for people.”

With a lifetime’s worth of construction experience and a biology degree from New Mexico State University, Graham continues to challenge himself, creating innovative residences for people of southern New Mexico.

“I’ve always set a goal of making buildings 80 to 90 percent more efficient than conventional buildings,” Graham said. “When conventional buildings get more efficient, it challenges me to build more efficient buildings.”

Graham said one of his recent successes has been a two-stage evaporative cooling system, which he calls “one of the best available in the area.”

Additionally, Sun & Earth offers roof coating that can reduce the amount of needed air conditioning, and ezinc solar water heaters that can shave dollars off utility costs.

Now, after years of service, Graham said he always has the future in mind. He hopes to contribute to a cleaner, safer and more beautiful future, despite what color it may be.

“A building is not sustainable if people aren’t going to want to look at it 100 years from now,” Graham said with a laugh.

For more information, visit www.sunandearthconstruction.com or call 521-3537.

JIM GRAHAM, contractor, Sun & Earth Construction

Environmentally Friendly Earth Plaster

Sun-News, August 2004

The walls are the largest surface area in a room, yet they are often overlooked in favor of furnishings, accessories, and floor treatments. Walls define the spaces in which we live and work. They play an important role in indoor air quality and are a surface that we naturally look towards as we move through a space. In my experience, once the “right” interior colors are decided upon, there is a sense of self-discovery and emotional well-being for the people living or working in that space. American Clay Enterprises’s Earth Plaster goes a step beyond, offering a product that is both intrinsically beautiful and environmentally sound.

Located in Albuquerque, NM, the American Clay veneer is a blend of pure non-toxic clays that leave out the use of acrylics and cements. This rich textured veneer comes in 12 colors derived from natural non-toxic and ochre mineral pigments and is available in two finishes. Loma offers a richly texture ed Tuscan influence and Porcelina emulates Venetian plaster. The use of clay also plays an important role in controlling indoor environments, making it a great candidate for any climate. It can absorb and then release moisture, which regulates arid and humid air. In bathrooms, this absorption of moisture prevents water from running down the walls. It is mold resistant and is surprisingly cool to the touch in summer. Winner of the NAHB Outstanding Green Product Award 2004, American Clay Earth Plaster’s commitment to the environment and the future is the beacon of their success.

While the field of green design is still relatively new, finding products that are sustainable without giving up aesthetics is more of a reality in today’s marketplace. Consumers are becoming more educated about issues such as climate change and are beginning to ask questions about their choices on product selection. Technology and values have come together to create interiors that serve our health and well-being while protecting our natural resources for future generations. As people begin to discover that earth plaster and other green products are non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and easy to maintain, there is a realization that one does not need to be considered “green” to recognize the durability and aesthetics intrinsic to many of these new products. Choosing green products for our lives and workspaces is quickly becoming part of who we are today.

Ms. Fox is the principle of Foxline Design, which specialized in green design and freelance writing. She is a member of USGBC and IDS.