How to Build an Eco House

Building an eco-house does not mean to renounce comfort or to take a step back in the past. A house made with respect for the environment means health, wellbeing, financial independence and durability. A natural home means protecting nature, health and future.

Advantages of eco houses

Currently, more and more people are looking to move in a home that is friendly with the environment, because of the obvious advantages compared with classical houses. An eco-house is partially or integrally made from recyclable or natural materials, from the structure to walls and finishing. Even since the project phase, you have to consider the land type where you are building, the position of the sun throughout the day or the wind direction.

The most common material used is wood, but just because you are building a wooden house does not mean you are building an eco-home. In the last centuries, people preferred the ‘modern materials’ such as concrete, glass and iron. In the past years, building concepts tend to go back to origins, people preferring original and energy-efficient houses. Moreover, these are sometimes more resistant than traditional buildings.

Principles to consider when building an eco-house

An eco-house should improve the quality of interior air by its design. It is an important aspect, as it comes with effects on our health and mood. A green home must ensure a humidity of 30%-50% throughout the year, enough for the air not to feel dry, but also to avoid extreme humidity that helps the creation of molds.

Materials for building can even be found around the house. It is possible to use straws, bamboo or special type of argyle bricks, reducing the costs. As we are talking about natural materials, you can be sure you are preserving the health of everyone living in the house.

  1. Efficiency and ergonomic

The walls made of natural materials come with a high coefficient of thermal insulation. Such a house is warm during the winter and cold during the summer. Temperature is constant for a longer period, meaning you can save up to 75% of the costs to heat or cool the house.

  1. Resistant

Natural materials, contrary to the beliefs of some ‘specialists’, are more resistant to earthquakes and fire. The majority of materials used are flexible, or they simply don’t burn. If you are able to choose an optimal combination of such materials (like walls made of straws and covered with argyle), we can have a house resistant to all the common known disasters and accidents.

  1. Eco-friendly appliances

A green house isn’t complete without putting thought into the home and kitchen appliances that it will house. What’s the point in building a eco-friendly home and then using energy inefficient appliances or appliances that have a high carbon footprint? This footprint could be during use or in the manufacturing process. Carefully review energy ratings and manuals to ensure you buy only certified low energy use appliances like microwaves, fridge, etc.

  1. Cheap

As a green house is made of durable materials, the costs of building are covered in the long term. If we are able to find construction materials in nature, those will be cheaper and easier to build. Using solar or wind energy will save more money on the long term. Plus, considering the interest of more and more families for these types of constructions, it will be a lot easier to sell your home for a good price after a while.



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Avoid the Landfill by Recycling Vinyl Roofing

The time has come to establish a post-consumer, vinyl-roof recycling program in the U.S.


Carl De Leon, Vinyl Roofing Div., CFFA


Skyrocketing raw-material costs, higher landfill tipping fees, legislation to restrict disposal of construction materials-and an architectural community that demands the lightest environmental footprint that can be achieved-all are leading toward the mainstreaming of post-consumer recycling. In the not-too-distant future, specifiers will call for post-consumer content in a roof project. With its European counterparts blazing the trail, the North American vinyl (PVC) roofing industry has entered a new phase in its commitment to environmental sustainability through recycling.

Because thermoplastic single-ply vinyl membrane can be heated and reformed repeatedly over its lifespan, it has long been an industry best practice to recover production trimmings and scrap and recycle the material into new membrane. Well-run, properly equipped vinyl-membrane production plants are capable of converting virtually all of the raw material and components that go into making the membrane into the final installed roof system (or other applications).

The re-roofing of Boston’s Marriott Long Wharf hotel was a pilot project with an ideal recycling scenario. The project was close to the membrane manufacturer’s head office, and a local recycler had an established program for handling thermal insulation.

Typical post-industrial recycled products have included accessories such as roofing walkway pads, commercial-grade flooring, and concrete expansion joints. In addition, scrap can be reintroduced as a raw material into a subsequent membrane-manufacturing process. Some roofing manufacturers collect their customers’ scrap, as well as the general-purpose scrap of other vinyl fabricators, for reuse in production of new membranes.

Building on this track record, the member manufacturers of the Vinyl Roofing Div. of the Chemical Fabrics & Film Association (CFFA), Cleveland, have initiated a feasibility study to evaluate strategies for making post-consumer recycling workable on a broad scale, as it has been in Europe for many years.

Where it began
Vinyl roofs have been in use for more than 40 years in Europe, and roofing manufacturers there have been recycling retired roofs into other useful products since 1994. That was the year a consortium of companies funded the construction and operation of a facility in Germany to reclaim the growing volume of vinyl membranes at the end of their service lives, and return them to the original manufacturers.

Over the years, the material taken back has been used in a variety of applications, including as feedstock in the production of new roofing membranes. Typically incorporated into the back side of the sheet where potential color variations are not a factor, the recovered material can comprise 5% to 15% by weight of the finished product. Reports from the field indicate that, at 10+ years of age, the first membranes made with recycled post-consumer material are performing the same as membranes produced of virgin raw materials.

Today, RoofCollect, a European Single Ply Waterproofing Association (ESWA) program, (, coordinates the recovery and processing of post-consumer vinyl roofing membranes. In conjunction with the European Commission, ESWA sets annual targets for post-consumer roof recycling. In 2006, 4.4 million lb. of roofing membrane were recycled due to the efforts of the association.

ESWA is now working with the recycler Interseroh (Cologne, Germany) to establish a pan-European collection system that would facilitate recycling in closer proximity to the job site. ESWA is also investigating strategies for incorporating higher percentages of recycled material into finished membranes.

Less is more
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, construction and demolition waste total an estimated 136 million tons annually. The vinyl roofing industry is committed to combining existing post-consumer recycling technologies with logistical expertise to limit its contribution to these numbers.

Post-consumer recycling of vinyl roof membranes in the U.S. began in 1999. Working in tandem with a vinyl membrane manufacturer, a Massachusetts recycling company produced a highway cold-patching material made from old vinyl roofing membranes and other recovered plastics. Today, state-of-the-art grinding equipment makes it possible to process roofing membrane and convert it into feedstock for new materials.

Only membranes that have been mechanically attached or loose laid have been reprocessed in North America. There is no experience as yet with membranes that have been adhered to insulation or to other substrates, but …

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Window Film Repels Solar Heat

Occupants of Inlow Hall at Eastern Oregon Univ., an historical building, used a spectrally selective window film to reduce the effects of solar heat while not compromising the building’s appearance


According to the California Energy Commission, 30% of a building’s cooling requirement is a function of heat entering through existing glass. Carol Kroll, director of human resources at Eastern Oregon Univ., La Grande, OR, certainly is a believer in that statistic. Her office in Inlow Hall, the university administration building, faces a wall of glass through which the sun often raised temperatures to more than 90 F.

Thanks to V-Kool’s clear, spectrally selective window film, Inlow Hall occupants are able to work in a cooler environment.

“It was impossible to work in the afternoons,” Kroll declared, explaining that an air-conditioning unit in an outer office did little to cool things down. In an effort to block incoming solar energy, Kroll applied gold- and silver-colored heat reflective film to the interior of her office windows. The result was not much of a drop in temperature but a definite raising of administrative eyebrows.

“Inlow Hall is an historic structure whose appearance can’t be altered,” Kroll explained. The use of colored film on her office windows was very visible and substantially changed the external appearance of the two-story building, which was built in 1929 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Rather than jeopardize the revered building’s enlistment in the National Register, Kroll removed the colored film from her office windows and tried less-obvious heat blocking options, including traditional window blinds and shower curtain rods from which was hung a room-darkening fabric. Nothing seemed to bring the temperature to acceptable levels.

Fortunately, Kroll learned about V-Kool clear window film, manufactured by V-Kool Inc., Houston. The product was originally developed for the United State’s space and defense programs and with a process known as sputtering in which tiny particles of exotic metals are embedded in optically clear, durable polyester film. A durable, pressure-sensitive adhesive is adhered on one side of the film. On the other side is a durable scratch-resistant coating to ensure a long life. V-Kool is spectrally selective and allows in 73% of visible light, while blocking more than 90% of the infrared spectrum. This means windows remain visibly clear but cut out 55% of the solar heat.

“We were particularly interested in V-Kool because it is a clear film that blocks heat, reduces the temperature, and does not change the appearance of a building,” Kroll explained.…

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Windows Let the Sun Shine In

Windows from Simonton provide sunlight for multi-housing living spaces.


Even with an age difference of 50 years, college students and senior citizens benefit from ample amounts of sunlight. Both groups, at several multi-housing facilities across the country, are energized by natural sunlight exploding into their living spaces.

Azuza Pacific Univ.’s Trinity Hall boasts 420 insulating glass units filled with argon gas that reduces temperature transference and helps reduce outside noise.

At Kendal on Hudson’s continuing-care retirement community on the banks of the Hudson River, almost 5,000 windows connect residents with outdoor views. The 20-acre complex has floor-to-ceiling windows in common rooms and easy-to-operate, crank-out casement windows in 222 living units.

“Our Hudson River Valley setting was specifically selected to offer residents wide vista views,” said Patricia Doyle, executive director of the Sleepy Hollow, NY-based Kendal on Hudson. “Our residents find the [abundant use] of Simonton windows (Simonton Windows, Parkersburg, WV) throughout our complex really helps create a positive ambiance and allows them to easily see the ever-changing countryside.”

Another adult-living community relying on extensive use of windows in its design is Prestwick Chase in historic Saratoga Springs, NY. “The segmented-arch, two-story atrium allowed us to connect residents with the outdoors using walls of windows,” said architect Ethan Halls with Rucinski Hall Architecture, Saratoga Springs. “This facility includes 167 suites and private cottages, along with major central gathering areas. It was important that we specify energy-efficient windows.”

“People at this facility are very active, so they don’t have the time or desire to worry about their homes. The advantages of vinyl windows and doors are plentiful. Our research clearly showed that products from Simonton would be the ideal fit,” Hall said.

Across the country, in Azuza, CA, David Zeidman, a supervisor with Commerce Construction, Azuza, CA, also found that window selection was a critical issue when constructing a dormitory for Azuza Pacific Univ. The five-story, 350-bed Trinity Hall freshman dorm was constructed with wings featuring meeting rooms, computer labs, and gathering spaces.

“We ordered low-e glass to help maintain even temperatures in the dorm rooms during all seasons,” Zeidman said. For energy efficiency, each of the 420 insulating glass units is filled with argon gas. The non-toxic, colorless gas reduces temperature transference from the outdoors to the interior of the dorm rooms. As an added benefit, the argon has helped reduce outside noise from penetrating the building, so students have a quiet study environment.

Other students living and going to classes with secure windows include those at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbus, SC. Before 250 Simonton vinyl windows were installed in the historic campus buildings, windows would not close properly, panes would fall out, and gusty winds blew through dorm rooms.

“Maintenance and upkeep on the old wood windows was killing us,” said Tom O’Brien, vice president of business affairs at the seminary. “I believe this is the first building on the Columbia Historic register with vinyl windows. They look like the windows we took out, but maintaining them is much easier. Most importantly, as energy costs escalate, we now have windows that offer us long-term savings.”

The maintenance ease and energy efficiency of vinyl windows is changing the way many multi-housing contractors view vinyl windows. According to Simonton’s senior product manager Bill Lazor, the same reliable construction that makes vinyl windows appealing for homeowners is duplicated ten-fold when dealing with multi-housing projects.

“We’re seeing a steady increase in the specification and installation of our vinyl windows and doors in multi-housing projects. From oceanfront apartment and condo complexes featuring our hurricane-resistant windows to historic renovation projects of campuses, the benefits of well-constructed vinyl windows are quickly expanding in the multi-housing marketplace,” Lazor said.…

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A Clear Design Goal

Today’s windows provide more than just a view. They have to protect, and even help to green, modern commercial spaces.


Joshua Early, TRACO


Windows in a commercial building provide a view to the outside world, but today are also becoming an integrated part of the overall building design and must satisfy more than just the building occupant. Architects, owners, facility managers, contractors, and historic-landmark experts all have higher expectations for windows. This increasingly includes a requirement that windows also contribute to today’s green building practices.

More than just providing a view to the outdoors, today’s windows help protect building and occupants.

Windows also have to satisfy a higher level of security against terrorist threats; provide protection against horrific weather; still provide natural daylight, energy savings, long-term performance; and offer architectural aesthetic appeal. Window research-and-development teams are exploring technologies such as dynamic glazing, photovoltaic designs, and automatic controls to meet a demanding and evolving commercial window market.

Green windows
According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings use resources, i.e., energy, water, and materials, while reducing building impact on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal-throughout the building’s lifecycle.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, architects, real-estate professionals, facility managers, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, construction managers, lenders, and government officials use LEED certification to help transform the built environment to sustainability. State and local governments across the country are adopting LEED for public-owned and public-funded buildings; there are LEED initiatives in federal agencies, including the Depts. of Defense, Agriculture, Energy, and State; and LEED projects are in progress in 41 countries, including Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and India.

Windows play a big role in green design. They contribute to indoor environmental quality, optimized energy performance, and recycled content for LEED project points. Energy-efficient products help with the overall building energy assessment and thermal comfort for the building occupants.

Windows are a primary source of energy exchange in a commercial building. According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE), Washington, windows are the weak link in the building envelope, and as much as 30% of the energy loss in buildings is through windows. One sq. ft. of window conducts approximately 10 times as much heat as 1 sq. ft. of wall. By increasing the energy efficiency of windows, a commercial building can reduce its requirement for air conditioning and heating, and because electricity is a major contributor of nitrogen oxide, help lower levels of nitrogen oxide emissions as well.

“Energy is an increasingly important issue for builders and developers these days. We have a great challenge with aluminum products, but we are continuing to find the technology to meet the standards. We have to maximize the performance of the components that are needed for new and renovated buildings,” said Mike Manteghi, director of research and development for window supplier TRACO, Cranberry Township, PA, and a board member of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), Greenbelt, MD.

The DOE is pushing to ultimately achieve zero-energy commercial buildings by the year 2025, according to Manteghi. “As a result, we are looking at the U-value of the overall product and solar-heat gain coefficient[SHGC]. We are also seeing a trend toward high-performance glass and the use of more glass in the future to brighten buildings,” Manteghi added.

There are two energy-code criteria that must be met-SHGC, and the U-value of the thermal property. High-performance windows with low U-factors result in inside glass surface temperatures much closer to the room air temperature. Windows with warm-edge technologies and non-metal frames are also less likely to have condensation on the frame or at the glass edge.

Using windows for daylighting offers several benefits to the building and its occupants. Daylighting can reduce electricity consumption from the interior lights when used in conjunction with automatic lighting controls. This saves energy costs when the natural daylight is sufficient and the electric lights are dimmed. Natural daylight also provides a healthier building environment by providing a positive effect on the occupants and potentially making the environment more productive. The following issues continue to be important in window design when considering …

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Plan for Successful Door Installation

Building use, site location, and weather patterns affect the specifying and installation of commercial doors and windows.


Ken Brenden, American Architectural Manufacturer


The performance of a door or window is only as good as its installation. The installation, in turn, depends upon three things: the level of understanding and communication among the architect, contractor, and installer; the quality of the manufacturer’s installation instructions; and the installer’s expertise. Architects and contractors know that once the specification is written and the product selected, the need for planning and oversight has begun.

To foster uniform and reliable installation practices in the commercial sector, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), Schaumburg, IL, published Standard Practice for the Installation of Windows and Doors in Commercial Buildings (IPCB-08). This detailed methodology for the installation of exterior glass doors and windows in commercial buildings provides information for new construction and replacement projects. The publication addresses hinged and sliding commercial exterior doors incorporating large-glass vision.

Performance requirements

Designing for installed performance begins with meeting the application’s requirements as set forth in standards and codes. In commercial buildings, live loads typically take precedence over dead loads (the weight of the stationary building components). Live loads are those that come and go or that change over time. Examples include wind loading, thermal expansion, seismic drift, and even the building’s occupants. Live loads typically induce movement involving interaction among multiple building elements that extend beyond the glazed unit itself.

When specifying doors to withstand these and other conditions specific to the job site, remember that doors have distinct functional differences and application realities compared to windows. These differences stem from accessibility requirements, operating frequency, and water penetration.

During the design phase, it is imperative to consider proper installation and appropriate accessories so fenestration units function effectively and efficiently. This reduces rework, and saves time and money in the long run. Specifiers should also consider using pre-installation and final-quality checklists.

Standards, codes, and regulations

AAMA wrote a material-neutral and harmonized (i.e. suitable for both the United States and Canada) performance standard for window, door, and unit skylights. AAMA also established performance specifications for exterior side-hinged doors This standard and the most recent version (NAFS-08) also reference separate AAMA standards for operating-cycle performance and resistance from forced entry, vertical load, hardware load, and water penetration. These standards pioneered the limited water (LW) rating concept, which recognizes that entry doors typically are installed in weather-protected areas, such as under an overhang or opening into a portico. Thus, significant leakage problems are rare.

NAFS-08 establishes levels of performance for various classes of windows, doors, and unit skylights. Successfully meeting these requirements provides a gateway into one of four performance classifications:

  • R, commonly used in one- and two-family dwellings
  • LC, used in low- and mid-rise multi-family dwellings and other buildings where larger sizes and higher loading requirements are expected
  • CW, used in low-rise and mid-rise buildings where larger sizes, higher loading requirements, limits on deflection, and heavy use are expected
  • AW, used in mid-rise and high-rise buildings to meet increased loading requirements and limits on deflection, and in buildings where frequent and extreme use of the fenestration products is expected.

The 2009 International Building Code (IBC), which references NAFS-08 for window and door performance, governs commercial construction in local jurisdictions where it has been adopted. Other codes governing the performance of commercial doors and windows include the IECC, ADA, and CPSC.

The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) sets forth thermal-performance requirements.

The Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] Accessibility Guidelines (referenced in Chapter 11 of the IBC) require that public buildings and multi-family dwellings include certain features of accessible design. A key requirement is that exterior-door thresholds and sliding-door tracks are not to exceed a height of 1/2 to 3/4 in. This limitation on threshold heights can have an impact on a system’s resistance to water penetration. Door specifiers and installers must be aware of ADA requirements, and must understand this trade-off and the role of the LW rating.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enforces safety-glazing regulation 16 CFR Part 1201 (codified in the IBC), which mandates use of tempered or laminated safety glazing in any operable door with a glass panel or a …

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