Plants like bamboo, that can be harvested and grown again within a short time, ease demand for slower-growing trees and non-renewable resources like petroleum. Look for bamboo alternatives for floors, cabinets, built-ins and furniture.

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New Construction Tips

Salvaging Materials
Choosing salvaged, secondhand or antique furnishings, doors, trim, fixtures and other items that have been around the block a few times is often a smarter use of natural resources than buying new products. When remodeling, reuse as much as you can of the existing structure, trim, finishes and fixtures.

In saying this however, steer clear of single-pane windows, old toilets and used appliances that waste energy or water compared with their newly manufactured counterparts.

Alternative Building Materials
Using premium materials that are more durable and construction practices that often exceed building regulations will enhance your home's performance and reduce maintenance and replacement costs, thereby raising its overall value. Examples of such long-lasting materials and their applications include decking made from recycled plastic and wood fibers, durable tile or linoleum for floors, 50-year roofing materials, and fiber-cement siding. Materials like engineered wood products are encouraged because they efficiently make use of waste wood pieces, reducing environmental impacts of the wood industry. Recycled-content products productively use materials that would otherwise need to be hauled to landfills, and also reduce costs and impacts of producing products from virgin materials.

Windows and Skylights
A new home provides the best opportunity for designing and orienting the home to take advantage of the sun's rays.  Brighten up dark hallways, bathrooms and other spaces with skylights. They let in daylight without the excess heat and are relatively easy and affordable to install. A well-oriented home allows low-angle winter sun to reduce heating bills and rejects overhead summer sun to reduce cooling bills.

Roofs play a key role in protecting building occupants and interiors from outside weather conditions. The roof, insulation, and ventilation must all work together to keep the building free of moisture and provide protection from the sun. In fact, if designed correctly, roof overhangs can protect the building's exterior walls from moisture and sun.

A number of roofing choices are available for high-performance buildings. New solar panels on the market can produce electricity using solar technology and reflective roofing materials or coatings help send the heat back into the sky rather than into the building.
Green Roofs
Also called living roofs or vegetated roofs, green roofs are specially engineered with a waterproof membrane topped by a lightweight planting medium. Typically planted with native grasses, wildflowers or other climate-appropriate groundcovers, they slow the flow of stormwater off the roof, keep surrounding outside air temperatures cooler, insulate the home from noise, heat and cold, and may even extend the roof’s life.

Passive Solar
Passive solar refers to using the sun's warmth and light to help heat and illuminate a home. Passive solar homes are designed to take advantage of the sun's energy, reducing reliance on electricity or other types of energy for space or water heating. The design of a passive solar home uses the windows, walls, and floors to collect, store, and distribute the sun's energy. Passive solar design does not rely on mechanical or electrical equipment to function.

Although some climate areas are better suited for passive solar homes than others, elements of passive solar design can benefit homes regardless of location. The homeowner can capture maximum benefits from a passive solar approach when designing a new home. However, renovating or retrofitting an existing home can also provide an opportunity to incorporate selected principles of passive solar design.

Active Solar
Another way of using solar energy is to convert sunlight directly into electricity by using a photovoltaic (PV) system. This active solar approach allows a home to generate some or all of its electricity on site. With a PV system connected to the utility grid, it is possible for the homeowner to sell excess electricity back to the utility. Home PV systems are becoming steadily more affordable, efficient, and durable.

Learn more at http://www.energymatters.com.au/
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