Living La Vida Local

The World Health Organization has confirmed formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. This toxic eye and nose irritant and can cause respiratory problems. Ironically, Paints, finishes for floors and other components, some types of adhesives and other materials commonly found in building construction may cause volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde that can be harmful to building occupants. Green building practices make extensive use of products that do not contain formaldehyde. The California Air Resources Board is considering standards that would ban some of these toxic substances in the use of indoor furnishings.
Twenty years ago, it was easy for builders to get 2x4s from old-growth forests. The wood was straight, and unlikely to warp. Today, 95% of the nation's indigenous trees have been cut.  Alternatives do exist, reclaimed lumber, engineered lumber, SIPs (structural insulated panels), oriented strand board, glu-laminated beams, I-joists and many other similar products make use of smaller, fast-growing trees harvested from tree farms like other crops.
The result is stable, uniform and structurally solid building materials that minimize the impact on existing old-growth and even second-growth forests. "Green Building Products," a guide for residential building products states that a product may be considered green if:
  1. It's made with recycled, salvaged or agricultural wastes (most commonly crop straws, as in adobe);

  2. It conserves natural resources because it's especially durable or it's made with a rapidly renewing material such as bamboo that can be harvested every ten years;

  3. It enhances indoor air quality because it has low or no emission of toxic chemicals into the air or because it helps block the introduction of indoor contaminants such as mold;

  4. Its manufacture does not produce toxic emissions;

  5. It saves energy or water;

  6. It reduces the environmental impact of the construction itself. Porous driveway paving products absorb a substantial amount of the rain that hits them and this reduces the amount that runs off into a local and often overwhelmed storm water collection system.
In the Northern Hemisphere it is most efficient to orient the building with southern exposure. This allows for passive solar heating and improved natural lighting, which conserves energy usage.
An excellent example of Green multi-unit construction is Colorado Court, located on the corner of Colorado and 5th Streets, is  a 100% "green" affordable housing project.  The building features  44 "single room occupancy" units, each with its own kitchen and bath. The small units feel spacious because of the high ceilings, and efficient use of natural light.
"The original schematics for the building were east/west. That is the worst way to orient a building for solar conditions. We changed the orientation to north/south, so it would be more efficient," observed architect Lawrence Scarpa.
A combined effort of the City of Santa Monica, The Community Corporation of Santa Monica, and local architects Pugh Scarpa Kodama, Colorado Court utilized energy efficiency on everything from solar heating to ecologically appropriate building processes.
Santa Monica also boasts one of the nation’s best examples of green commercial building.  The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Southern California office at 1314 Second Street in downtown Santa Monica is constructed to the highest green building standards. The property has been given the Version 2 Platinum green building rating – the highest possible level of sustainable design – by the U.S. Green Building Council for  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It was the first structure in the United States to receive this status.