Sustainable Siding: What Makes a Building Material Green

If you’re an eco-conscious 21st century consumer, you’re not alone in wanting to invest in products and solutions that minimize your environmental footprint. Don’t worry – undertaking a major home improvement project, like renovating your home’s siding, doesn’t have to produce a negative environmental impact.

As you undertake your search for the right siding material, consider the following criteria.

1. What combination of materials is the product made of?

Some materials require intensive manufacturing processes, which can mean that a seemingly sustainable product can have major environmental consequences. As you evaluate the options, take a look at what materials make up your product. Ideally, your choice will be naturally sourced, non-toxic, or recycled – or a combination of the above.

A high quality siding material will reduce wear and tear on the environment. Vinyl may not be your best choice, because it won’t degrade in landfills, and it can be difficult to find a facility that will recycle it. On the other hand, something like wood will readily break down and can be sourced from renewable, managed forests. Natural stone or brick is nonrenewable but can be sustainably sourced.

Manufactured materials are often the best option for green building; something like fiber-cement is made up of a combination of renewable materials, including wood, sand, and water. James Hardie fiber-cement siding recycles the materials in its products – including recycling water four times throughout the process.

2. How durable is the material, and what kind of maintenance does it require?

Durability has a huge impact on a material’s environmental footprint. A durable product will not need to be replaced as often as other products. A durable product will also require little to no maintenance, thus reducing both cost and environmental impact.

Here are a few examples. While wood is a natural and renewable material, it requires constant maintenance. If you choose wood siding, you’ll have to refinish it every two to five years. On the other hand, manufactured materials like fiber-cement are designed to last a long time, even when exposed to high heat, moisture, UV radiation, and snowstorms.

3. Can the material be reused or recycled?

Some materials are more easily compostable or reusable than others. Wood will readily break down in a landfill or composting facility, while vinyl requires a specialized recycling process. In the case of certain materials, like fiber-cement, there is little need for post-consumer recycling because the product is so durable.

A material’s prospective reuse or recycling is partly the job of the product manufacturer and partly the job of the building contractor. Scrap metal, paint, wood, and other materials can be re-appropriated for a local cause, like Habitat for Humanity. Talk to your contractor to see if they support one charity in particular.

4. Does the material emit volatile organic compounds?

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals used in the manufacturing and maintenance of certain building materials. Depending on the chemical makeup of each VOC, it may pose serious health risks, including respiratory distress, allergic reactions, nausea, dizziness, and more. High VOC emissions are particularly problematic in indoor environments, like hospitals, schools, and homes.

Health-conscious consumers should choose products with low VOC emissions. For example, wood siding is a wonderful natural choice, but because it requires regular treatments to remain viable, you’ll have to be very careful. Wood will necessitate any combination of chemical treatments, paints, and primers to maintain its appearance and effectiveness, some of which may have high VOC emissions.

Fiber-cement siding from James Hardie, on the other hand, is manufactured with ColorPlus® technology, so you can choose any color you’d like, without the risk of using high-VOC paints or primers. This technology lasts longer than most applied paints – virtually eliminating the emission of VOCs.

5. Does the manufacturer source materials locally?

Responsible sourcing of materials has a huge impact on a particular product’s environmental footprint. Local materials travel fewer miles to reach their destination. By choosing these products, you’ll help reduce fuel consumption and air pollution. Locally sourced materials also help boost the surrounding economy, creating more jobs and more work.

Some materials that would otherwise be very eco-friendly might have hidden environmental costs. Distance can present one such problem. Wood products from a sustainably managed forest are better for the earth than other materials, but depending on the type of wood, the source forest may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

When you talk to your contractor at K & B Homes, you’ll get a better sense of the New Jersey-area materials we use. Companies like James Hardie have set up a total of eight manufacturing facilities across the country, allowing local markets to take advantage of their unique fiber-cement siding solutions.

6. How will your home’s heating and cooling costs be affected?

As you consider your options, keep the big picture in mind – and choose a siding material that will improve your home’s energy efficiency. Going green in your construction or renovation project may cost more upfront, but you’ll enjoy bigger savings in the long run. Insulation is a key consideration. Work with a siding material that will allow you to seal and insulate your walls effectively.

7. Is the manufacturing company transparent about its practices?

Any material you choose should come from a manufacturer that prioritizes transparency about its practices. While better information won’t make a product more eco-friendly on its own, a company that willingly provides answers to complex consumer questions – especially ethical ones – is far more trustworthy than its competitors.

Choose K&B Home Remodelers

At K&B Homes, we’re committed to green home renovation – which is why we’ve partnered with James Hardie to provide the highest quality fiber-cement siding on the market. Fiber-cement is our material of choice because of its attractive appearance, durability, and ease of maintenance. Furthermore, we’re one of the only New Jersey home remodelers specializing in the installation of this material.

Our direct relationship with the James Hardie Company allows us to provide a high quality product with superior workmanship at an affordable price. For more information about what we can do for your home, contact us today to request a free quote.

About Mike Damora

Mike Damora is vice president of sales and marketing at K&B Home Remodelers, in Randolph, N.J. You can follow him on Twitter @madamoracatch him on Drift.