As our city expands to accommodate the growing population, new homeowners are researching and engaging in “green” construction. This lowers their carbon footprint and ensures healthy, sustainable, and nontoxic environments for their families. Green building is a vast topic that includes reducing demolition waste, sourcing recycled and low-toxicity materials, ensuring a home is built along energy-saving guidelines, and planting native plants and smart gardens that reduce the need for harmful pesticides.
When choosing a local architect and builder, a homeowner should assess whether or not the firm is capable of evaluating and executing their environmentally conscious desires. The Spinnaker Group, which specializes in commercial LEED-certified buildings, also offers consulting services. LEED homes use less energy and water, which means lower utility bills. On average, certified homes use 20 to 30 percent less energy than non-green homes. Various federal and state tax incentives exist to offset building costs. In Florida, solar power installs offer a large tax credit with the average installation cost being the lowest in the nation.
After local resident, Brodi Borchardt, purchased a new home , she searched for a company that could help her responsibly gut the older Palm Beach property. That’s when she discovered Second Chance in Baltimore. “They were able to help deconstruction and reuse a significant portion of what otherwise would have been thrown away (windows, doors, trim, fixtures, flooring, cabinetry, and appliances). It was a great opportunity to help a worthy charitable organization and keep truck loads of waste out of landfills,” she said. According to Second Chance, up to 70% of a home can be recycled and 20% reused. A great local spot to drop off gently used textiles, wood, tiles, and other items is the Resource Depot in West Palm Beach, which repurposes materials for county-wide art programs.
When local interior designer, India Foster, works with environmentally-conscious clients, she uses no-VOC or low VOC paint and looks for FSC certified or Sustainable Forestry Initiative wood, and rugs certified by Rugmark or GoodWeave. Several upholstery fabric lines now offer recycled and sustainable fabrics as well. Miami-based Miles of Wood is a good source for reclaimed local woods for furniture, decking, cabinets and doors. L’Antiquario sells antique European encaustic and cement tiles.
India Foster’s recent venture, Shizen Studio, is a high-end home goods and furniture line designed and manufactured locally in collaboration with local artists. Shizen uses sustainable or reclaimed materials, such as rare Cuban mahogany felled during hurricanes, remnant stone, and recycled metals.
Another tried and true method for sustainable home decor: buying antiques along West Palm Beach’s famed Antique Row or at auctions, such as Hindman Auctions, which bills itself on social media as the “original recycling.”
An often-overlooked aspect of conscious design involves the outdoor space. Jorge Sanchez has designed prominent South Florida gardens, both private and public, and uses native and rare plants to increase the long-term health of our gardens, lower the use of pesticides, and restore the botanical splendor of old Palm Beach. Raymond Jungles in Miami is another landscape designer committed to innovation and restoration.
No matter how a homeowner creates their new living space, the important component is education and open dialogue with architects, builders, consultants, demolition teams, and interior decorators. With a little extra effort and planning, it is possible to dramatically lower our carbon footprint even while building and remodeling. Let’s all work together to help Florida’s coastline grow smart and clean.