blogging the latest news and technology for
sustainable construction and net zero energy

Occupational Safety in Sustainable Building Renovations

May 11, 2012

--The most sustainable materials are often recycled materials.  The same can be said for buildings in some cases.  But it is important to realize that when cleaning up an older building you often run into unsustainable materials that can be hazardous to contractors during renovation.  Our friends at have delivered a featured blog post to share some of the hazards of renovating a building.

As the “environmentally friendly” movement continues to gain popularity, sustainable building renovations are also taking up an ever-increasing percentage of construction projects.

Some sustainable renovations are simple, like adding rooftop solar panels or installing new light shelves. However, other renovations that can enhance a building’s “green” factor can damage asbestos-containing materials, posing an exposure threat to the workers.

Sustainable renovations that might release asbestos into the air include:

  • Tuning up heating or cooling systems (often insulated with asbestos)
  • Clearing out boilers (also insulated with asbestos)
  • Tearing up carpet to expose terrazzo flooring (asbestos was once an ingredient in carpet glue)
  • Replacing old windows (asbestos has been found in wall cladding and window sills)

During these renovations, or any other renovations where older construction products are disturbed, workers must make asbestos safety a priority. Asbestos is a natural material, but it can cause cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer if it is inhaled or ingested. Construction (both on traditional and sustainable projects) poses one of the largest risks for asbestos exposure.

Reducing Asbestos Risks during Renovation

Unfortunately, the presence of asbestos is almost guaranteed in buildings that were constructed before the 1980s, and handling asbestos-containing materials is sometimes unavoidable. However, asbestos safety procedures can reduce the risk of releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

Before performing any construction activities on a potentially asbestos-containing material, workers should send samples of the item in question to a laboratory, where its asbestos content can be confirmed.

If a product is found to contain asbestos, workers can employ wet-removal techniques (or dry ice techniques when dealing with certain asbestos adhesives) to reduce the chances of asbestos entering the airspace. Any debris that is released during the construction process should be treated with care and vacuumed up by a machine equipped with a HEPA filter before the construction crew leaves the site.

While performing these sustainable renovations, construction workers must wear appropriate safety gear as provided by their employer. Personal protective equipment recommended for asbestos-contaminated jobsites include disposable coveralls, eyewear, boots, gloves and full-or-half-face respirators with a HEPA filtered cartridge.

Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.


Energy Efficient Curtains and Blinds

March 14, 2012

--Thermal insulated window treatments act as a similar energy efficient retrofit as low E window films.

In a recent post, the use of low E residential window films was discussed as a viable opportunity to reduce solar heat gain.  Solar heat gain is perhaps one of the largest contributors to high cooling costs in warmer months.  In addition, UV rays entering your house can cause furniture to be destroyed.  There are plenty of undeniable reasons why solar heat gain can be devastating to a home's...

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Low E Residential Window Films

February 18, 2012

The sun's energy is one of the most overlooked contributors to the high energy costs that homeowner's face every month. Solar heat gain is used to refer to heat from the sun that enters your home through windows and skylights even when they are closed.  This heat must be removed by your air conditioning making it work harder and costing you more money.  A very cost effective way to control this heat and help keep your energy bills down is to use residential low E window films. 

These ea...

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Home Energy Audit Tools

March 17, 2011

Residential energy audits are the first step in cutting energy costs. Before eliminating energy loss in your home you must first identify where your house is losing the most energy. Using this information you are more capable of effectively cutting energy costs without wasting time and money on projects that may not produce as valuable results.

Another way to save money and increase the return on investment for your energy efficiency projects is to perform the energy audit yo...
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Smart Home Renovations

December 10, 2010

Respect the Environment while you improve your home

A sustainable home renovation can range from upgrading windows and insulation to replacing the flooring with eco-friendly materials. The first tenet of green building is to conserve energy in every way you can: through the course of the renovation and in your daily living, the way your home uses and saves energy will determine just how sustainable your living space has become.

When renovating, you should use materials that have been recyc...

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CONSUMERS BEWARE: the truth about sustainable materials

August 13, 2010

Sustainable construction materials are becoming more widely developed and produced.  While this is great for the industry these new materials and products for sustainable renovations and new construction must be assessed by consumers and contractors on many different levels.  The problem with the advancing market is that companies start producing items that appeal to green consumers because they merely have to in order to stay in business.  But are these green building products and materials ...

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Prefab Home Additions

July 12, 2010

Prefabricated structures (prefab) are sustainable because they limit any material waste, can be assembled in a significantly shorter period of time, and can often be disassembled and moved if necessary.  I have elaborated on each of these points and more in a recent post about steel prefab.   However, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce prefab in the renovations blog. 

The reason being is that many new prefab start ups are designing and building sheds to go in back yards th...

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Radiant Floor Heating Sustainability

July 5, 2010

A radiant floor heating system can be used with a couple different sources of heat sources.  The most popular is a hydronic source running off of a boiler but the most sustainable is a geothermal heat pump.  However, the application of a radiant floor heating system is debated as a sustainable heating option.  It has been experimented in with commercial and residential buildings, also in cold, moderate and warm climates.  The most popular debate is based on its use as retrofit system or in ...

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Sustainable Kitchen Inspiration and Ideas

June 30, 2010

If are thinking of doing a kitchen renovation and need some ideas of where you can go green, look no further.  The HGTV green dream home giveaway consisted of a green home in California that features many sustainable materials and products.  Some highlights of the kitchen include quartz countertops, engineered wood flooring, energy star appliances, and glass tile back splash. 

Okay, so the Green Dream Home is not the most sustainable house featuring the most sustainable kitchen but it was b...

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Lumboo: A sustainable failure

June 25, 2010

The capabilities of an $8 stick of lumber and where it could be used in sustainable construction.

Cali Bamboo has introduced a line of engineered dimensional lumber that is made from 100% compressed bamboo.  The marketing points for this new product are a “stronger more durable wood that is affordable and green.”  Stronger and more durable?   Maybe, but it hasn’t undergone any formal testing for code regulations and is only sold for fence posts.  Affordable?  Ther...

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John Noriega © 2012 Sustainable Construction Blog.   Blogging the latest news and technology for sustainable construction and net zero energy.

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