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Green Certification: Focus Area 4 -- The Building

October 15, 2010

by Kit Cassingham

Energy management is one important aspect of having a green building and running an energy efficient business. The pay back is worth initial up-front costs. Insulation is the easiest and most affordable place to start. Water conservation is another important aspect of running a green bed and breakfast. A well designed and built house is the best way to conserve natural resources, and thus money. Your B&B success is bolstered through careful environmental planning and operations.

The building(s) you house your bed and breakfast operations in is the foundation of your environmental program. Though making an existing building more environmentally friendly can be expensive and feel like a daunting task, if it's done bit at a time it's doable. And the payoffs are generally commensurate with the effort and expense.

The shell of the house is the barrier between your guests and the elements, the barrier that keeps them comfortable, to some extent or another. I'm calling the shell your roof, walls, windows, and foundation. It keeps wind, moisture, and extreme temperatures at bay. The tighter the building shell, the more comfortable your guests are going to be.

Your maintenance routine is part of your environmental program. Repairing holes in the roofing and windows is a natural. To add to that concept, repairing holes in the insulation is also a natural, but since the insulation isn't seen, it's easily overlooked.

I'm extending the concept of "hole" for this discussion to mean inadequate amounts of insulation. If your inn is very old, like say older than 2008, or wasn't built with attention to energy conservation, you can benefit by adding insulation to your shell. The minimum required by the Uniform Building Code (UBC)is just that, a minimum, and you are well advised to use more.

The easiest and least expensive time to insulate walls thoroughly is as you are building. And don't overlook insulating the foundation, the walls below ground level. The next level of ease and expense is during renovation, when interior surfaces are removed. The most expensive way to improve insulation is when renovation and construction aren't in progress; but that expense shouldn't stop you from improving your insulation layer.

Attics are generally always easy to insulate, and give you the best payback for cost and effort. That's also where there tends to be the most leaks from the house to the attic. And don't get confused about the value of ventilating your attic space for plugging leaks. You need to do both.

I'm heavily focused on insulation because it's so basic to a building's structure and your savings. While actual dollar savings vary depending on where you are located, the type of insulation you select, and how much insulation you opt to use, you can anticipate saving up to 30 percent in your heating and cooling bills alone by increasing the insulation of your inn.

Other holes include insulation/weather stripping around windows and doors, outlets/switches and ceiling lights (especially can lights), and around vents and fireplace doors. Your windows are also holes in your shell, so don't forget to "insulate" them.

Improving the B&B building is another great way to green the inn. The fuchsia color points out some of the areas where you can tighten the building.

A B&B's Greening Efforts In The Structure


What other ways can you make your bed and breakfast building more environmentally friendly?

  • Use natural and renewable materials in the construction, renovation, and decorating of the inn is an excellent way.
  • Use materials that are local, as much as possible to save the impacts of transporting them long distances.
  • Wood from sustainably managed forests is a more environmentally sound practice.
  • Avoid finishes with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to reduce your use of petroleum-based products and to improve air quality.
  • Buy fabrics of natural fibers, not man-made fibers. Cotton, silk, and wool are great starts. There is controversy over the soundness of rayons made of bamboo, beechnut, and other wood pulps so go cautiously there.
  • Buy Energy Star (e-star) rated appliances, fixtures and electronic equipment. While I often advocate waiting until a piece of equipment has lived its useful life before replacing it, there are big enough savings in some upgrades that I feel it's valuable to replace old appliances while they are still working.
  • Recycle construction waste.
  • Recycle renovation waste -- the items you remove like lumber, windows, carpeting, electronics, appliances, toilets, showers, etc.
  • Replace water-hog fixtures and appliances with water conserving ones.
  • Used furniture and decorations are another way of saving natural resources and conserving your finances.

There area so many ways to green your inn that this one article can't begin to cover all the possibilities. But this is a good start. Now, let your imagination kick in and see what else you can figure out to green your inn to save the environment, and your money. I have every confidence you can add to my list.




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