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Educate > Building Green > Materials and Alternative Resources


An Overview of Building Green

Materials used when constructing a building or home impact both indoor air quality and building costs associated with the project.  Alternative resources are assessed by a rating system specified for green building. Environmental standards provide guidelines for making sustainable decisions throughout the construction process. Impact of these alternative resources can be observed within green construction. Several aspects impacted in this process will now be explored.


LEED Certification

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) provides leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the green building certification program. LEED certification implements sustainable efforts throughout green building; in order to achieve safer and environmentally friendly practices. The USGBC strives to provide green building opportunities to everyone.

The process associated with LEED certification relies on the LEED rating system. The goal of this certification program is to establish a nationally accepted green building. Design, construction and operation of these buildings must meet set standards developed for LEED certification purposes. The certification process provides tools to help impact the buildings performance as a green building.

LEED project certification provides verification that the building project and site are responsible to the environment. The building must be a healthy place to work or live.  Another requirement for project certification ensures that the building is profitable in some manner.


Selecting criteria for project certification focuses on critical issues such as:

    • Energy savings

    • Water Efficiency

    • Reduction of CO2 emissions

    • Improvement of indoor environmental quality

These four ideas provided the basis for the LEED certification standards for building projects. LEED building efforts want to serve as a framework for all green building projects. These LEED standards can be applied to any type of building. Whether commercial or residential, sustainable efforts can be implemented as a “whole building” approach to sustainability (USBGC, 2010).

Critical issues provided a model to expand upon when certifying building projects. Key areas have been distinguished, and are measured within the LEED certification programs. These areas highlight the various aspects assessed on the LEED rating system.

    Key Areas for Measurement:

    • Sustainable Sites

    • Water Efficiency

    • Energy and Atmosphere

    • Materials and Resources

    • Indoor Environmental Quality

    • Locations and Linkages

    • Awareness and Education

    • Innovation in Design

    • Regional Priority

For a complete description of each key area please click here for more information.


Waste Management

The simple practice of recycling helps to reduce how much waste will be deposited in landfills. Waste management within green building conserves primary building materials such as wood, dry wall, metal, paper and bricks. Reusing common materials present on building sites reduces the need to use new materials. Reducing, reusing and recycling materials on construction sites are the key steps to effectively manage waste and prevent materials from being wasted. Storage is even provided on site for the recycled materials, making it easier to store and use them at a later step in the building process.

Looking Locally at Waste Management:

LEED accredited professional, Richard Frescatore, has made it a duty to aid in the LEED project certification process. Frescatore, of Frescatore Consulting LLC, was recognized locally in 2008 for his role in the diverting of 10,000 tons of construction and demolition waste from landfills in Central Pennsylvania. The waste was managed precisely for the entirety of the project, which was seeking LEED certification. Frescatore Consulting works closely with construction firms throughout the entire building process. Specific details are mapped out for each aspect of waste management within the building project. The plans must be fully detailed in order to comply with LEED document requirements (Geoghan, 2008).waste

Looking at Frescatore Consulting LLC with more detail provides information of services offered, these services range across the green building industry. Services provided include construction waste management, green building and sustainability consultant and various other waste management services. Consultants often even serve on projects as an extra aid in managing the project (Geoghan, 2008).

“Our objective is to provide simplification, cost reduction, value enhancement, and a sustainable pathway for our clients,” states the website for the Lancaster business. Leading green initiatives locally, Frescatore stresses that the firm has great potential to expand due to interest in their work (Geoghan, 2008).

Frescatore, since developing Frescatore Consulting LLC in 2005, has immersed himself into green building products. Fresco Green Building Supplies sells green products essential for sustainability efforts within the home. Education is quite important for Frescatore, and Fresco’s staff provides information and advice relating to green building to a larger portion of the Lancaster community.

As time passes, the importance of understanding and implementing green initiatives will be mandatory among society. Changes will be necessary to preserve natural resources. Frescatore will be the first to provide such imperative information to his customers. Green initiatives have become more mainstream and trendy within the past 5 years, and they will only continue to gain more attention within the next 5 years as well. Popularity of the subject will lead to individuals utilizing such resources as Fresco Green Building.

To learn more about Fresco Consulting LLC, please visit

Interested in Green Building? Visit


Indoor Air Quality

Several health related problems have been associated with poor indoor air quality. These health problems can include nervous system damage, cancer, allergies and asthma.

After revealing illnesses caused by poor air quality, we must determine the causes for such potentially harmful health risks.

Indoor pollution sources often release gases within the home, leaving the home at risk for potential air problems. High temperature and humidity can prevent gases from escaping the home. Poor ventilation is another environmental factor that leads to poor indoor air quality within the home. Pollutant gases are not always carried out of the home through ventilation, and the gases linger in the air. filter

Buildup of moisture and mold throughout the home are also causes leading to deteriorating air quality within businesses and homes.   

When assessing a problem with air quality in the home, the materials used for building and decoration must be evaluated. Carpets often contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs are toxins that are present in numerous products for a variety of reasons.

For example, they can provide a certain scent to a product or act as a preservative within the product. VOCs should be avoided whenever possible, because long-term exposure can lead to harmful health outcomes.

Choosing alternative resources during the building process can provide a healthier and safer working or living environment. The implementation of VOC free paint, carpet and wood flooring provides an essential first step to improving indoor air quality. LEED certified products are now available for use within your local home or business.

These sustainable efforts help to increase indoor air quality and aid in giving consumers peace of mind when assessing superior green alternatives.



Applying ideas for creative recycling can help to reduce energy use and cost. A great method for saving money is to reuse everyday simple materials such as paper, plastic bottles or even blue jeans to provide insulation within your home. These tactics can save you money in simple ways.

When making selections of recycled materials to use for insulating, the higher the insulating values the better. The recycled insulation will be more effective with a higher insulating value, especially during the winter season.  The insulation aids in keeping warmth present throughout the building or home. It also serves a blockade to the cold outdoors, although not 100% effective, insulation helps to keep the cold winds out of the house.

The use of alternative resources within green building provides an essential edge for consumer health. Evaluating the process of green building on a larger scale, it shows the full circle process applied to the materials and resources used. 

        • Extracting

        • Producing

        • Distributing

        • Consuming

        • Disposing

Following those 5 steps provides a complete experience with creating and implementing alternative resources and materials into the green building process.

The natural resources must be extracted from their environment. For example, trees must be harvested before they are able to serve any purpose pertaining to green building. Resources are then used in producing materials, often with goals of sustainability leading to their use in the green building industry.

Distribution of the finished products occurs next, manufactures distribute their products to various locations, whether large corporations or small businesses. After distributing, consumers step into the circle.

Consumers are able to make decisions pertaining to which alternative options for safe flooring will suit them best as well as other decisions on additional products they may want to try.

After products are bought and consumed thoroughly, the last stage of the circle appears as disposing. This step leaves a great opportunity to implement sustainable recycling and reusing ideas.

Disposing methods are ideas that should be thought out and executed in an environmentally safe manner.

The idea of coming full circle is embodied within the recycling process. If materials and resources are recycled in a environmentally safe way, than the cycle can continuously occur. Disposing may have to be a permanent end to the circle in cases that the resource can no longer be used in a healthy and safe way.

The importance of recycling appeared to be one of the first large green movements of our time.

The push for recycling glass bottles, newspapers, cardboard and plastics seemed to push consumers toward implementing recycling initiatives in their lives. Although widespread messages from the media are not always respected, or listened to, the push for improving environmental awareness has not seemed to fade from headlines and news programs.

As time progresses, so has the immense push for change relating to various spectrums of environmental awareness. These changes are shown to the public using various methods to solidify the importance of implementing a green lifestyle.

Natural resources, once seen as infinite sources, are at the forefront of the implementation of green changes. Trees, although renewable, are being destroyed at a rapid rate by acts of deforestation.

Non-renewable natural resources are being depleted by wasteful practices. Water is a finite source and there are parts of the world that are already experiencing water scarcity. Although this is not a large issue within the United States yet, wasting water further lessens the amount of available fresh water.  

These natural resources are all inter-dependent on one another in multiple ways. Differences between the resources also help to illustrate the similarities that they possess. These resources come together for one cause and develop connections between each other. This idea of inter-dependence is referred to as interconnectivity.

 Interconnectivity is especially important between natural resources used in green building measures, specifically trees, water and rocks. These 3 natural materials are often wasted; this is where conservation purposes need to begin. Let’s explore these natural resources and their importance within green building efforts.




Trees serve as the natural lung for the earth; they allow us to breathe in fresh air constantly.

Other benefits provided to humans by trees include:

  • Serve as filters for water

  • People and animals are dependent on forests for survival

  • Balance in nature is not offset when trees are removed in large quantities


Shocking Statistics:

  • 25% of all prescription drugs come from forests and rainforests (Chameides, 2008).

  • 30 million animals live in the rain forest and 60 million animals are dependent on rainforests (FAO, 2010).

  • 2 or 3 tons of trees are cut down to produce 1 ton of office paper (Sierra Club, 2010).


Although trees are a renewable resource, sustainability is still a hard pressing issue. Both forests and rainforests are being destroyed rapidly. Products from trees serve many purposes, specifically wood.

Wood is used for:

  • Home building

  • Furniture

  • Fuel

  • Making paper

With many purposes to fulfill, trees need to be produced in a more sustainable manner. Tree plantations’ main goal is the production of wood products. However, these plantations lack at applying sustainable tactics within the production process. Only 10% of species are sustained, living in the forests that preceded them (Hershkowitz, 75). Combining sustainability efforts with wood production is key in order to adequately benefit both humans and animals.


Sierra Club Shows Concern

The Sierra Club is the oldest environmental organization in the United States. They aid in protecting wild places and the environment itself (Sierra Club, 2010).

  • The Sierra Club raises concerns pertaining to forests, products of forests, consumption patterns and their overall impact on the environment.

Lancaster County is home to the newest chapter of the Sierra Club in Pennsylvania, formed in 2008. The national organization ties into locally to sustainability efforts within Lancaster, providing useful information as well as opportunities to become involved personally with their efforts. The main focus of the Lancaster chapter is on air quality. Indoor air quality was the focus of previous efforts discussed regarding attempts to increase air quality.

When relating poor air quality to the city of Lancaster, the focus shifts to the importance of outdoor air quality as well. Pollution and harmful emissions have caused a substantial amount of build up surrounding Lancaster City. Lancaster’s region specifically is reported to be high in pollutants, thus being the focus of the Sierra Club’s local initiatives to increase outdoor air quality. The air quality situation is an environmental and public health risk.

The Sierra Club’s motto, “To enjoy, explore and protect the environment” provides clear objectives of both their national and local chapters.

Lancaster Sierra Club’s website provides information pertaining to various sustainable initiatives within the city. Recycling information and locations are provided for individuals who desire to recycle paper and other various products. They also recognize both local and national conservation initiatives.

Resources include conservation initiatives within the Lancaster area, including Project Green Lancaster. Sierra Club’s national conservation initiatives are also available as a useful resource when researching these implementing of initiatives.

The Sierra Club of Lancaster’s last activity was a trail cleanup on the Conestoga Greenway. All efforts are provided to the public and volunteers are always encouraged. For more information please, click here.


So, what can we do?

Trees are used in variety of ways in the green building industry. Recycling initiatives need to be implemented. Sustaining this natural resource provides remarkable benefits to people, animals and the environment.

Cut back on wasting trees:

Individual Effort

  • Do Not Mail Registry

    • Junk mail is a big offender to wasting trees

    • Over 100 billion pieces of junk mail is sent every year

    • ½ of junk mail received is thrown out without ever being opened

    • Placing yourself on the Do Not Mail Registry can save vital natural resources in this simple and effective solution

National Effort

    • Large companies can be forced to produce paper that is made of recycled content or sustainable wood sources

      • By using recycled materials, new materials can be preserved

      • Companies with high catalog advertisement volume

International Effort

  • Forest Stewardship Council

    • Comprised of 45 countries

    • FSC Certification System- based on environmental standard documents

      • Relate to chain of custody

        • Wood can be tracked down to the forest it came from

        • Prevents extreme measures in tree harvesting

        • Helps to prove the forest was managed in a sustainable manner

Trees provide many resources and materials used heavily throughout the green building industry. Next, we will look at water as a natural resource and evaluate water scarcity and sustainable initiatives that should be implemented immediately.




The human body is composed of 50-60% water. Large amounts of water are present within our bodies, understanding the importance of water conservation is imperative when relating it to making steps toward sustainable practices.

Water is heavily relied on within the United States. Although there are countries that are currently facing problems with water scarcity, US citizens have a magnitude of uses for water every single day. 


Shocking Statistics:  

  • 256 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 cotton t-shirt (Water Footprint Network, 2010).
  • 97.5% of the Earth’s water supply is salt water, and most fresh water supplies are frozen, this leaves only 1% of the entire water supply, which is accessible for human use (Water Footprint Network, 2010).
  • By 2025, ¾ of the Earth’s population will experience water scarcity (BERGKAMP & SADOFF, 2008).

    Water is used much and often daily.

     A variety of uses are common:

      • Drinking source


        • Bathing & sanitation
          • Washing hands
          • Taking a shower
          • Flushing the toilet
          • Brushing your teeth


        • Cleaning purposes
          • Washing clothes
          • Washing dishes/used in dishwasher
          • Meal preparation


Water is used in just about everyway in the average day, but this causes to the depletion of crucial water resources, that are not renewable. With having less than 1% of the Earth’s water supply readily available, our future lives are laced with potential risk for water scarcity. Although the majority of the United States is not currently dealing with any such problem, just the thought of it must lead to sustainable practices.

From Pollution to Preservation:

Pollution also serves as a challenge to the already scarce amount of useable water. Water may not be re-useable if polluted, not to mention it leads to devastating environmental damage. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA has implemented water quality standards. These standards are currently being enforced in Lancaster County. 

Local efforts have recently been put into action concerning Lancaster County’s contribution to the polluting of the Chesapeake Bay. Lancaster was named one of three main contributors to pollution and build-up currently present in the bay. This provided the opportunity for locals to join together to form The Lancaster County Clean Water Consortium. Formed in May of 2010, with the goal of the implementing a countywide plan to restore the water source and to develop ideas for furthering preventing pollution.

The strategy developed contains Watershed Implementation Plans, WIPs, as well as continuing support for the already established watershed alliances.


So, what can we do?


Grey Water

  • Used water from bathtubs, sinks, washing machines

    • Water may be dirty, but it is used for useful and sustainable uses for yards

    • Grey Water Projects can provide constant recycling and re-using of grey water, usually set up permanently within the home

    • Toxins should be avoided when collecting gray water supplies, as not to cause harm to the environment (Single Drop, 2009).

  • Reducing your water footprint, is an individual effort in conserving precious water sources. Although reduction efforts can be accomplished in groups, states and even countries, an individual is responsible for their own footprint.


Here are steps for water reduction within the home:

  • More efficient water fixtures

    • Although low-flush fixtures are required by law, more effective fixtures are available

    • Waterless urinals

    • Starting to become more available

  • Reusing rain water
  • Rain-water harvesting is a similar process to grey water, and can be re-used for agricultural purposes Reducing water use

  • Turn off sink when not using water supply directly

    • When washing your hands or brushing your teeth

    • While doing dishes, let dishes sink instead of using constant supply of running water

Simple steps can be implemented in an everyday routine to ensure you decrease the size of your water footprint. With this resource so valuable and finite, we all must start conservation practices.

To learn more about steps toward conservation or reducing your water footprint, please visit

Water conservation is imperative in the green building industry. Water is essential in the production process of both green materials and resources, implementing changes for water sustainability will prove vital in the near future.



Rocks are classified in several ways when relating to green building.

Some examples of rocks include:

    • Metals

    • Gems

    • Minerals

    • Petroleum

    • Coal

Essentially, rocks are considered a non-renewable resource. Sustainability efforts can still be implemented despite rocks being non-renewable, such as in the case with petroleum. Rocks are often thought of differently than trees and water in the means of resourcefulness. Products of rocks serve many functions when applied to green building. These resources are used for constructing buildings and homes. Fuels produced from rock also have an importance with international trade relations. Rocks aid in producing a wide assortment of natural resources.

Staggering Statistic:

Not as many shocking facts relating to rocks were noted as in trees and water. Statistics about products of rocks are more common.

  • Petroleum powers 84% of machines, vehicles, as well as a heat source each year (American Chemical Society, 2006, 176).


Conflict Minerals

The mining of valuable rocks often leads to oppressive working conditions in the mines. Here are some examples of conflict minerals, whose value leads to harsh working environment.


  • “Blood Diamonds” are known as conflict diamonds

    • These diamonds also help to fund rebel groups, specifically within the country of Sierra Leone
    • Diamonds also tended to influence fighting (Campino, 2001).
  • Coltan is produced through a process of heating and corrosion

    • Most widely known for uses in:
      • MP3 players
      • Remote Controls
      • PS3s
  • Petroleum is produced from the oil of rocks

    • Most wars over petroleum, opponents fight to keep or get this natural resource

Made for Petroleum:

        • Plastics

          • In cars
          • Houses
          • Toys
          • Computers
        • Clothing

        • Asphalt

        • Synthetic rubber

        • Packing materials

        • Fertilizers

        • Detergents

        • Herbicides

        • Fuel

        • Lubricating oil

Made from rock oil, petroleum produces a wide variety of products ranging in uses. As seen above, this list provides several examples of the sustainable uses petroleum. Plastic is made from petroleum, which is one of the most recycled materials. The recycling process pertaining to plastics helps to show the continuous cycle of renewing natural resources. When plastics are thrown away, it is equivalent to depleting a natural resource without any regard for the environment.

Recycling is a practice that my family and I have participated in since I can remember. When I was younger I would help my dad collect plastic water and soda bottles throughout the house. We would wash them out, as well as cans and put them in the special recycling bin. I am not sure what exactly triggered my responsiveness to recycling, but I have been an advocate for the cause since.

My largest pet peeve at my job during the summer of 2009 was the lack of recycling facilitates present. Working for a large corporation, this left me to think. My company had a recycling program for old, ancient electronic devices but not for plastic bottles. I kept my thoughts to myself until I reached my breaking point.

Drinks are available for employee purchase, and they are distributed in a 20 ounce plastic bottle. I was angered every time that I would see plastic bottles filling up the trash cans. At this point, I had to do something to aid my annoyance. I spoke with my general manager in regards to the manner, he expressed that there was nowhere to take the recycling if we were to collect it in a specified bin.

This was a small speed bump in my way, I spoke to a fellow recycler and volunteered to dispose of the recycling responsibly each time it needed to be emptied. He showed true dedication to the cause, just as I had. After informing my manager of the great news, he sent me walking across the parking lot to The Home Depot to fetch our very own recycling bin.
I was more than glad to promote the recycling bin throughout the store from that point on. I made sure to make colorful signs informing my fellow employees not to throw their trash in there, believe me it happened more than I would like to recall.

To this day the recycling bin sits in the break room, I implemented a green initiative of my very own within the culture of the store.

Back to petroleum and its products, most tend to interrelate to the ideas of sustainability and provide opportunities to implement initiatives in various forms. Recycling of plastic and computers help to re-use whatever materials possible. Responsible recycling techniques for petroleum-based products provide opportunities for the materials to be recycled without having produce more of the same products.

Some individuals stick to their old ways and refuse to even recycle a bottle because they do not believe that it matters. If all accepted green initiatives, there would be a lot less wasting of petroleum, especially its use for plastic. 

Petroleum also aids in the production of cars, tires and roads. These three uses are inter-dependent on one another, and petroleum.


Sustainability Efforts & “Green Redemption”

Petroleum spills are cleaned up in attempts to sustain any resources that may have been lost in the process. The cleanup and reuse of petroleum is viewed as a sustainable environmental practice. Contaminated lands covered in petroleum are cleaned up in order to reuse the land. By cleaning up the contaminated land, it saves additional sources of land at different locations.

This act of cleaning up provides many sustainable efforts and is sometimes referred to as “green redemption.” These strategies use natural resources and energy efficient solutions by helping in the reduction of negative impacts on the environment. Sources of pollution are reduced or illuminated throughout the clean up efforts. A final action is reduction of waste when the process is complete (EPA, 2009).


These sustainability efforts address all potential risks that the spilled petroleum would have provided. The land was cleaned up and reused instead of staying a polluted land, where the problem would begin to escalate rapidly. Problem of using new land was eliminated with the reuse of the contaminated land.

Reduce, reuse, recycle has been a motto referred to at multiple times during this discussion. The act of green redemption helps to completely cover all three steps involved in the motto. Reducing the amount of pollution and waste, reusing the land that had originally been contaminated and recycling the petroleum itself.


So, now what?

We have now looked at three main natural resources, which help to comprise the green building industry. Trees, water and rocks all play intricate roles in the development of green building materials. These often non-renewable resources are taken for granted, which will lead to problems in the future.

Sustainability initiatives pertaining to all natural resources discussed not only the importance of these resources, but also the urgent need to recycle and reuse any material possibly. Especially within the construction aspect of green building, reusing building materials provides benefit to both consumer and the environment.

Following these simple steps toward sustainability will provide a greater use of resources and less wasting of finite materials. Being environmentally conscious when using these resources daily will aid in widespread efforts to reduce reuse and recycle.

Another important aspect of renewable resources to be considered in green building is the use of rapidly renewable resources. Specific plants, bamboo for example, reproduce at rapidly astonishing rates. Using bamboo as a natural resource provides no true concerns with sustainability, although materials should always be recycled if possible. Bamboo flooring is a material used in green building. This flooring alternative to carpeting improves indoor air quality and is made of recycled bamboo.

Using rapidly renewable resources benefit both the consumer and the environment. For environmental purposes, the rapid production of the plant helps to offset any difference in atmospheric balance that may occur.

Rapidly renewable resources include:

  • Bamboo
  • Cork
  • Hemp
  • Agricultural materials


Natural Resources Benefits to Green Building

Now that we have looked at the importance of various natural resources and their differing uses, we can look at what green building does for these resources. Broken into categories, we will examine how resources benefit the green building industry specifically.


  • Building reuse

    • Reuse of a building provides a large recycling opportunity, the building is already constructed and will not require large amounts of new materials to be uses

    • Keeping the foundation of the building and re-using fixtures prevents construction waste

  • Managing construction waste

      • LEED project certifications implement detailed plans regarding disposal of construction waste

      • Waste management is an important factor within green building, one person oversees the managing of the waste


  • Re-using Materials

    • Doors, fixtures and cabinets

    • Appliances are often left behind by other owners

  • Requires Recycled Content

    • Post-consumer levels of content percentages are required

      • Steel, concrete, flooring, dry wall and carpeting


  • Regional Materials

    • Reduced transportation of materials is required to be within 500 miles of the project site

    • Need for oil, water and gas are reduced

    • Less CO2 emissions are produced with shorter travel time and use of one vehicle


  • Rapidly Renewable Materials

    • Some include: Bamboo, cork, agricultural materials and hemp, although illegal in the United States


  • Use of Certified Wood

    • FSC Certified

    • Woods can be tracked down to forest it came from

The natural resources that we have just examined play a large role in the green building industry. Green building helps to ensure that these vital resources are being protected throughout the building process. LEED certification and rating scales help to ensure initiatives for sustainability are being carried out exactly as required.

These resources make green building possible. Without water, there would be no production of wood. The connections carry on throughout the green building process, natural resources are used to produce all green building materials used. The interconnectivity between trees, water and rocks is placed in the center of green building, in my interpretation at least.

The idea that three simple resources would be able to produce most materials used within the green building industry was mind blowing to me at first.

Natural resources tend to be the most important aspect to remember when discussing green building materials and resources. The importance of sustainability, especially with non-renewable resources, has served as a guide throughout the introduction and discussion of each resource. Each resource provides a different function in green building, and all have the same importance level. Without one of these resources, there would not be current alternatives available within the industry.

Steps toward a green life can be taken everyday, there are plenty of opportunities to conserve natural resources each day. Taking advantage of those opportunities is the first step in living green. Just remember to reduce, reuse and recycle, always.



| Materials and Alternative Resources on Project Green Lancaster was created by Stephanie Cafoncelli at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. |

| © 2010 Millersville University. All Rights Reserved. |