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Shades of Green Blog

Green construction has become a buzzword in the home building industry over the past few years.  “Green” refers to the use of environmentally beneficial materials and practices to construct homes and neighborhoods that will produce the least environmental impact.  I refer to this as the reduction of a “carbon footprint”.  The world as a whole has begun to see that the wastefulness of our construction and renovation practices is endangering the remaining supplies of our valuable natural resources and is also filling up our landfills with products that could be used again for positive benefit.

One of my biggest problems with some of the proposed green principles is that they do not make economic sense and will therefore not stand the test of time.  We live in a society that is driven by the value of the dollar and while some with endless economic means will not be swayed by the cost of a product or system, the majority of our society will not embrace a practice that does not give them some sort of economic benefit in the end.

Please feel free to suggest items that I have not considered or to comment on your experiences with these methods and materials.



Additional Blog Articles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steven Horn   

For additional blog articles pertaining to subjects outside of Green Construction, please visit http://stevenrhorn.wordpress.com/

 
Greywater Recycling PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steven Horn   

Overview

In an effort to find new and innovative ways to conserve water in residential building, MasterCraft has been looking into a new water recycling strategy.  This particular strategy involves repurposing water that has been used in sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, tubs, and showers to be used in irrigation or as part of a composting toilet system.  The water produced in sinks, tubs, showers, and dishwashers is known as greywater, meaning that its contamination level is between fresh water (whitewater) and water contaminated with human waste (blackwater).  Greywater must be used quickly because the bacteria accumulated during household use will render the water unsafe for repurposing after 24 hours.  Greywater is an abundant source of water for irrigation and can help reduce septic use since it comprises 50-80% of a house’s wastewater. (Letsgogreen.com) Using greywater can reduce the amount of freshwater needed to supply a home and reduces the amount of waste entering septic and sewage systems. It should also be noted that not all greywater is equally contaminated, wastewater that contains food particles or has been used to clean especially dirty laundry are still classified as blackwater and should be disposed of normally.

 

Determining Feasibility

A greywater recycling system is not ideal for every home and certain criteria must be met in order to properly install and maintain the operation.  Climate and soil are two major factors in determining whether or not using greywater is actually a viable alternative.  The soil surrounding a home must have the right level of permeability, meaning the soil cannot be too sandy or have too much clay.  If the water isn’t filtered thoroughly or if the soil is too dense for the water to fully filter through the soil the greywater will actually have a negative effect on the area being irrigated.  If the system is used in a cold climate or a wet climate it may not be as effective since irrigation is not needed as often and could leave the operator with an excess of greywater in storage.

If the homeowner lives in an area where such a system is heavily regulated with permits and restrictions, the complexity of the system might diminish any cost saving potential. In this case a traditional plumbing system that utilizes water efficient fixtures and conscientious users might be just as effective.  However, if none of these obstacles hinder the homeowner’s desire to conserve water then such a system can be ideal.

 

What does the system consist of?

A basic greywater system utilizes the source of the greywater (i.e. tubs, sinks, washing machines), collection plumbing to move the separated greywater to a surge tank, a filter and a pump for said collection tank, and distribution plumbing to move the water to different locations.  (Note: this process is far more complex if the greywater is used to replace freshwater in the disposal of human waste because it will be tied into the composting toilet system.) Such a system can be installed using traditional plumbing and irrigation techniques, and the greywater should never come in contact with humans before it is properly filtered.

 

 

Benefits to Recycling Greywater

In the summertime the majority of household freshwater consumption is actually spent on irrigation of lawns and landscaping.  Utilizing a greywater system will cut down on water expenditure and conserve freshwater for more important tasks.  Since the majority of a household’s wastewater is greywater, finding an alternative use for it will help maintain wastewater systems for a longer period of time and will put less strain on the overall water system.  When used in conjunction with a composting toilet such a system is an excellent alternative when developing in an area that will not support a traditional septic system.  Most importantly, utilizing this system reduces the users impact on the environment and ensures that one of our most important resources is used responsibly.

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the following sources for their relevant information:

http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_m/m-106.html

http://www.letsgogreen.com/greywater-recycling.html

 

 
Composting Toilet PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steven Horn   

If you asked most people today what composting meant to them they would most likely describe a process they use to dispose of yard waste or basic kitchen scraps in their backyard. This would make sense considering the fact that these are the most common uses of the process. However, a customer recently asked the staff at MasterCraft whether or not we have ever developed or installed a composting toilet. Since we were unfamiliar with the system, we did some research.

Basic Definition and Different Types

According to the National Small Flows Clearing House and Oikos, an energy efficient building information source, a composting toilet system is viable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional septic disposal systems that contains and controls the composting of human waste in the home. The types of composting toilet systems vary greatly in size and style. Some are self contained, meaning the waste is stored directly underneath the toilet. Others utilize a centralized system that directs waste through a chute into a much larger composting container. Furthermore, the composting container itself can be continuous or use multiple alternating containers. Multiple containers are used to mitigate negative effects such as odor and overflow, depending on a homes spatial limitations or even personal preferences. Systems can be bought directly from the manufacturer or custom built on site.

How does it Work?

The system itself relies on aerobic and fungi in unsaturated conditions (not fully immersed in water) to break down the waste inside the composting container. If maintained and used properly the system should break solid waste down to ten or thirty percent its original volume. The bacteria and fungi in the composting container rely on a certain temperature and moisture content to turn the solid waste into liquid and or gas. The final result of the process is a “humus” material that has to be burned (Illegal in some municipalities) or removed by a licensed hauler. Any gas produced is released via a vent and fan system attached to the container.

Advantages and Disadvantages to Use

There are several advantages to using this system, but also a few concerns to consider when deciding on whether or not to utilize a composting toilet. Composting toilets do not usually require water for flushing (there are some systems which offer it as an option) and will help reduce a household’s water consumption. Composting systems are ideally suited for new construction especially in areas where conventional options are difficult to install. Additionally, composting systems can also compost basic kitchen wastes and would allow the owner to reduce household garbage. The biggest concern associated with the use of a composting system is the proper maintenance and care of the apparatus. The system requires a large commitment and a great deal of responsibility from the owner. If not taken care of properly the system can cause several hazards. The most obvious of these hazards is the presence of unwanted odors or even the sight of waste. More serious, is the high potential for health risks if the system is not properly contained and the waste is not disposed of correctly. If the system is maintained and proper attention is given to its upkeep, it should remain a viable and safe alternative to a traditional septic system.

Cost

Due to a wide range of options and variables associated with manufacturing and instillation, the cost of most systems range from $1,500 to $6,000. In some cases the price for such a system might be even greater depending on the feasibility of operating and installing the unit.

 

Here is a visual example of a basic composting toilet system:

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the following sources for providing relevant information:

http://www.oikos.com/library/compostingtoilet/index.htm

http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/pdf/WW/publications/eti/comp_toil_tech.pdf

 

 
Green Walls PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steven Horn   

Green Walls

The use of vertical gardens as an aesthetic method of improving air quality and keeping buildings energy efficient is not a radical new idea. The hanging gardens of ancient Babylon and the ivy found on classic buildings throughout the western world are great examples of this wonderful green housing idea.

Description

Green walls have several applications and can be used externally or internally, and on residential or commercial projects. For the purpose of this article, the residential and external green walls will be the focus as they are both beneficial to the environment and cost effective for homeowners. Green walls are vertical gardens that attach to the sides of existing walls. The plants within the panels are pre-planted and remain in vertical positions because they are anchored anywhere from 2 to 4 inches into the soil within the panel. Several varieties of local plants can be used in the green wall, but those that require less water and little upkeep are recommended. (Alive Structures)

Bio-Filter

Green walls can improve the air quality around a home by acting as a natural air filter. The plants located in the wall absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen in return. This helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gas located in the environment and makes the air cleaner around the home. This is especially beneficial to those who live in urban environments with little plant life present and an abundance of vehicle and industry emissions. Green walls are great for backyards and patio areas where homeowners spend lots of time doing outdoor activities. (Alive Structures)

Energy Saver

Green walls attached to the existing wall of a home can also help reduce energy consumption and costs. The thick layer of soil and vegetation on the exterior of the house acts a layer of insulation that can help keep the building cold in the summer and warm in the winter. Green walls act as a great natural method for driving down the utility costs of owning a home. Additionally, the insulation of the wall can help block harmful UV rays and sound waves from entering the home.(Alive Structures)

Aesthetics

Green walls are not just great for your bank account and the environment; they are also a great accent to your home. Green walls can liven up your backyard view, or give neighbors something pleasing to admire. The presence of lush vegetation arranged in beautiful patterns and designs are sure to impress and provide a change of pace from the standard brick or vinyl wall.

Popularity

As more and more builders and homeowners look for new and efficient techniques to build more eco-friendly houses, ideas like green walls are gaining a lot of popularity. With this popularity has come some very practical and easily accessible ways to utilize the method. Green walls can now be purchased in individual pre-planted panels that interconnect for easy installation and maintenance. For those concerned with mold or irrigation issues, panels are hung so that they do not come in contact with the house's walls. This ensures that air flows around the home and water is contained within the green walls. Green walls are becoming a very popular cost saving and visually pleasing home building option. (Examiner)

Conclusion

In short, green walls are very sensible way to save some money and improve your local environment. They provide a beautiful and practical solution to improving the air you breathe and allow you to conserve the amount of energy and money needed to ensure your house is comfortable to live in.

I would like to thank Tyler Morgan from Artistic Garden Stone Works for his insight on this article.

 

 


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"I so appreciate how quickly you have responded to my numerous questions and issues. Now I know the value of a custom home builder. You truly stand by your word and your work."

Vicki H., Wildwood, MO


 

"Building with Mastercraft Design and Build especially with Steve and Mike was a smooth, rewarding experience from beginning to end. Working with them, the building process was very smooth throughout: from design, to build, to followup. The process as a whole can be overwhelming but they were with us every step of the way. Steve was pleasant, kind, patient and very accommodating. If he was frustrated with us, he never showed it. The quality of workmanship and materials is excellent as we feel that we received a well-built home. We are very happy with our new home."

Dan and Colleen P., Des Pres, MO


 

"After our home flooded due to a broken water line that ran a full night while we were not home, we hired MasterCraft Design & Build to manage the restoration.  This was a major effort as we completely lost our kitchen and most of our finished basement.  It was a significant amount of work that could have easily carried with it cost overruns and a lot of stress.  The process could not have gone better with MasterCraft.  Steve Horn and Mike Skidmore made the project truly painless, worked with us to keep their services within the budget provided by the insurance company, and kept us informed every step of the way.  I was so pleased my daughter and I then hired MasterCraft to manage the renovation of her home, with the same great results and experience."

George & Mary C., Oakville, MO


 

"Steve Horn of Mastercraft Design & Build is truly a professional in the field of custom home building. He uses reputable and highly qualified subcontractors who stand by their work. I wouldn’t say building a house is easy; but Steve made the process rewarding by keeping us involved in every step of the process from design to completion. Steve was easy to work with on all the upgrades and kept detailed records of the progress to stay on schedule. We have a beautiful home we can enjoy for years to come."

Len & Midge M., Mehlville, MO


 

"We have found Steve Horn to be not only an expert in building custom homes but also in building a custom "Green" home. We had ideas about building green that he not only put into action but helped in making sure we were doing it correctly. He has background in green design and building and used that expertise in doing our home. He is skilled in building custom homes and is a person that you can depend on. His personality is one that makes sure you are pleased with the way your home is being built and his integrity gives you the assurance that the cost of your home is what you would expect. No overcharging, no increases in building supplies, just honesty that you can depend on."

Stephen & Dawn K. - Crestwood, MO


 

“I have been in construction and maintenance for the past 30 years.  Over that time, I have worked with some good contractors as well as some who did not meet my expectations.  MasterCraft Design & Build is at the top of my list of outstanding contractors.  Steve helped us to create a custom design/build home and made the process very easy and enjoyable.  We love our new home and recommend MasterCraft Design & Build to anyone wanting to build their dream home.”

Joe and Jane S. - Mehlville, MO


 

"MasterCraft made sure that everything was done beyond our expectations!  The work was excellent, and the subcontractors were professional and polite as well.”
Rebecca P. -  Manchester


 

"My major remodeling project was completed on time and under budget.  Steve was always ready to answer questions and the end product was exactly what we envisioned."
Mark G. - Des Peres, MO


 

"Last May our luck turned very bad when a 15 ton oak fell on and crushed our carport/storage room (and cars inside).  However, we had the good luck of knowing Steve Horn, the owner of Mastercraft Design & Build. Steve directed the re-build project from debris removal through the construction of the replacement structures with outstanding personal attention to details.  The quality of the work and subcontractors, as well as the attention to costs, were excellent.  We highly recommend Steve and Mastercraft."

Warren & Susan L., Ladue, MO


 

"We were very happy with the work that MasterCraft Design & Build did for our foyer.  Steve and his team were professional, considerate, and detail-oriented, and they always showed up on time.  When it's time to renovate our kitchen, we know who we'll be calling."

Zach H. - University City, MO


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