May 27, 2018
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Arbitrary definition of ‘green’ building a worry

By Tom Gocze, BDN Staff

A while ago, I lamented the definition of what “green” building practices actually are.

At the time, I was concerned that I would be considered more of a curmudgeon than I already am. Well, it seems that many in the building industry are feeling the same way.

There is an arbitrary definition of what is actually green.

This lament is showing up all over building trade publications as builders and vendors try to cash in on the “green” building trend.

The issue is compounded by publications that claim to be the arbiters of green along with a gaggle of Internet sites. And we all know how the Internet is full of truth and fine advice.

A couple of years ago, I read an article on plastic building trim. It was used in place of traditional wood trim because the building in question, which was about 15 years old at the time, had already gone through a couple trim replacements. And that was in addition to a lot of scraping and repainting to maintain the finish.

The building owner decided that the maintenance of the wood trim was not sustainable and plastic trim was the way to go.

Now, some of you might feel that using plastic trim is probably akin to going over to the dark side. But I would like to think that this is a durable, sensible choice that might be based in common sense — and perchance even be called “green.”

I thought that even before I knew that the building I described belongs to Norm Abrams of “This Old House” and is used as his New Yankee Workshop.

A guy who loves to work with wood and truly appreciates everything related to wood was having enough trouble with wood trim that he made this choice. And you know he was maintaining everything properly.

Green is subjective. It probably always will be. And I am getting really nervous as it is becoming institutionalized. There are a number of programs that are rating buildings as to how green they are.

This seems to be mostly well intentioned and is subject to some disputes, but it also seems to be a big business. If I start selling my green widget, what makes it green?

A couple of years ago, I came across a Web site that is maintained by a “green” guru of international renown. He suggested making solar collectors out of recycled fluorescent light bulbs.

Wow, what an interesting concept, except for that minor issue of the mercury that is inside every fluorescent light bulb. That and the fact that a light bulb is built a lot weaker than a glass tube solar collector is.

An interesting concept, but this has little that I would consider green.

We can certainly do more to be green in this country. But we also need to be cognizant of the fact that we do not have to spend thousands of dollars on some exotic technology to be green. Some simple things in our lifestyle might be slightly modified to minimize the effect on the environment.

Maybe it is something as simple as using roofing that lasts longer.

Perhaps walking to the store or post office instead of running in the car.

Green is something that we all can think up by ourselves, not necessarily something that some corporation has to sell us.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at

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