green building, building green, residential green home builiding, sustainable living, what is green building

Barry Katz Homebuilding is committed to building green. Green building means creating new homes that are exceptionally energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and healthier to live in.

For an overview of the philosophy and practice of green building, please continue reading below. Also, please visit the “links” page to find additional web sites with information on sustainability and related topics. The “recommended books” section now includes a list of recent titles on green issues.

thinking green
what is green building?
why is green building so important today?
green features of our current project in Westport
51 things you can do to make your home greener



thinking green

green building, sustainable building, green building construction, green home building

What would it be like to live in a house that makes us feel good? Not just by virtue of its fine proportions and attractive design, but a house that could actually make us healthier:

And not only that, but a house that doesn’t squander scarce resources or harm our environment.

Americans are only just starting to wake up to the realization that much about the way we live, from the food we eat, to the products we buy, the cars we drive, and even the very houses we live in are hazardous to our health.

 Our dependence on fossil fuels, in particular, is rapidly degrading the earth’s atmosphere, changing the climate, and ultimately calling into question the planet’s continued ability to sustain life as we know it far into the future. It is not too late to reverse this frightening trend, but the window of opportunity is limited. With each passing year it becomes more obvious that we are faced with an urgent need to develop more sustainable ways of living.

 Green building offers a response to the realization that the way we have been building everything from houses to skyscrapers is not sustainable.

 What does that mean, not sustainable? It means, in short, that we are using up natural resources faster than they can be replaced, and that some of the ways we use those resources not only damage our environment, but actually make us sick. Many health problems today stem from, or are aggravated by poor indoor air quality and exposure to toxic substances contained in commonly used building products. Green building practices can eliminate these health damaging conditions.

 In this country, alone, we build more than a million new homes per year. Building those homes uses up a lot of everything from lumber to steel to a wide range of building products derived from petroleum, such as paints, plastics, floor and wall coverings, and lots of other things. And all those houses require a lot of energy to keep them warm in winter and cool in summer.

 Where will all that energy and all those materials come from? If the earth has a finite amount of natural resources, which clearly it does, and each year we keep using up those resources faster than we did the year before, which we certainly are doing, that is not something that can be sustained indefinitely. Lest we go the way of the dinosaurs, we must find ways to use our planet’s natural resources more sparingly. We must stop poisoning our air, our water, and ourselves. That is the goal of green building.

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what is green building?

what is green building

Building green is not an all or nothing-at-all proposition. There are many choices to be made by architects, builders and homeowners about the various ways a house can be green. Some of those choices determine the home’s energy efficiency;

others address indoor air quality, conservation of natural resources, or avoiding materials with toxic ingredients. Adopting even one or two green strategies can have significant benefits for the homeowner as well as for the environment.

Energy efficiency is one of the primary advantages of green building. Energy consumption (and utility bills) can be dramatically slashed. Below are a few of the strategies that go into making a house exceptionally energy efficient.

· Orient the house to reduce solar gain in summer and capture the sun’s light and warmth in winter.

·    Carefully sized overhangs or awnings will protect windows from the summer sun while admitting the sun’s warming rays in winter when it is at a lower angle.

· Deciduous trees, strategically placed, will also reduce solar gain in summer and admit sunlight in winter when they drop their leaves.

·   Heating and cooling loads can be greatly reduced by creating a tight thermal envelope with high-performance insulation (such as sprayed-in-place open cell foam) and careful air sealing, coupled with an energy-recovery ventilation system. High-performance Low-E windows and doors with argon gas-filled insulated glass are equally important.

· Over-sized air conditioning equipment does a poor job of dehumidification and wastes energy. Design HVAC systems for the smaller heating and cooling loads achieved by the above techniques. The house will be more comfortable and energy bills will be much lower.

·  Tap the earth’s natural energy, a renewable resource, with geothermal heating and cooling. Geothermal, also known as a ground-source heat pump system, consumes no fossil fuels at all, and provides outstanding performance year-round with an extraordinarily low operating cost.

· Maximize natural light to reduce the need for  electrical usage during the day.

· Compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s) are big energy savers. Incandescent bulbs are highly inefficient, converting just 10% of the energy they use into light – the other 90% produces only heat. CFL’s are up to six times more efficient and last up to ten times longer. Choose CFL’s with warm color temperatures (around 2,700° to 3,000° Kelvin) which are indistinguishable from incandescent lights.

·  Cut energy consumption further with clean, renewable energy from photovoltaic panels. During periods when the panels produce more power than the house is using, the electric meter will actually run backwards. In some locales, wind generated electricity is also an option. 

Durability and good design are widely recognized as important aspects of sustainable building. Houses that are treasured for their beauty and practicality are better cared for and remain in use far longer than poorly designed homes. Barry Katz Homebuilding has long been committed to creating classic homes in timeless styles that will endure for generations. 

Better health is one of the most important benefits of green building. Construction techniques that focus on proper ventilation, humidity control, and prevention of excess moisture from entering the building envelope prevent the growth of mold and mildew, resulting in lower rates of asthma and allergies, particularly among children. Reducing the use of building materials that off-gas toxic substances has obvious advantages.  Improved indoor air quality reduces the incidence of a variety of health problems.

 greenbuildings, green building construction,residential green building

Green houses are also cleaner. A well designed climate control system that correctly balances the home’s air pressure helps prevent the entry of pollen, dust, and other contaminants, making the house not only healthier to live in, but easier to keep clean. Making ductwork air-tight by thoroughly sealing all joints with a special non-toxic mastic is critical.

Protecting the environment is a paramount goal of green building. Reducing waste, choosing materials made from renewable resources, recycling, minimizing carbon dioxide emissions, and conserving water are some of the ways we can reduce a home’s environmental footprint. While such benefits may seem indirect for individual homeowners, they will have a wide-ranging impact on all our lives as green building becomes more common.

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green building materials,residential green building

why is green building so important today?

·  Conventional homes waste too many scarce resources and consume too much energy. Old growth forests are rapidly becoming depleted and bio-diversity is being severely compromised. Too much waste ends up in landfills. We must learn to use materials and energy as efficiently as possible to minimize negative environmental impact.

·  It is time to question whether it is wise to continue living in homes that use large amounts of energy for heating, cooling, and lighting when we know that energy will be an increasingly scarce and expensive commodity in the coming years. Owners of green homes will reap enormous savings as the cost of energy rises.

· It is also time to ask what kind of planet we are leaving to our children and grandchildren. The increasing use of fossil fuels, not only in our own country, but in rapidly developing economies like China and India, will continue to degrade the quality of our environment, from the air we breather to the water we drink, and will accelerate climate change, leading to a host of environmental disasters we have only dimly begun to perceive.

sustainable living,green living, green residential living,green building initiative,residential green iving

Green is the new Red, White, and Blue.

The global implications of sustainable living are profound. Continuing to consume vast amounts of energy in a world where competition for increasingly scarce reserves of fossil fuel looms as a major cause of international conflict looks more and more like a very bad idea.  

In a recent NY Times column entitled, “Green is the New Red, White, And Blue,” Thomas L. Friedman called making ourselves green, “. . . the most important issue in U.S. foreign and domestic policy today. . .” Focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, he writes, “is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do. He calls for long-term government incentives for conservation and renewable energy, and concludes,Enough of this . . . nonsense that conservation, energy efficiency and environmentalism are some hobby we can't afford. I can't think of anything more cowardly or un-American. Real patriots .  .  .  live green. Green is the new red, white and blue.

Click here to read excerpts from “The New Red White And Blue” by Thomas L. Friedman


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sustainable living, green living, green building, green residential building

green features of
Barry Katz Homebuilding's current project in Westport

This new home in Westport, Connecticut has been designed to be exceptionally energy efficient and environmentally friendly. It will also be healthier to live in than conventional homes – special care has been taken to provide outstanding indoor air quality and to avoid materials with toxic ingredients. In short, this is a green home.

Below are some of the features that go into making this house green. 


·  The foundation consists of engineered, insulated concrete panels by Superior Walls with a special low water/cement-ratio 5,000 p.s.i. concrete and reinforced with steel rebar and polypropylene fibers. This creates a totally waterproof foundation of great structural integrity, providing a warm, dry basement under even the harshest conditions.

The manufacture of concrete is highly energy-intensive and a major source of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. Superior Walls’ unique design uses 70% less concrete than a typical poured foundation. The walls arrive at the site totally dry, avoiding the excess moisture that evaporates into most homes from poured foundations.

·  Engineered lumber comprises a substantial portion of the home’s framing materials. Durable, structurally superior, and dimensionally stabile, the engineered wood I-joists, Advantec® sub-flooring, and oriented-strand board (OSB) sheathing are made from small, easily harvested, fast-growing trees – a renewable resource.

· The home’s exterior is constructed of extremely durable, low-maintenance materials. Painted with Sherwin-Williams manufacturer’s lifetime guarantee, the home’s exterior will never need re-painting.


·  The house is insulated with sprayed-in-place open-cell foam made without any petroleum products. This non-toxic, bio-based insulation provides high R-values and perfect air sealing. This completely eliminates small air leaks, difficult to prevent with fiberglass insulation, which can cause heat loss comparable to leaving a window open every day of the year. This home’s tight thermal envelope dramatically reduces the amount of energy required for heating and cooling.

·   All attic spaces are fully insulated to eliminate heat loss through ceiling penetrations such as recessed lights, bath fans, etc. This also enhances the efficiency of the HVAC system, as all ductwork runs through insulated spaces.

· -High-performance Marvin windows with argon-gas filled, insulated, Low-E glass complete the energy-efficient building envelope.

·    The Elk Prestique Cool-Color roofing shingles are coated with special 3-M granules that reflect the sun’s heat away from the house, further reducing the amount of energy needed for cooling.

·   The home’s solar orientation is calculated to capture the maximum amount of daylight, and to allow the sun’s warmth to penetrate deep into the house in winter, while preventing unwanted solar gain in summer.

·    The Geothermal heating and cooling system (also known as a ground-source heat pump system) uses no fossil fuels at all and will provide outstanding comfort year-round, with zero CO2 emissions, for a fraction of the operating cost of conventional HVAC systems. Geothermal systems also have fewer moving parts than conventional systems, so they are more reliable and require less maintenance.

·    All joints in ductwork are tightly sealed to eliminate air leakage and increase efficiency.

·    All hot and cold water lines are fully insulated to save energy.

·    An on-demand hot water recirculating system, activated by motion sensors in each bathroom, provides hot water where you need it, when you need it, without the high energy consumption of continuously running conventional recirculating systems.

·    Dual-flush toilets and efficient plumbing design conserve thousands of gallons of water per year.

·  EnergyStar lighting and appliances further increase the home’s energy efficiency.

·   The electricity for this house is purchased from Sterling Planet (, a provider of clean, renewable energy, under the CT CleanEnergyOptions program. The power comes from equal parts wind, small-scale hydro, and organic bioenergy (landfill gas).


·    An energy-recovery ventilation system provides excellent indoor air quality by introducing a steady supply of filtered fresh air into the house while capturing 70% - 80% of the energy from the stale air as it is removed.

·  The AprilAire model 5000 electronic air cleaners are 95% efficient at removing bacteria as small as 0.35 micron. They are also 80% efficient at trapping virus-sized particles and over 99% efficient on pollen and spores.

·   Special attention to the elimination of unwanted moisture inside house will prevent the growth of mold and mildew – a leading cause of asthma and allergies, especially in children.

·   The central vacuum system effectively removes dust, dirt, and a host of allergens without spewing particulates back into the air like most vacuum cleaners, resulting in cleaner house with cleaner air.

·    Indoor airl quality is further enhanced by the use of low VOC paints and finishes that do not off-gas toxic fumes.

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51 simple things you can do to make your home greener, conserve energy, and help save our planet

Conserving energy at home

1.   -Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket. You’ll save 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year with this simple action.

2.   -Set your water heater no higher than 120°F. That can save another 550 lbs CO2 per year.

3.   -Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s). A 15-watt CFL produces as much light as a standard 60-watt bulb. Though CFL’s are more expensive than regular bulbs, but they last up to ten times longer so they are cheaper in the long run.

CFL’s also save energy because they produce much less heat than standard bulbs. Incandescent bulbs are only 10% efficient – that means that only 10% of the electricity they burn produces light – the other 90% produces only heat. CFL’s convert 50% to 60% of the electricity they use into light. So switching to CFL’s will also mean your air conditioner won’t have to work as hard to keep the house cool. If every household in the US replaced one standard light bulb with a CFL, it would reduce CO2 emissions as much as removing one million cars from the road.

4.  --Don’t leave lights burning in rooms you are not in – get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room for more than ten minutes.

5.   -Install motion sensing switches that will turn off lights in a room that is unoccupied for more than a specified amount of time.

6.  + -Control bathroom fans with timers.

7.  --Replace your old refrigerator. New energy-efficient refrigerators will save enough electricity to completely pay for themselves in less than two years.

8.   When you buy new appliances, choose models with the EnergyStar label. They consume much less energy and water than standard appliances.

9.   -Reduce standby power waste. Many appliances, including your television, DVD player, stereo, cell phone charger, and computer consume as much as 25% of their energy when they aren’t even turned on. In fact, the energy used just to keep display clocks lit and memory chips working accounts for 5 percent of total domestic energy consumption and spews 18 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. You can conserve this electricity by plugging them into power strips that can be switched off when you’re not using them.

10.     Improve your home’s insulation.

11. -Check for air leaks around windows and electrical switches and outlets and seal the leaks with caulk. Numerous small air leaks around your house can loose as much heat as leaving a window open.

12.   Set your thermostats two degrees lower in the winter. If you feel cold, put on a sweater rather than turning up the heat.

13.   Use programmable thermostats to turn down the heat by at least five degrees at night and while you are at work or school.

14.    Use less air conditioning in the summer. Open the windows and use an electric fan if needed. Try to use the AC only on extremely hot days, and set the thermostat a couple of degrees higher than usual.


Conserving Water:


15.   Water your lawn at dawn instead of in the middle of the day. Less of the water will evaporate before it gets down to the roots, so you won't need to water as often.

16.   Use a timer to shut off sprinklers, and avoid over-watering - since the excess water doesn’t provide any value to the grass. In fact, too much water is worse for the lawn than not enough.

17.   Take showers instead of baths – the average shower uses much less water than filling a tub.

18.   Switch to Low-flow shower heads – they use half the water and the newer models provide ample pressure. And the less water you use, the less energy your water heater will use. For a family of four, this can add up to hundreds of dollars per year in energy savings in addition to saving thousands of gallons of water.

19.    Make sure your toilet isn’t leaking – if it doesn’t shut off completely after flushing, a single leaky toilet can waste 30,000 gallons of water per year.

20.  Turn the water off while you brush your teeth. You’ll save nearly 2,000 gallons of water a year. 

Indoor Air Quality

21.   When you paint the inside of your house, use low-VOC or zero-VOC paints. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. VOC’s are what gives paint and other materials their odor. Exposure to VOC’s can cause allergic reactions and a variety of other health problems.

22.    Reduce or eliminate other sources of VOC’s such as plastics, synthetic fabrics and carpets. New synthetic carpets, for example, have such a strong odor because they of-gas large amounts of VOC's.

23.  Control indoor humidity. Check to see if your basement is damp. Make sure there are no leaks in the roof or around windows or doors. Keep your rain gutters clean and make sure they direct the water away from the foundation. High humidity promotes the growth of mold and mildew, both of which are major causes of allergies and asthma – especially in children.

24.   Replace the air filters on your heating and cooling systems regularly for maximum efficiency.

25.   Upgrade to 5” thick pleated air filters or electrostatic air cleaners for improved indoor air quality.

26.   Contact your local utility and ask for a free home energy audit. 

Conserving energy on the Road

 27. Drive less. You can eliminate 1,000 lbs of carbon emissions per year by driving 20 miles less per week. Walk more. Shop online. Carpool.

28.    Avoid commuting in rush hour. All that idling and stop-and-go driving wastes a lot of gas. It doesn’t do your blood pressure much good, either.

29.    Drive slower. You can increase your gas mileage dramatically just by lightening up your foot.

30.   Drive more gently; accelerate and brake more gradually. Aggressive driving can lower your fuel efficiency by up to 37%.

31.    Keep your car tuned up and your tires properly inflated.

32.    Next time you buy a car, choose one with higher fuel efficiency than the one you currently drive. Does anyone really need a Hummer?

33.    Fly less. Trains are twice as energy efficient as airplanes, and usually much more comfortable. 

More ways to protect the environment and stop global warming 

34.    Buy less stuff.

35.    Avoid buying disposable products.

36.    Recycle.

37.   Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store. It takes more than 10 million barrels of oil and 15 million trees per year to produce all of the paper and plastic grocery bags that end up our landfills.

38.    Buy locally produced food.

39.    Plant a vegetable garden.

40.    Plant trees and give trees as gifts (

41.    Mow your lawn with a push-mower. Gas lawn mowers spew all sorts of pollutants into the air and into your lungs. You’ll breathe easier, pollute less, save money, and get some exercise in the bargain.

42.    Use a gas barbecue instead of a charcoal grill. It’s healthier, much less polluting, and saves rainforest trees that are cut down to produce charcoal.

43.  Eat less meat. Beef production is highly water and energy-intensive. And livestock produces 20% of the methane (the second most common greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere.

44.   Buy re-usable mesh coffee filters instead of disposable paper filters.

45.   Wash your clothes in cold or warm water. Avoid the hot-water setting on your washing machine.

46.  Air-dry some of your laundry. Clothes dryers consume huge amounts of energy.

47.    Run your dishwasher only when full and don’t bother rinsing dishes in the sink. The dishwasher will work just as well and you’ll save thousands of gallons of water per year.

48.   Generate some of your own electricity with photovoltaic panels. Many states, including Connecticut, will pay for up to half the cost of residential solar-electric systems. Federal tax rebates further reduce the cost.

49.    Buy the rest of your electricity from clean energy sources. Go to where for pennies per day you can sign up to buy either 50% or 100% of your electricity from clean energy providers who generate electricity with wind power, small scale hydro-electric plants, and landfill gas – all renewable resources.

50.   If you’re in the market f or a new computer, consider a laptop. Laptop computers use only 10% as much the electricity as desktop models.

51.    Turn off the television and read a book.


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Barry Katz Homebuilding.  New Home Construction.  Sustainable Living, Green Home Design in Fairfield County

Westport, Connecticut

tel: 203-505-6313 e-mail:

Current Project: A Green Home Grows in Westport

What is Green Building?

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