Using Green Construction in Environmentally-Conscious Home Building

Though their home has a roof made from chopped-up tires, Mary Lyon and her husband don’t need to keep changing it every 25,000 miles or so because the blowouts on that roof are few and far between. “The shingles look like pieces of slate. They’re really light, they’re extremely fire-resistant; they don’t crack or chip. They bend with the wind if the wind is really ferocious,” Lyon said via telephone from California.

A seasoned journalist who has worked for the Associated Press Radio Network, NBC Radio as well as many Los Angeles-area stations, Lyon advocates environmentally conscious “green living”. “When I talk to people about green living and green construction, I think the main problem we all face is ‘overwhelmingness’, the overwhelm of the problem. The problem is so big, what can I do? I’m just one little person,” she said. “That’s the answer right there; you can do one little thing. Everybody can do one little thing. If you are very affluent, maybe you are in the position of doing a whole bunch of one little things.”

Because many green technologies are more expensive to use than traditional construction materials, they do take time to catch on with the general public. “At the moment, it’s not within reach of the average person, but I think it’s going to be. Some of the technology is still fairly new; it’s what some people would call experimental and because there’s only a small number of manufacturers doing this now, maybe the price is a little higher now,” she said.

“But I can’t see how it won’t come down. I remember when the pocket calculator was $350.00. When I first got married, that was the big Christmas present of the year, one of those big, new multi-functional pocket calculators that only a few people were starting to get.”

By going green with her house, Lyon walks the walk as walk in addition to talking the talk, creating something that visionary architect Buckminster Fuller referred to as “The Trim Tab Effect.” “In my limited understanding, a trim tab is this little teeny-weeny flap that’s on the edge of a rudder that’s part of a very, very large ship, the idea being that the ship is so large that the energy and the effort that it takes to turn it is so ungodly, you have to start small with the little trim-tab on the edge of the rudder,” Lyon said.

“You adjust the direction of the trim tab and the trim tab starts to adjust the direction of the rudder and, as the trim tab turns the rudder, the rudder will turn the ship. It’s a slow go because the ship is so large, but that’s what happens.”

Like a trim tab, the recycled shingles that Lyon and her husband selected for their roof turned the local ecological rudder just enough to make a noticeable difference. “I am comforted by the stories of my roofer, who said he’d invite people to come up here and look at the job they were doing on our house,” she said. “At that time, it was difficult to afford by the average person, but he got 6-8 jobs out of it, which ordinarily would have gone to conventional wood shingling or ceramic or something like that.”

In addition to living under a roof that a NASCAR driver would love, Lyon and her husband have turned a portion of their green house blue. “The insulation we have looks like dryer lint on steroids; it’s this big thick pad of blue lint. It’s from blue jean manufacturers and it’s treated for fireproofing and that’s it. There’s another renewable resource we were able to use,” she said.

Besides the positive effects on the environment, using recycled materials in the home can have other benefits as well. “I have a floor in here that’s made of chopped-up tires. It’s so much easier on the legs and the feet and the back. There’s more tires that didn’t end up in a landfill,” she said.

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