Green Renovation: The Steve Thomas approach

Steve Thomas, former host of PBS This Old House and host of Planet Green's Renovation Nation, has fallen prey many times to the seven most dangerous words in renovation: "might as well" and "while were at it." They are the words that any person with renovator's disease can fall victim too. It is these words though that can spark the imagination and help to create green ways of living.

Thomas may have won an Emmy for "Outstanding Service Show Host," but it his work with green materials in renovation that has helped to propel him into the spotlight. Thomas spoke at the Regional E3 Energy Forum in Tampa about getting back into an innovative spirit.

"American's created the automobile, the airplane and many other things that were the first of its kind. We need to get back in the innovative spirit. Whether it is off shore wind farms or more solar farms, we as humans have an ethical responsibility to clean up."

Energy consumption is on the rise. Buildings consume 48 percent of all energy used, with 76 percent of that energy in electrical functions. Thomas adapted a six ring model that illustrates the ways that a building can become green.

The first ring is one which is obvious to this topic, energy. Energy is considered to be the total input and output that a building consumes. This leads to workmanship which encompasses all the details that go into renovating with green on the brain. When renovating or creating a green building, the materials need to be healthy with a good supply chain. "If you are building a house and the wood comes from a forest in China that isn't replenished, and you are paying for the shipment from China; that does not equal a green building." Healthy materials is included within the fourth ring. Design correlates to stewardship in the sense that "If you want to take care of it then you are motivated to work for it." The ring of connectivity has only been recently added by Thomas. Connectivity entails how much driving you do from your house to different places and urban centers.

The two main issues for consumer's seem to be energy and health. As Thomas so aptly put it "Guys wonder why the electric bills are so high, and women worry about how the building materials will effect the health of her children."

When it comes to the people interested in the green movement Thomas broke them down into four groups. There are the conservatives, generation Y, green lifestylers, and the mad scientists.

Thomas has met many people that fit into each category; some more memorable than others. A conservative couple once stated that they were republicans so they conserve. Their conservation efforts included solar power, geothermal and rain collection.

"Generation Y has great energy, optimism and a gonna do it attitude."

The mad scientists live up to their name. "Their just plain nuts." A man Thomas met decided he was going to live in a tree-house for the rest of his life. You might wonder about his profession. He chose to build tree-houses as a means of income.

It is all the different types of people that are involved in living green that will help to contribute to the innovation Thomas calls for

Being green in Florida comes with its fair share of challenges considering the constant humidity, bugs, mold and general rotting problems many homes and businesses face. However, a true renovator always has a solution to even a myriad of  problems.

Masonry like insulated concrete forms will be able to stand up to Florida's weather. Mix and matching materials especially in a climate like Florida is important as well. Vinyl windows are stable and resistant to bugs. Aluminum also prevents rotting.

Thomas urges that the stigma of going with the more inexpensive product at the time could have long term consequences. "If you are going long term on a house at least go with green bones," he says. Getting the higher quality insulation will help to save money on heating and air conditioning over the years.

Thomas' words rang true to all those in attendance. While the people shuffled through the doors on the way to their next seminar there appeared to only be one thing on their minds. How can we do our part in order to make where we work and Hillsborough county more green?

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