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3 Ways to Build Green

To protect yourself from environmental hazards, why not start from the ground up?

Protecting yourself from environmental hazards can start not just close to home, but with the home itself.

The "building green" movement, best known for embracing sustainable materials and designs promoting high energy efficiency, also focuses on creating healthy dwellings, a concept used increasingly in the construction of senior housing.

See also: 5 ways you can help the environment.

"Providers are finding that young seniors are increasingly asking them how 'green' their projects are," says Mark Hanson, director of sustainable services for Hoffman LLC, a planning, design and construction firm in Appleton, Wis.

Here's a primer on the principles behind green construction.

1. Materials. A variety of materials that avoid potentially hazardous chemicals are now available. Experienced green builders can help you choose what makes sense for your construction or remodeling project.

2. Better air circulation. Proper venting, filtering and air circulation prevent stale air from building up in a home. In remodeling, says Hanson, fans that move air completely out of kitchens and bathrooms are important.

3. Maximizing natural light. This is a plus both for energy efficiency — well-placed, properly insulated windows provide passive solar heating — and for health reasons. Getting enough natural light can help your body set its circadian rhythms.

Reed Karaim is a writer in Tucson, Ariz.

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