Which Siding Option is Best Environmentally?

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  • Which Siding Option is Best Environmentally?
    Posted by Holly Kuestner | 1 reply |  Last reply about 3 years and 10 months ago by Holly Kuestner

    Hi all! I’m interested in the environmental tradeoffs of choosing one building material over another. Recently, I was considering siding. There are a lot of siding options, but all of them seem to have drawbacks of one form or another.

    Wood, the traditional siding, requires relatively frequent repainting. Paints contain a variety of harmful chemicals, so minimizing their use is optimal. Wood often comes from unsustainable logging operations, though it is possible to find siding made from salvaged wood or from trees grown in sustainably managed forests.

    Vinyl siding is made from PVC. While the siding is very durable and low-maintenance, manufacturing and disposing of PVC can release highly carcinogenic dioxins.

    Fiber-cement siding is very durable and low-maintenance, but it requires a lot of energy to manufacture (mostly because of the cement content and because the wood fibers are often imported). Its impressive durability does help offset some of the embodied energy in its production.

    Hardboard siding is made from scraps from small trees, which lessens its materials impact. However, the scraps are held together with a binder that usually contains formaldehyde. It also needs to be repainted periodically, as wood siding does.

    So which to choose? I encourage readers to share which siding option you’ve chosen and why. Which characteristics do you find most important? Have you found any compelling products that circumvent the common problems above?

  • Information sources (and great further reading!):

    American Institute of Architects. (Date Unknown). Considerations in Selecting Siding Materials. Retrieved from http://www.aiacbcgreen.org/siding.php

    Endo-Online. (Date Unknown). PVC and Me. Retrieved from http://www.endometriosisassn.org/pvc.html

    Los Alamos National Laboratory. (2002). Los Alamos National Laboratory Sustainable Design Guide. Retrieved from http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/commercial_initiative/sustainable_guide_ch6.pdf

    Wilson, A., & Malin, N. (1997). Residential Siding Options, Environmental Building News, 6(7). Retrieved from http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm/1997/7/1/Residential-Siding-Options/

    Holly Kuestner posted on April 8, 2013
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