Say “goodbye” to the green home of the 20th Century – simplistic, ultra modern and cold – and meet the 21st Century green home, a stylish, healthy, high-performance home perfectly suited to any lifestyle.
“Green building” – society’s buzzword that refers to environmentally-sensitive construction – was once the dream of a select few forward-thinking environmentalists. Now, it’s gradually becoming a reality and infiltrating every facet of life, rewarding green homeowners with a healthier home for both their family and the environment.
The benefits of a green home are diverse, but the most widely recognized outcomes are environmental. Reducing the environmental impact of homes is an important step towards fighting global warming and conserving valuable natural resources.
However, there are numerous, less publicized benefits of green homes. The first warms the heart of every American – savings. Cost has long been considered a deterrent to building a green home, initially turning interested homeowners away. Closer inspection, however, reveals that price increases are generally only a few percentage points higher (a statistic decreasing as green practices become increasingly mainstream).
Learning to view these upfront costs as an investment is key. Additional expenses will literally pay for themselves in lower energy and water bills, tax and insurance credits and reduced repair needs.
Carlton Owen, owner of The Upstate House, a green home in Greenville, S.C., attests that anyone buying a home should consider the, “total cost of ownership – the purchase price, plus operating costs, plus maintenance, plus taxes, etc. Often, one will find that the higher purchase price for a better built, more sustainable home has a lower total cost of ownership.”
According to Mr. Owen’s online blog, during the summer of 2006, in the midst of above average temperatures, he reaped rewards of below average utility bills: $72.18 in July and $63.22 in August.
The superior energy efficiency of a green home reminds us that it’s truly a high-performance home. Attention to detail and durable, sustainable materials make a green home far superior to the average home on the market, and results in numerous health benefits. Along with drastically improved air quality and reduced exposure to mold, mildew and toxins, green homes also maintain consistent temperatures and humidity levels throughout the home.
“My green homes are the most comfortable homes that I have ever lived in,” agrees Mrs. Judith Rigg, a green homeowner since the 1970s. She attributes much of her satisfaction to the abundant natural light, citing that, “it feels more like we are living outside than indoors.”
“A lot of horse power and snazzy looks.” This is how Dan Steward, of Majestic Estate Builders, who has been building luxury custom green homes for more than 26 years, describes a green home.
In the past, a green home could be spotted a block away by its simple design and unmistakable bank of solar panels on the roof. The problem was that not everyone is comfortable with this minimalist design. Fortunately, today nearly any architectural style – traditional or modern, Georgian or log – can be built green.
“Whether French Country or – you name it – a green home doesn’t have to be contemporary,” says Mr. Steward. “We like to build homes that are green but don’t look green,” he continues, “Any style home can be designed to be efficient.”
Over the years, Mr. Steward has come to realize that not everyone looking for a green home realizes it at first. “I see green building as high-performance building,” he explains. “There are a lot of people looking for high-performance homes, and when we get involved we can explain how a high-performance home is really a green home, and then we can show them how they can continue to make improvements and help the bottom line. It’s just the beginning.”
After careful research and consideration, you make the decision to build a green home. Now what?
There are numerous “shades of green” to build a home, which is often initially confusing to homeowners. Working with an experienced green homebuilder can be extremely beneficial, but is not absolutely necessary. One of the most convenient methods to guarantee that you are building a green home is to build it to meet a set of criteria outlined by a green certification program (such as LEED for Homes, EarthCraft House™ or ENERGY STAR®).
Innovations in green building technologies are immeasurable, with researchers developing new green products and strategies each day. Consequently, there is a vast array of areas in which a home can be designed green.
If you desire to be steadfast to the principles of a green home, consider building it within a sustainable community. These forward-thinking neighborhoods strive to strike a balance between the natural systems of the area and the new homes.
“Siting” your home on its homesite refers to orienting your home to true south to take advantage of the sun’s natural path across the sky. In winter the southern sun helps to warm your home, and the exposure is particularly important if you have solar panels.
Stormwater runoff from sidewalks and driveways and can be funneled into underground storage tanks where it is filtered and gradually absorbed into the ground, drastically reducing the need for elaborate sprinkler systems.
A green home may incorporate a diverse selection of products actually made from recycled materials, and due to modern innovations in production, they may be difficult to spot. Everything from carpet to countertops to hardware can be made from recycled objects. Continue the sequence by recycling construction waste.
Sustainable Products: Think long-term. Durable roofing systems such as steel or fiber cement rarely need to be replaced and suit a variety of design styles. Using building products made from renewable resources is important too.
Solar Power: If you don’t think that solar panels fit into the architectural design of your home, think again. New breakthroughs in design offer a variety of panel shapes and sizes to seamlessly blend in with your roof. Plus, some states even allow homeowners to plug directly into their local power company’s grid.
Home Envelope: A vital step in making a home energy efficient is reducing uncontrolled air leakage. Innovative foundation systems insulate the actual foundation and lower floors of a home, as do state-of-the-art low-E (low emissivity) windows that improve the insulation value of the window itself. For the remaining exterior walls, increasing the R-value (resistance to heat flow) increases thermal performance and energy efficiency.
Landscaping: Planting drought resistant plants (called xeriscaping), minimizing grassy lawn areas and avoiding over planting reduces irrigation needs, saving water (and money). Trees can decrease energy usage by protecting the home from sunlight and wind. Finally, don’t forget natural pest and weed control options.
Only the Beginning: There are thousands of other green products and practices that can be incorporated into your home. Become an educated and socially responsible consumer and consider “going green” with your next home today!