Green Home Building is Gaining Momentum

Green homes are expected to make up to ten percent of new home construction over the next several years, according to a study done by McGraw-Hill Construction. Homeowners are interested in purchasing green homes because of the benefits they offer — from healthier indoor air to energy savings.

What are some of the primary benefits of a green home? Such a home is constructed with much thought given to the materials used in construction. Building materials are expected to be toxin-free, sustainable and energy-efficient. The use of toxin-free building materials helps combat indoor air pollution. Since we are exposed to the air in our homes as much or more often than outside air, indoor pollution can pose serious health risks to residents. A healthier home means fewer visits to the doctor and hopefully fewer respiratory problems.

Besides potential health savings, the net cost of owning a green home is typically comparable to, if not cheaper than a standard home. People who live in green homes save money by consuming less energy and fewer resources than standard homes. The savings add up over the years in decreased energy and water bills.

Insurance companies are becoming convinced that green may be the way to go. More and more insurance companies are offering discounts on policies covering green homes. Similarly, there are even a few mortgage companies offering discounted loan rates for home buyers buying green.

Here are some of the reasons for the heightened interest and discounts offered by the business community:

A green home is often more durable than standard homes because of its high-quality building materials and construction processes, requiring fewer repairs.

The value of a green home is often higher than that of a comparable standard home, and the market demand for green homes is expected to rise. A green housing development in New York has demonstrated the ability to command ten to fifteen percent higher rental rates than comparable units in the surrounding area.

And local, state and federal governments are increasingly offering tax breaks and incentives for building a green home or adding green features to an existing home.

What are some of the features of a green home? Efficient plumbing and bathing fixtures, drought-tolerant landscaping and water-conserving irrigation systems help green homes use less water than standard homes. This feature will become increasingly important as the prospect of water shortages loom in some parts of the country.

Because many green building materials incorporate significant recycled content, they require the use of fewer natural resources. The amount of excess building materials dumped in landfills is significantly less than the amount generated by traditional practices.

Some green homes incorporate carpets and floor tiles from recycled tires and bottles. Other homes use salvaged materials or renewable and sustainable products, such as bamboo, hemp and soybean. Homeowners can choose countertops made from recycled street lights and other recycled glass.

Low-volatile organic compound paints and finishes inside the home reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. Formaldehyde-free insulation also insures fewer dangerous chemicals are released into the atmosphere.

Energy-efficient appliances, insulation, roofing materials, doors and windows lower heating and cooling bills.

In many cases, builders are also including universal design elements into green homes. These designs, which include wider doorways, no stairs, flat entries and accessible bathrooms, sinks and showers, assure that people with varying abilities can live in and age in their homes and their neighborhoods.

Green Home Building – Defining the Green Home

Green Home Building – Developing a Definition

Green home building is a growing trend all over the world but there are differing opinions about what actually constitutes a green home and this can lead to confusion and frustration for home builders and increasingly, home buyers as they make decisions about their new home purchase.

There is Green and then there is GREEN

It seems that homes being promoted as green and even eco-friendly can range from the simplest dwellings you can create to the most high-tech monsters you can imagine. It appears that the range moves from low-tech, passive design and construction to high-tech, active homes and almost everything in between. No wonder we have trouble defining just what a green home really is.

Sustainability Issues in home building

Your home is quickly becoming the place where you can express your desire to live in a more sustainable manner. Whether your green impulse comes from wishing to save money by making your home more energy efficient or comes from a concern for the wider environmental impacts of your lifestyle, home sustainability is certainly a major component in this evolving process of defining what constitutes a green home.

The individuality factor in Green Home Building

There is a common thread running through most alternative home building projects and that is the individuality factor. In these days of mass produced homes (be they project built or bought off the plan type projects, there are many people who are looking for alternatives and who opt to build environmentally friendly or more sustainable homes as a way of expressing the things that are important to them.

Think Global – Act Local

Applying this mode of thinking to your home will mean that you source local materials, use local craftspeople, harvest local resources such as water (for storage for later use in your home) and sunshine (solar energy) and wind (wind power) and the amazing power of plants to feed yourself. Thinking global in terms of the impact of your home and then taking local action to reduce that impact is a way of acting locally with a global focus.

Aesthetic Considerations

For many people, using alternative materials in the construction of their green home building project is a major consideration. Building green with straw is just one option, using non-toxic or low toxicity products is another. A green more sustainable home is often designed to create a healthy internal and external environment for the people who are going to live in it.

The importance of Passive design in a Green Home

Design is a vital component in creating a green, more sustainable home. Passive design allows the home to provide stable temperatures, healthy airflow, and a sense of place that creates a particularly enjoyable space for people to dwell. Good passive design significantly reduces the need for energy inputs to heat and cool the home, making is a much more sustainable option in the medium term.

The alternative – an Active Green Home

Many homes have a green label because they have many active components built into them. Climate control devices that can sense the need to lower blinds and shades, that monitor energy use, activity within the home, zoning of climate control and most commonly, solar arrays and their accompanying monitoring and reporting hardware. With all that technology included in the design and construction of a home it must certainly add to the resource use and bring into question just how much active design is enough.

Life-cycle of a Green Home

In these days of faster and faster replacement of things such as clothing, appliances, technology and cars it may come as no surprise that homes are being replaced (knock-down-rebuild) every more quickly. Often a defining feature of a green home design and construction is that is it built to last, not deliberately designed to become ‘unfashionable’ because it may not have been fashionable, in the modern context of the word, in the first place. In fact, as with most things, the longer your home lasts the greener it is.

Where is your Green Home and does it matter?

Interestingly many homes designed around commonly accepted green principles have traditionally been built out of town on a small holding or small acreage. However, if living in such circumstance necessitates you driving long distances to work each day or to access other services using a private motor vehicle, this can potentially undo much of the benefit of living in a green home. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case though and many of these home owners develop ways to ensure their impact outside the home is kept within acceptable levels.

A Green Home fits where it sits

This is a way of saying that good design is central to a good green home building project. The home should fit the space it occupies, it should respond to the realities of its location, its aspect and the functions it needs to perform. The materials selected should also be in relation to the place and space and ideally should be sourced from the area around the home.

The process of defining the green home is complex, and ever changing but some things are a given and it seems that for 21st Century home construction is a combination of simplicity in design and construction, quality passive design principles, careful selection of materials and a sensible range of active green technologies can create a green home – energy efficient, eco-friendly, comfortable and created with natural materials that don’t cost the earth.

What is a Green Home?

Green homes are much better than conventional homes – but what makes a home green?

Typically, a green home is an energy efficient home that at minimum saves at least 30% in energy costs versus a conventional new home (and savings can be significantly higher), conserves water, protects the surrounding site environment, uses non-toxic paints and finishes, and thus creates a healthy living space for you and your family.

In order to reap the savings associated with building a green home, though, it is important to hire professionals who are experts in the green building field. Interview and hire an architect who is a LEED accredited professional, even if you are not looking to have your new home LEED certified. A LEED architect has industry-recognized expertise. A green home starts with a green home design, or sustainable design, addressing the elements of geography, site, water efficiency, energy, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

A few benefits of working with an architect focused on the sustainable aspects of design and construction of your new home are that he or she will: 1) design your home to maximize spatial requirements as well as energy and water consumption; 2) design the home to limit the negative impact of the building on the immediate environment; and 3) explore various green technologies, renewable energy systems, green building products, and energy efficient building systems that fit well with the site – and your pocketbook.

Your builder is also an important part of your green team. Interview numerous builders (at least three) and visit homes both completed and under construction. Ask what makes the house green, as well as specific questions about the systems and materials. A green builder will be able to offer simple explanations and give recommendations as to best products to use. Most green architects will help you choose the builder who is right for your project and who will work well for you.

Throughout the design and construction processes your green architect and builder will educate you on the operation and maintenance of the green materials and systems you selected for your energy efficient home. These benefits and savings will begin during the construction process and continue for the life of the home!