6 Reasons To Build A Green Home

We hear buzz words like “going green” all the time. When you log into your online banking institution or pay any number of bills, you’re confronted with the “Go Green” prompt, asking you to reduce your monthly consumption of paper and fuel. We see energy-efficient cars zipping around in traffic. You go to the grocery store and are asked if you’d like to purchase their eco-friendly shopping bags. There’s no doubt that “going green” is trendy. Whether it’s trendy because of a natural inclination to improve our planet’s health or simply because it’s something “cool”, the trend doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. As much as the green revolution has touched on all our day-to-day activities, it’s also beginning to revolutionize the homebuilding industry. A study by NAHB and McGraw-Hill has found that between 2005 and 2010, green homebuilding has increased by 500%. That’s truly amazing! Again, one can only conjecture the specific reasons for this massive increase, but here are just a few reasons why building a green home is beneficial to you and the planet.

SAVE ENERGY

Perhaps the green home’s biggest appeal is its ability save energy. With rising energy costs and minimal renewable energy sources, it’s not a big surprise that homeowners are seeking refuge. Green homes can save you 30% or more on your monthly energy bills. This is accomplished by home orientation, efficient insulation, efficient HVAC systems, high performance windows, and more.

SAVE WATER

Buildings use 12% of the total water consumed in the United States. This usage can be dramatically reduced in green homes through the use of Water Sense appliances, Energy Star appliances, low flow faucets and shower heads, etc. By reducing our water consumption, we’re also reducing the amount of energy needed to purify it and deliver it to the home, as well as treat it and return it back to the environment.

HEALTHIER

Indoor pollution is a grossly underestimated problem in the United States. Your indoor environment is usually more polluted than your outdoor environment. Couple this with the fact that most Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. This can lead to troublesome health problems like asthma and cancer. Green homes’ HVAC systems are designed to have better ventilation, moisture management, filtration, etc. Also, green homes typically do not use dangerous building materials like formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals.

INVESTMENT

Eco-friendly homes are a great investment. Not only do they save you money in the long run via your reduced monthly energy bills, but they have great resale value.

REDUCE WASTE

Construction and demolition materials accounts for 60% of our non-industrial waste. Green building reduces their amount of waste by using advanced framing techniques, fewer resources, renewable resources, efficient floor plans, and reclaimed or recycled materials.

REDUCE CARBON DIOXIDE

Buildings account for approximately 38% of the U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Since green homes reduce energy consumption, they also reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. Green building also reduces our carbon footprint by reducing the amount of materials and resources needed for construction.

Beat the Economy – Buy a Green Home

The poor economy in the United States has had a devastating effect on the family’s ability to afford a quality new home. Banks are instituting new loan rules; some of those new rules are limiting the amount of money people can spend on a new home. What can a family in need of a new home do? Why not go green? People interested in new home should “go green” because they will save money and be able to take advantage of government incentives.

There are many interesting and cost effective ways to create a green home. To start, the new home buyer should be looking at the basic construction of a home. This means the buyer needs to examine the basement, the walls, and the roof. For example, if a buyer finds a home with energy efficient wall construction, but a lack of proper insulation in the attic, he or she should look at other homes. Although it is important to have energy efficient appliances in a home, the appliances do not make a green home, the proper building materials and techniques do.

Local contractors have the ability to build green homes. There are many different green building methods and materials available. Green homes can be found throughout the nation, in both rural and urban areas. So, a person should not take an attitude that he or she is in an area where green homes are not available.

The availability of the green energy efficient home is actually increasing. This is because people are demanding access to these homes and because new technologies are driving the cost of energy efficient products down. A new home customer can find a variety of products to help with the creation of a green home. Plus, because green homes save money in the long run, and because green products are becoming cheaper, someone looking for a new home should be able to find quality green products that will help him or her create a new green home.

Building a Green Home Requires Teamwork

The Traditional Approach

Green home building and remodeling requires a different approach than the traditional, established way of building. Traditionally, the homeowner, you, approaches an architect who designs the home, based on your descriptions, ideas, dreams and wishes. The finished design is then distributed to several general contractors for bid.

The general contractor in turn contacts his/her subcontractors to get bids from them for framing, roofing, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, excavating and foundation work, landscaping, interior finishes.

The bid prices are based on the interpretation of the drawings by each contractor. Rarely do the subcontractors talk to each other during the bid process. Rarely is the architect contacted with questions. Almost never is the homeowner, you, contacted. The contractors’ final bids usually include a list of exceptions and/or a contingency allowance, which might never be used, but is paid for by you anyway.

Homeowners most often accept the lowest bid. Why not? Unless you are familiar with and know the construction business, know the contractor’s quality of work, what other criteria could you apply?

The procedure outlined above often results in considerable construction cost increases, dissatisfied homeowners and sometimes lawsuits.

Huge resources are being neglected and missed when homes are remodeled and built the traditional way: Experience and trade-specific expertise, which could save you time, money and headaches.

The Green Approach To Building A Home

Building a green home must be a systematic approach and done as a team. The project must be looked at as a system, in which each component is connected to and depends on the other components. For example:

  • Location of the home on the property will determine the amount of soil disturbance, excavation and landscaping
  • Location, size and types of windows will impact the heating and cooling requirement
  • Type of heating and cooling equipment will impact space requirements for furnace, heat pump, solar collectors, piping, ductwork, etc
  • Choice of exterior wall will impact first cost versus installation cost versus insulation values versus appearance

You get the idea

Teamwork is required to make it all come together. The folks who design and build your green home, will be working with you and with each other for weeks or months. These are some important questions to ask when assembling your green building team:

  • Do all of the team members agree on the importance of building green and are they committed to it?
  • Do architect and contractors have experience in green home construction and if not, are they willing to learn? The majority if the team should have some experience in designing or building green homes
  • Do you like and respect them? Can you see yourself interacting with each of them frequently and maybe work through some challenges?
  • Do they like and respect each other?
  • Do they take pride in high quality work?
  • Can they accept input about their trade from other trades?

Don’t underestimate the importance of your team getting along and working well together. There will be times during the construction when tempers flare, tensions are high, pressure is on. And this could be just when the insulator has to do some very meticulous work to seal all leaks, while the electrician is breathing down her neck to hurry up so he can get his work done.

It is important to include as many of the trades as possible during the design phase. Decisions about choices in materials or heating system can then be done by all involved parties from a fully informed perspective. For example:

Someone mentioned to you the advantages of using structurally insulated panels (SIP), and that is what you would like to use for your green home. Preliminary investigations show that these panels would have to be shipped from hundreds of miles away. The general contractor suggests using insulated concrete forms (ICF). The factory is only 50 miles away, his team is very experienced with this system and he knows that he can do it cheaper than with SIP. The architect supports this idea, because she also knows that homeowner insurance rates are sometimes lower for homes built with ICFs, due to their resistance to termites, wind and fire.

Or

General contractor, architect and HVAC contractor work closely together to determine if your green home should use solar collectors or a geothermal heat pump system for hot water and heat. They contact the wood truss manufacturer to help determine the impact of the heavy solar collectors on the roof frame. A call to the local geothermal heat pump specialists reveals that your future neighbors down the street installed a geothermal heat pump system two years ago and are very satisfied with it. With all this information, you can now make an informed decision.

When the time comes to put the final cost for your green home construction project together, you can be assured that unexpected costs will be minimal. You will know that you and your green building team are all pulling in the same direction.

Addressing and optimizing key factors up front with the whole team will result in a smoother construction process, lower costs and a much better green home for you and your family.