Green Real Estate – How Green Homes Offer Many Benefits

Consider as many green building products as you can when building your home. You can consider things like bamboo wood flooring or recycled newspaper insulation, for example. There is some plywood or paneling that is made from wood chips and other wood products. Window treatments can include wicker or bamboo shades and used brick facades can add style to the front of your home. There are many green building products made from plentiful resources. This includes building products that are made from recycled plastic and metals, including siding, some kinds of decking, and other products that can be included when you decide to build green real estate.

Another consideration to make your new home friendlier to the environment is natural energy sources that are easily available, such as solar or wind power to lower your energy usage. It can be an easy way to save money on your utility bills and a way to add an energy system that can pay for itself very quickly. If you are not familiar with how wind or solar energy systems work, most builders in your area can advise you on which choice might be the best for your particular location. Most parts of the country are able to use one of these choices when building green real estate homes.

Considering your natural landscaping and shade trees should be one of the first things you think about when you are looking for the perfect building lot. Try to find a lot that has plenty of large trees near your planned building area and look for natural landscaping that can help save water. You do not need to have a grass lawn to water if there is plenty of natural gravel and rock. Boulders and rock gardens or native growing plants and flowers do not need much water to thrive. Large shade trees can save on your energy bill, as long as they do not shade your solar energy system, when making a green real estate investment.

Think about the placement of your home when you are looking at lots because southern exposure is the best placement for your home. This allows you to take advantage of the winter sun, which is in the southern part of the sky during winter and it can save money on your heating bill. Another thing to think about is whether you can take advantage of earth contact building on the lot you select. If there is a hilly area on the lot that faces the south, it might be the perfect place to build a home that is insulated by the earth, making it perfect green real estate for your home.

You might want to consider used building products when you are thinking about green building. If there is an old barn on the property, used barn wood trim, or panels can make an interesting wall. You might want to consider checking some of the used building supply yards that carry brick that can be used for patios. Antique stores might have ornate wooden doors and windows that can add character to your home. Even stained glass windows add character and can be found at some building suppliers and used salvage yards that specialize in salvaging old buildings. Part of building green real estate can mean recycling products that can add a personal touch, too.

When you are designing your home, make sure you consider the ways you can take advantage of natural lighting. Design your home with green building in mind. Make sure that windows take advantage of southern winter sun, but minimize the number openings that are exposed to cold northern winds. Consider that many storms can come from the west and the summer sun is hottest through these windows. For the best energy savings, careful planning of windows allows you to get natural lighting and save on your heating and cooling bills when thinking about green real estate.

As you can see, we have learned quite a few things about green building and most of it does not involve additional expense. In fact, you may find that you can build a green home for less than many kinds of homes and save money on your energy bills every month. Careful lot selection, location of your home and the materials you plan to use are part of the easiest things to do, when you are considering green building practices. Many people are wrong to think building a green home is more expensive. Your energy savings can pay for any additional costs you might run into. The next thing you should do is use these tips and find out more information to make your next home part of the green real estate movement.

Green Home Building – The Key to Saving Money on Your Home’s Operation

The environment is precious. Keeping it pure and respecting the future makes sense. But what about your pocketbook? Does it cost more or save more when it comes to our homes? I get asked about green building all the time.

Question: Does building a “green home” really save on energy bills?

Answer: It should! Not all “green building” is created equally, however. When building the home’s structure, look for products and building methods that will create lasting value and ongoing energy savings.

An energy saving home should include the following building choices:

  • Energy efficient wall systems like SIPs, ICFs, and hay bales to name just a few, can provide insulation and barriers that make good use of the energy the home is using.
  • Spray foam insulated walls & ceilings to create your own wall systems
  • When you utilize energy efficient wall systems and ceilings, you’ll want highly efficient double or triple pane windows as well so as not to diminish the benefits of the walls.

While the structure is vital to long-term benefits, there is also the issue of the efficient and frugal use of energy in your home. The products you install are the most important.

Green homes would usually include these products as well:

  • A high efficiency heating and air conditioning system
  • Energy Star and other efficient home appliances
  • LED and other low energy light bulbs

Building your home with these products and building methods will likely cost you from two to eight percent more but the savings will continue for as long as you live in the home.

Consider a Bigger Green Building Investment for More Savings

Solar, wind, and geothermal are even more natural ways to “go green” but generally require a heftier up front investment. If you are going to be living in your home for a long time, and long-term savings is your goal, it’s wise to consider these options too.

Going green, when done correctly, is beneficial to our environment and in the longer term, it truly does save you money on energy bills.

The Seven Building Blocks of Building Green

You picked the perfect site for your new home but now you’re mired in indecision. Building “green” sounds noble (who doesn’t want to help our planet and create a healthy environment for our kids?) but it also sounds expensive, difficult and confusing. If you’re like most people, you probably assumed that a green home is a simple assemblage of eco-friendly products like recycled timbers, bamboo flooring, and oderless paint – but in fact, choosing products like these is only a small part, and perhaps the least important, of sustainable building. To demystify what it means to build green, we have to start with a primer of basic principles as outlined by Andy Engel in Tools of the Trade – what I like to think of as the Seven Green Building Blocks.
But first, a definition: What is a Green Home? A green or sustainable home is one that is built and functions with a reduced impact on the environment by using resources efficiently, and that provides a healthy, non-toxic environment.

Green Building Block #1- House Design
Here’s a surprise – the size, siting (orientation to the sun) and shape of your house have the greatest impact on how energy-efficient it will ultimately be.

  • The larger your house, the more materials it will take to build and the more energy to maintain. This is your most critical decision. Resist the urge to super-size.
  • Solar orientation is the second most important factor in determining your home’s energy needs. This is called passive solar design. Try to place the longest walls of the house on an east-west axis. This will give your south facing windows sun in winter and shade in summer. You can also place your garage on the west side of the house or use a porch, roof overhang or trees to shade your west walls.
  • The simpler the shape of your house (think New England Salt-Box) the more energy-efficient. Protruding wings and bays increase the exterior skin of the house and let heat escape from the core, much like our own fingers and toes.

Green Building Block #2 – Durability
Like our bodies, houses age, sag and eventually collapse. Water and moisture are the two culprits responsible for the premature aging and final demise of our home, beginning with mold and ending in rot.

  • Water can be kept away from the structure through proper drainage, gutter and downspout design, as well as use of special rain-screen walls.
  • Moisture can be controlled through carefully installed window and door flashings and with thorough sealing. By minimizing air loss, you keep moisture out and heat in, reducing energy costs by as much as 20%. When moisture is no longer allowed to travel through the exterior walls, it eliminates the danger of condensation in the framing, thus extending the life of your home.
  • Use paperless sheetrock to allow any moisture to wick out of damp drywall.

Green Building Block #3 – Energy Efficiency
Your home uses energy such as electricity and gas for light, heat or cooling. You can reduce your need for heat and cooling through passive solar design, which provides a kind of built-in thermal protection. But you also need to reduce thermal loss or leakage with insulation and air sealing. If possible, install your own energy supply.

  • Use insulation and builder’s felt in the walls, floor and ceiling to reduce heat loss. Close cavities such as areas behind showers and tubs, soffits and recessed lights with a moisture barrier to prevent heat loss.
  • Seal all openings and cracks where air can pass in or out of the house.
  • Don’t run HVAC ducts in unconditioned crawl spaces or attics – 20% of the energy can be lost. Fully insulate areas around your ducts and thoroughly seal them.
  • Lighting accounts for about 15% of a home’s energy use, but you can reduce that percentage in several ways. Replace inefficient incandescent bulbs with cooler, longer lasting CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) or the new LEDs (light emitting diodes). LEDs use 1/3 the electricity of CFLs and are more directional for task lighting.
  • Decrease energy waste by installing a home automation system with motion sensors to turn lights on and off as you enter or exit a room. A home automation system can also reduce your heating and cooling needs by automatically opening or closing your window shades depending on the outside temperature, and by turning down your thermostat at night and when you are away from home.
  • Use energy efficient appliances.
  • If possible, invest in solar panels to generate much of the energy your house consumes. Your power company will even buy back any excess electricity from you during times of low use (like when you are on vacation).

Green Building Block #4 – Reducing Waste
You can reduce excessive waste in 2 ways: by using materials more efficiently (and thus, needing fewer of them) and by reusing old materials. In either case you help the planet and your pocketbook at the same time.

  • Size your house sensibly. Design your house in four foot multiples to conform to standard wallboard and plywood sheets. You will also dramatically reduce piles of scrap lumber.
  • Recycle and reuse building materials such as old concrete and stone as a base for a parking lot.
  • Be an avid recycler of glass, plastic and metals in your household. Set up a compost bin to turn your food scraps into rich mulch.

Green Building Block #5 – Water Conservation
The aim here is twofold: you need to both reduce the amount of water your family consumes, but also channel the rainwater that falls on your lot back into the soil.

  • Use low-flow shower heads and toilets to reduce water usage.
  • Use automatic sprinklers with moisture sensors to regulate water use and prevent over-watering.
  • Use native and drought-tolerant plants.
  • Use porous concrete pavers on driveways to allow rainwater to percolate down into the earth and recharge aquifers.

Green Building Block #6 – Indoor Air Quality
We’ve already mentioned how proper sealing and insulation can prevent moisture and mold in the home, but an air-tight home has its own problem – it traps all gases and fumes inside the home, thus polluting the air you breathe. Particle board and OSB off-gas formaldehyde; paints, finishes and car products contribute VOCs (volatile organic compounds); gas stoves and poorly vented gas appliances contribute carbon monoxide to the stew. There are two ways to clear the air and breathe easier: use products that are less toxic, and change your ventilation system.

  • Use building materials like plywood in place of OSB to reduce formaldehyde buildup. Some carpets are not only made from recycled nylon, but also boast no VOCs. Natural floor adhesives, paints and finishes also offer zero emissions.
  • Use a dedicated air supply for furnaces and water heaters to prevent gases from back-drafting into the house.
  • Install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) system to bring fresh outside air into living spaces while exhausting air from bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms.

Green Building Block #7 – Green Products
We’ve already shown how using green products can make a difference to the environment and your health. With more and more eco-friendly products to choose from, let’s sort out the various types and shades of green on display.

  • Products made from recycled materials: concrete made from fly ash (a waste product of coal power plants), carpet made from recycled nylon (and recyclable after its life), synthetic stone counter tops made from recycled paper, glass and cement.
  • Reused building materials: salvaged timbers, lumber, brick and stone.
  • Products from sustainable resources: cork flooring from the cork oak tree (also durable, sound and heat insulating and hypoallergenic); bamboo flooring from fast growing bamboo.
  • Energy-efficient products: solar panels, Energy Star appliances, home automation systems, CFL and LED lights.
  • Non-toxic products (both in their manufacture and use in the home): low odor paints and finishes, carpets and plywood.

With this primer in hand, you now know the difference between a CFL and a VOC. As you can see, the most critical choices for a green home are made when you first sit down at the drafting table. Your dream home will be energy efficient, durable and safe if you design it using all seven green building blocks. Your friends might turn green with envy.