As more and more consumers are becoming aware of green building,
pressure is put upon builders to offer green construction. While there
is still a lot of confusion among both buyers and builders about what
makes a house green, there are a few steps that should be considered
as green basics.
It begins with site selection and orientation. The home
should be oriented to maximize natural heat and light while minimizing
the load on the HVAC system, and some trees should be left to provide
a windbreak and shade. When possible homes should be located near
shopping, schools, churches, to minimize driving.
Low-impact development methods used to minimize storm water runoff.
Care is taken when grading to better control drainage and minimize
Designs should be more energy efficient and should provide better
protection from air infiltration. By following certain design
criteria and using materials that are both eco-friendly and energy
efficient, homeowners can reap the benefits of natural heating and
cooling. Bigger is not necessarily better; homes are sized for the
HVAC systems should be high efficiency. With the newer heating
and cooling systems it's possible to keep a well designed home comfortable
while using dramatically less energy than it's older less-efficient
cousin. Such systems should also be designed to provide a healthy
indoor environment, dealing with the issues created when we seal
homes to prevent infiltration.
Insulation should be both green and efficient. There are
several products that significantly increase the R- value of a home's
insulation while remaining eco-friendly.
Plumbing fixtures should be "high-efficiency."
The latest technology in water-saving fixtures has improved dramatically
in the past decade. Toilets and shower heads, for instance, infuse
air to improve flow and function.
Sustainable products should be used for construction. New
products are being introduced each year that have little negative
impact upon the environment, while offering new options in design
Indoor air quality is maintained through the use of certain materials.
Mold and mildew resistant products are used in areas of high moisture
such as: kitchens, baths, and basements. Low VOC paints are used
throughout. Flooring materials are selected for their low environmental
Waste should be minimized and recycled when possible. While
it's sometimes less expensive to discard excess materials, it doesn't
help the environment. Builders can minimize waste and save money
while decreasing their environmental footprint.
Rainwater or grey water should be recycled for irrigation.
There should be some allowance for the landscape irrigation without
using the normal water supply. New methods of using waste water
from sinks, tubs, and showers or capturing rainwater allows irrigation
through recycling, saving dollars while protecting our water supply.
Landscaping should incorporate both native and drought resistant
plants. Savvy builders are now taking advantage of more native
and drought resistant plants to minimize the need for irrigation.
Mulch can be provided from removed trees and salvaged building materials.
Energy efficiency in resales
While the majority of older homes were built with little consideration
for energy efficiency-some older homes were constructed with no insulation-and
no awareness of green building practices; there are some things to
look for in older homes that can make it easier to adapt them to greener
more energy efficient standards. A major plus that many older homes
share is the presence of large shade trees. These both provide shade
in the summer, lowering the demand for cooling, and act as a wind
break in the winter, decreasing air infiltration. Not only do trees
add beauty, but their presence creates energy savings in the hundreds
of dollars when compared to similar homes without trees.
Older homes will probably have water-wasting toilets (they may use
3 - 5 times as much water as newer models) and, although it's possible
to modify some of them, you'll need to know what you're doing. Consult
a reputable plumber if you're not sure. Older homes may also have
leaky faucets, wasting as much as 20 gallons a day. Upgrading faucets
is a relatively simple repair, and many homeowners choose to do it
If you're considering the purchase of an older home, below you will
find a list of items to check to help you determine what may be involved
in making your home more efficient and eco-friendly.
Windows/doors. Are windows double insulated, and do doors
and windows seal properly? Is trim, sill, or jamb material rotted?
Exterior veneer. Is the exterior material sound. Are joints
cracked and in need of caulking? Is mortar in brick or stone joints
cracked or falling out?
Wiring/lighting. Is there adequate electrical service to
meet your lifestyle? Is the electrical panel filled to capacity?
Do fixtures need upgrading?
Insulation. Is there sufficient attic insulation? Are exterior
walls insulated? Is there proper ventilation in the attic?
Plumbing fixtures. Do plumbing fixtures-sinks faucets, shower
heads, toilets-need to be upgraded?
Appliances. Are appliances out of date? Can they be easily
Heating and air conditioning. Is the HVAC system reasonably
new? What is its efficiency rating? Is the ductwork properly insulated
Flooring material. Does flooring need to be replaced? Is
vinyl old and does it contain asbestos?
Is it possible to retrofit older homes to make them both environmentally
friendly and less expensive to operate? Yes it is, and many of the
changes are simple and will not "break the bank." There
are several inexpensive alterations that can be made that will have
a significant impact on a home's energy and resource consumption.
Below I have listed some practical modifications, generally in order
of cost, which owners of older homes should consider:
Caulking around windows, doors, and siding joints
Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs
Installing electronic "set-back" thermostats
Insulating and sealing ductwork
Upgrading plumbing fixtures/shower heads/water heaters
Adding insulation in attics
Installing a radiant barrier under the roof or increasing attic
Upgrading appliances to those that are "Energy Star" rated
Replacing HVAC systems
If you are interested in more information, the following resources
may be helpful:
- U. S. Department of Energy
- joint program of EPA and DOE to certify energy standards
- Energy Information Administration
www.epa.gov - U.
S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Public-Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology
Global Energy Marketplace
- sustainable products company
- promotes manufacture, purchase, and use of eco-friendly products
American Wind Energy Association
American Solar Energy Society
- non-profit organization that sets environmental certification
National Association of Homebuilders
www.nsf.org - not-for-profit
- The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy
- U. S. Green Building Council