Focus on Green Homes – The Air Conditioning Controversy

Air conditioning is possible in a green home. Read all about it in this installation of our 'Focus on Green Homes' series.

Air conditioning in green homes is cause for much debate among green enthusiasts. Certainly, the best way to save energy on air conditioning is to not have it or use it. But this is just not practical for everyone.

Without a doubt, air conditioning of the past was anything but green. It used very damaging chemicals and consumed large amounts energy for what it produces. Even more efficient units in use today still use a lot of energy causing electricity electricity bills in the summer months. Can a system be designed for a green home that uses much less electricity and no damaging chemicals? Yes, indeed.

Size Matters – The first consideration when designing an air conditioning system for your green home is the size of the system. Air conditioning systems should be sized correctly for the space to be cooled, considering the number, location, and type of trees, the number of window, the arrangement of the house, and size of the living space. Care should be taken to right-size the system – it should not be too big or too small. Then we need to look at all the renewable resources we can use to accomplish this.

Cooling from the Earth – For the system to be truly green, renewable resources must be considered. One of the best renewable resources is called geo-thermal. Geo-thermal is literally heating or cooling from the depth of the earth. It is the reason that most caves are the same temperature (around 55F) all year round. We can use this constant temperature of the earth to cool air for air conditioning.

To accomplish geo-thermal cooling, water (or other liquid) is pushed through a tube in the ground buried at an appropriate depth. The water is cooled to the ground temperature. Air is then passed over the tube and the warm room air is transferred to the water in the tube, removing the hot air from the home. The heated water is then pushed back although the tube under the ground and the heat is transferred into the ground effectively cooling the water back to 55 degrees and the process starts all over again.

Clean and Efficient – Using geo-thermal air conditioning is clean and quiet. For systems that do not use forced air to distribute the cool air, there is far less dust and noise.

This system uses much less energy to create cool air for the home than conventional air conditioning and is much better for the environment. This system can also be used to heat the home. The cost of the system and the depth to which the tubes must be buried depends on the part of the world in which you live.

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Focus on Green Homes – High Efficiency Windows

What do windows have to do with a green home? Windows are a big part of your green home, since most of the heat lost from your home is lost though the windows. A set of inefficient, leaky or badly installed windows can defeat any efforts at energy savings or conservation. How can we stop the money from flying out the window? In this 'Focus on Green Homes' edition, we explain how to keep the windows away from the heat out of your home.

Through new technological breakthroughs, techniques are now available to build attractive, but energy efficient windows that retain heat a lot better than the old way of building a window. First, energy efficient windows have two panes of glass instead of one. And, in addition, newer windows have had the air space between these two panes of glass filled with argon gas that dramatically slows the heat transfer through the glass panes.

Heat is also lost through the air space between the window frame and the window space in the wall. Most people have had the experience of feeling a draft from leaky windows and doors. This gap around the window frame should be filled with quality insulation to reduce the amount of heat escaping from the home. There are several ways to apply the insulation. One effective way is to fill this gap with expandable foam and then cover the nailing flange of the window with special tape to seal the gap completely.

By doing all these steps, you can greatly increase the energy efficiently of the traditional window. Usually windows can not be eliminated or reduced in size due to building codes and builder's rules of thumb. Windows are pleasing to the eye and provide ventilation and safety features that are important to any home. Therefore, windows have to be made more efficient in order to make your home truly green.

When choosing windows for a green home it is a good idea to look at many window manufacturers and their window prices because the most expensive windows are not always the most efficient. Calculating the energy pay-off time is an important tool for choosing the most efficient windows for the money.

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Austin’s Las Casas Verdes Development Brings Solar Eco Responsible Living to Austin

Austin's first, solar eco-responsible neighborhood, the Las Casas Verdes Development, will feature the latest in solar, wind and water energy technologies, and will be the first of its kind in Texas.

Located approximately approximately three acres in Southwest Austin, near the corner of Longview Road and Cameron Loop off Brodie Lane, the Las Casas Verdes Development will enjoy a convenient, central location, with nearby shopping centers and mass transit routes located less than one mile away. The current demographic of the area includes middle-income, single-family homes with nearby parks and hiking and biking trails. This area also has a nice view of the nearby greenbelt.

Twenty, single-family, architecturally designed homes will be included in the Las Casas Verdes Development, and all of the homes will meet the strict standards of the Austin Green Building Program, Energy Star and LEEDS certificates.

Each home will be custom designed in a Texas farm cottage style and will encompass 1,800 square feet of living space. Although each home will have an overall design concept and architectural detailing, styling and character will differentiate the homes from one another.

The Las Casas Verdes Development developers have included just twenty homes in an effort to concentrate on the quality of the homes. The homes will focus on the comfort and features of today's lifestyles, yet will all boast energy and money-saving benefits.

For example, some of the comfort features of each home will include a media room, an office alcove and large, exterior decks, while some of the environmentally sensitive features of each home will include a 3KW Solar Photovoltaic System for electrical generation and Solar Thermal Panels for hot water.

Just some of the other energy-saving features of the Las Casas Verdes Development include:

o A complete solar power system with an inverter and a reversing meter for selling excess power back to the public grid
o Optional batteries for on-site energy storage
o Passive solar design systems to best manage sunlight
o Design features, such as overhangs, porches and shade tree, will reduce heat load by providing shade.
o Heat chimneys, operable awning windows and landscape features, combined with natural breezes, will allow for adequate air circulation through the home with little or no mechanical assistance.
o Rainwater collection systems will gather water for use in landscaping and toilets.
o Structural insulated panels, which are prefabricated wall and roof panels, will frame the exteriors of the homes for superior insulation, faster construction times and less construction waste.
o Heating and cooling systems with sealed air ducts per Energy Star specifications
o A properly sized 14+ SEER rating
o Heat recirculation HVAC ducts which will reuse pre-heated air during the winter months.
o An in-duct dehumidification system
o Low VOC paints, reflected metal roofs and recycled building materials
o Recirculation hot water systems will provide immediate hot water.
o Multi-speed fans motors and duct controllers will heat and cool only the occupied portions of the home at any given time.

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The Benefits of Eco Friendly Log Homes and Wood Cabins

Today, more people are making a conscious effort to carry out a lifestyle that is environmentally aware. Pollution, exhaustion of resources and unclean living conditions are just a few of the potential threats that all of the earth's citizens must face. While car manufacturers continue to make electric and environmentally-friendly automobiles, many housing companies are also doing what they can to improve the planet's current condition. Some companies, like mountaincreation, are building eco friendly log homes for consumers who are interested in living a green lifestyle.

Energy saving residences have little impact on the earth during their building, creation and maintenance phases. Many environmentalists believe that the earth's millions of residences are the cause of almost half of the planet's dangerous and harmful carbon dioxide emissions. Because of this, it is crucial that the earth's residents work to create more eco friendly housing.

Most wood cabins and log homes are significantly less harmful to the planet than typical residences. Obviously, white cedar log homes are constructed from a material that is a natural resource. This resource is also renewable – loggers can replant new seeds after they remove trees that are fully grown. Logs from trees can also be found in most local areas, unlike other resources, which may require transportation over multiple states or counties. Shipping materials from state to state can grow to be extremely expensive. Shipment also requires the usage of a high amount of gas and oil. Using local wood like white cedar for your log cabin can reduce your home's negative impact on the environment.

Energy saving wood homes do not require any type of processing or manufacturing, two procedures that can use a substantial amount of energy or chemicals. Some building materials are often processed with dangerous substances that may possibly cause health problems for your family members. Many times, research has not been conducted on various construction chemicals and their effects on human health. Often, the negative repercussions that they can have on residents of a home are not discovered until symptoms of illness appear years later, much like in the cases of asbestos or mercury. Until we are completely knowledgeable of the potential harm that certain compounds can cause, it is wise to completely avoid them.

Eco friendly wood cabins also help residents save money on energy, heating and cooling costs. Since wood homes possess the ability to absorb and release heat, log cabins maintain a desirable level of comfort through the year, no matter the season.

Obviously, white cedar and other wood homes are recyclable. Old logs can be reused to create other homes or buildings. Once their use is no longer needed, they can simply be returned to the earth or used for firewood.

Energy saving wood cabins are aesthetically pleasing, practical and affordable. By choosing to build homes that are earth friendly and economically safe, there is more hope for the future of our environment.

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Focus on Green Homes – Heating Your Green Home

Methods used to heat a green home are cleaner, more efficient, less expensive and more comfortable than conventional methods. The heating systems are simple for the home owner to operate and maintain. However, since the system is basically custom-designed for each home, it is very complicated for the contractor to calculate the exact heating needs of every home and is based on an intense amount of variables. A green home takes a lot of things into consideration when it comes to heating your home.

For example, variables such as the direction the house faces, how many windows are in the home, what is the solar heat gain of the window, the amount of shade, the insulation value of the home, and the ceiling height of the house need to be taken into consideration. Then owner preferences about the type of system desired are factored in. Choices include forced air heat, radiant heat (hydronic systems), gas, propane, or electric.

Third, another consideration in designing your heating system should be how clean the system is. For instance, radiant floor heating has a couple of major advantages over forced air, since it more efficient than forced air and does not circulate air back and forth spreading germs and bacteria through your home.

The efficiency in radiant floor heating comes from three sources. First, a thermostat on a forced air system may be set at 72 F while a radiant floor heat system thermostat may only need to be set at 65F or less and still maintain the level of warm comfort. Imagine your entourage floor of your green home warm all the time! Second, heat rises. By heating the floor, the heat rises over the entire length of your body keeping you warm no matter where you are in the home. No more cold corners or freezing cold bathroom floors.

The last source of efficiency for radiant floor heating comes from the source of the heat. What does the heating of the water for this type of system? There are lots of options, some more efficient than others. One option is using a boiler or hot water heater, however efficiency is sacrificed. The best option is a secondary heat exchanger plumbed off a very high efficiency water heater. Another option is using a geo-thermal ground loop with a heat pump. Currently this option is too expensive for affordable green homes.

When considering your heating system for your green home, it is important to look at the pay-off time for your system. Some systems can be extremely efficient, but costing, costing tens of thousands of dollars to install. Why pay a dollar to save a penny? By carefully designing and building an affordable, practical green home, you can save utility costs immediately since it will not cost more than a conventionally built home.

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Focus on Green Homes – Landscaping to Save Energy

Landscaping a home in green manner is an important part of planning and building your green home. Landscaping consumes a lot of water and maintaining your yard can produce a large amount of carbon monoxide. Green landscaping means selecting plants that reduce the amount of water used to keep them alive.

For the lawn, plant grass that grows very slowly and requires very little water to survive. By planting this type of grass, your lawn would not need to be mowed every week, but maybe only a few times a summer, reducing the amount of exhaust from your mowing activities. Also since water bills are usually calculated by consumption, the less water the yard requires, the lower the water bill.

For the plants and bushhes around the home, select hardy plants. Hardy plants are less susceptible to diseases and damaging pests, allowing you to forego or eliminate pesticides and fertilizers. The less of these chemicals that are used the better it is for the environment, reducing the amount of chemicals that run-off of plants during a rainstorm and soak into the ground. This type of run-off of pesticides and fertilizers has the potential to contaminate ground water and drinking water.

Another major consideration with green landscaping is the heat island effect. The heat island effect is heat from the home, from man-made surfaces around the home, and from the lack of appropriate landscaping. The combined heat from these sources can increase the temperature in a community noticeably. Heat islands can cause increased use of air conditioning, increased air pollution and greenhouse gas production, and lower water quality.

For your green home, this effect can make your heating and cooling systems less effective. The right types of landscaping can help prevent the heat island effect. For example, planting our hardy trees, shrubs and plants at least 24 inches away from the house can break up the heat transfer mechanism. In addition, planting deciduous trees on the west side of your green home or along driveways and walkways can be very effective for cooling the house and yard. Plan ahead, though. Trees and bushhes growth over time can interfere with the effectiveness of any solar panels that are installed.

When planning your landscaping, plan to install a rain barrel as well. Why not store some of the run-off rainwater for eco-friendly, free water for watering the lawn, plants, scrubs, and trees? In addition to a rain barrel, the ground can be shaped to direct water coming from the roof and the ground during a rainstorm to collect around the plants, shrubs, and trees in the yard. This allows the earth to do your work for you. As the water from the storm drains into the ground, the last part of the ground to dry out is the part of the lawn that received the most water, reducing the amount of tap water needed.

By taking the extra time to address these issues during the design of your green home, you can achieve a beautiful, very low maintenance and environmental-friendly landscaped yard.

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Code For Sustainable Homes (CSH) – The Role of the Pre-Assessment

The Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) is the benchmark for measuring the sustainability of new homes in the United Kingdom. For many new building programs it is required to carry out assessment and meet demanding targets in terms of energy performance, water use, material use and other environmental and sustainability issues. This is particularly the case for house building that is part funded through government grants, for instance by Housing Associations. An increasing number of local authorities have set Code for Sustainable Homes ratings that need to be achieved for any new housing build in their area.

There are two formal parts to the Code for Sustainable Homes assessment process: a CSH design stage assessment and a CSH post construction review. The official and final certificate can only be awarded upon the post construction review. Technically it is not required to undertake a design stage assessment. The post construction review would than act as the complete CSH assessment. There is how ever a good reason to undertake a CSH design stage assessment. In case the assessment reveals acoming in the design, alterations to increase the performance performance can be made relatively cost effectively before the start of construction.

There is a third stage that is often referred to when considering Code for Sustainable Homes assessment: the pre-assessment stage. The pre-assessment stage is not a formal part of the CSH assessment process, but it is a valuable toolvertheless.

Firstly a Code for Sustainable Homes pre-assessment helps to identify the constraints and opportunities for each specific development in achieving the required rating. Certain elements of the CSH credit award method are specific to the selected development site rather than the design, specification and construction methodology of the buildings themselves. Once the constraints and opportunities have been identified a strategy can be developed for the cost-effective targeting of CSH credits.

A pre-assessment is also an excellent tool for a construction company wishing to tender for a contract with a Code for Sustainable Homes requirement. The pre-assessment will give further information about the building specification that is required to achieve the required CSH rating.

Finally, achieving a certain CSH rating is increasingly becoming a planning requirement. Submitting a Code for Sustainable Homes pre-assessment report with the planning application is an excellent means of demonstrating to the local planning authority that the requirements can be met.

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Focus on Green Homes – Grey Water Recapture Systems

What is 'gray water' and why should it be captured? Would not that be unsafe? What are the benefits? This article will try to answer these questions in our first of several “Focus on Green Homes” articles. First, gray water is not actually gray-colored. After being filtered it looks just like regular water. However, it is not potable and should never be used as such.

There are basically two types of gray water recapture systems. 'In the Home' gray water is water from your sink, shower, and laundry that has been filtered and reused. 'Outside the Home' is run-off water from your gutters / ground that has been saved and used. Each one will be described more fully below.

In the Home – Gray water in the home is your sink, your shower, and your laundry. Under certain conditions and with the right equipment, this water can be used again for things like flushing your toilet. Using this type of water may sound a little strange and at first glance appear disgusting, but with the proper equipment and filtering, non-potable water can be used again.

The usage provides a recycling method that can greatly reduce your water bill and your community's need for expensive giant waste plants. It is estimated that gray water usage can reduce your water bill by up to 60%. Just imagine the reduction if every home in town recycles in this way.

Outside the Home – Gray water outside the house is coming from storm run-off. This is the water that runs off your roof and ground into the storm sewer and usually runs into a river or drainage pond. This is wasteful. The recapture system saves the water so that it can put to much better use. Have you ever noticed that your plants, flowers, and grass look much better after a rain storm than they do after you have watered them with city water? This is because city water is treated for human consumption and no longer contains the minerals and nutrients required by your lawn and flowers. The run-off is saved on your promises and is available for your personal use anytime.

Using run-off water relieves the stress on city services. Have you ever been subject city restrictions on when and for how long you can water your lawn? These restrictions are necessary because watering your lawn with city sources stresses the city's supply. If you've saved your run-off, your actions can alleviate the stress on the system. Simply by capturing the rainwater running out of your gutters or across your property in a rain storm and storing it for later use, you've saved water while saving money and resources.

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Builders Using Green Building Techniques in New Homes

More and more NH builders are using energy saving building techniques in Southern New Hampshire., Offering some of the latest technology in heating and cooling homes. The term green construction is becoming more common as energy costs soar across the nation.

There has been a lot of interest in Geothermal technology which takes advantage of the reliably stable temperature of the earth to help heat and cool your home. A series of pipes, called a loop, is installed underground. A water solution is circulated through this loop where it picks up heat from the earth. This heat is brought back to a heat pump in the home and from there it is circulated through duct work to heat your home. In the summer months this process is reversed so that heat is extracted from the home and deposited back into the earth. According to the PSNH website, actual operating costs average 48 cents per square foot per year for heat, hot water, and A / C. Even though the systems are costly, the advantages are obviously reduced operating costs, lower maintenance, its cleaner than burning oil, wood, gas or coal and you should look into Energystar and power company incentives.

Other energy savings and eco friendly techniques that are embroidered in New Hampshire are solar and passive solar technologies. There are simple and minor changes that can be made with new construction, without installing solar panels, such as orienting the house to be facing South and installing lots of insulated triple pane glass; we see sunrooms with tile floors that open up to main living spaces, separated by doors to cut down heat loss at night, but open them up and let the sunshine and warmth flood during during the day. Builders and property owners have not embroidered wind technology in NH at this point.

With the high price of energy and New Hampshire's cold Winter climate, alternative energy sources are becoming more and more popular. This year we have seen a resurgence of “clean coal” that is marked as washed and is not the messy dusty coal of the past. It is marketed with clean burning coal stoves.

Tax Credits are Still Available

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 extended tax credits for energy efficient home improvements (windows, doors, roofs, insulation, HVAC, and non-solar water heaters). Tax credits for these residential products, which had expired at the end of 2007, will now be available for improvements made during 2009. However, improvements made during 2008 are not eligible for a tax credit. The bill also extended tax credits for solar energy systems, wind energy and fuel cells to 2016. New tax credits were established for small wind energy systems and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Tax credits for builders of new energy efficient homes and tax deductions for owners and designers of energy efficient commercial buildings were also extended. We suggest you research these credits to be sure they apply to your project, prior to getting started.

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You Can Save Thousands With a Green Home

A “green” home is a home that is highly energy efficient, has excellent indoor environment, and is built to exceed local building code. Considering this, does not mean that these homes cost more to build than a person could save on energy costs? Absolutely not! A green home is affordable to build and can save a homeowner in thousands of energy costs annually. And there are thousands in tax incentives to take advantage of.

First, planned right and built well, a green home can be built for no more than regular construction, and has greater market value when it is completed. It is important to have a builder that has built green homes before, not just one that has added green features onto existing construction. The latter has no experience with the type of building techniques that lower building costs. An experienced home builder will know that getting LEED's engineers involved in the process and restructuring the process of building to reduce waste and energy are key to starting the project off right. In addition, an experienced home builder will be able to make valuable suggestions to the potential homeowner about trade-offs in costs and energy efficiency and apply his practical experience to estimates of energy savings.

Energy savings savings can be substantial. Using the weather and energy costs in Illinois as an example, and comparing an affordable green home to conventional home with forced air heating and central air-conditioning, a green home can save you around 75% on electricity, by using a combination of solar panels , landscaping, and Energy Star rated appliances and water heater and substituting central air with geothermal applications, over 90% on natural gas by using alternative heating methods, and 60% on water / sewer by implementing gray water recapture. Typical annual bills of nearly $ 3,000 per year could be lowered to $ 700 or less – a savings of $ 2,100 per year. Of course, these figures are for illustrative purposes only. Your actual savings depends on your electricity usage, the size of the home, the number of people you have living in your home, the number of solar panels you use, and the precise options you select for your green home.

And green homes look like regular homes inside and out, are maintenance friendly, and fun to own.

With tax incentives in the thousands, energy savings worth thousands, and greater market value, building and living in a green home is an affordable option for everyone.

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Green Homes – Ugly Ducklings Or Beautiful Swans?

A “green” home is a home that is highly energy efficient, has excellent indoor environment, and is built to exceed local building codes. So are they ugly then? Look like the Jetson's space-age house? So obvious they would stick out like a sore thumb? No. No. and No. A green home looks just like conventional construction inside and out.

The beginning of a green home is a set of plans that starts with a conventional floor plan and elevations. Then an experienced green home building will modify the systems of the house to accommodate green home features and energy saving devises – A geothermal system rather than air conditioning; in-floor heating rather than a conventional natural gas forced air system; a gray water recapture system; energy efficient windows, doors, appliances, and water heater; and high quality, high 'R'rated insulation.

The best part is that these systems work very different from their conventional counterparts, but are invisible to the homeowner and their guests. The home will be a queter and cleaner without the dust and noise of conventional forced air heating. And the energy cost savings are substantial, depending on your particular situation.

Energy Star appliances sip electricity but are similar or identical to your current appliances. And cabinets and trim can be identical to conventional houses or use recycled material or earth-friendly woods for a more eco-friendly alternatives.

The cladding and shingles on the outside of the home are no different than a conventional home making the home blend in to its neighborhood seamlessly. However, the market value is probably higher than the surrounding homes due to its energy saving advantages and tax incentives.

So a green home is a beautiful swan, not an ugly duckling, at all!

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What is Eco-Friendly Construction?

As eco-friendly properties grow to be more well-liked, it's useful for home Buyers to be able to identify sustainable home building resources for themselves. Prepared with this awareness, you can make vital decisions between one property and another based on just how carefully construction has taken into account the weight of protecting the environment. You can also identify which properties will save you funds when it comes to fuel costs and making repairs. And if you plan to put up additional buildings or extensions to your property, you'll know how to go about it in a responsible way.

Just what constitutes a sustainable building material for the properties you're considering will be based on your geographical location. Preferably, such materials should be offered locally to lessen the environmental impact on transportation. They should originate from renewable sources, such as sustainable forest plants, and the processing and manufacturing involved in preparing them for construction use should be efficient and non-hazardous. They should also be intended to last for a long time, reducing the need for repairs and replacements.

Superior quality sustainable building materials are not only excellent for the environment, they're good for your health you. In order to take full advantage of their staying power, they should be water resistant, which will also inhibit the growth of mold and rot, which can harm your health. Using natural materials such as wood or stone means you will not have to be concerned about toxic and carcinogenic emissions such as those emitted by some petroleum-based building materials and asbestos. If builders used recycled or reclaimed materials in the construction of a property, you can use air-monitoring equipment to check the interior air quality and make certain no problems have arisen as a result. For many construction businesses, such tests are standard on eco-friendly homes, making them a better bet than ordinary properties. And most durable materials are designed for easy cleaning so that you will not have to use to use strong chemical cleaning products which can potentially harm both you and the environment.

Sadly, because sustainable building is becoming so popular, there are now materials on the market made by manufacturers that are deliberatively deceptive about their products origins. So if you're purchasing your own, it's important to make sure they're certified. Ideally, an independent third party should have done this, supervising the process from their production to their arrival in store. This is important both for sustainable harvested materials and for reclaimed materials.

Once you begin looking into sustainable building materials, you'll find that there are all sorts of intriguing options out there, including traditional cedar or stone, lightweight but unexpectedly strong bamboo or cork with wool-based cavity filling providing a tremendously efficient substitute to standard insulating materials, and linoleum or terracotta tiling perfect for floors. Materials such as these can be used to craft a home that is good for the environment, good for you, cheap to run and truly individual. You really can not lose.

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What? No Cars?

Bicyclecity Promotes an unusual community – unusual by the standards of people born in our society in the last 100 years, at least. No cars. No trucks. Nothing with an internal combustion engine will be permitted past this proposed city limits. The promise is something that seems strange to people who have lived by the car, but is starting to get more attention, especially now, when gas prices are significantly rising and obesity levels are starting to show significant impact on the overall health of North American society .

The car free city is not just built with the idea that once there are no cars, everything will be fine. Plans are in motion to build homes and business buildings with ecologically friendly and energy efficient materials. Home styles range from densely constructed apartments in the inner city to modest single-family homes farther out. No McMansions here … these homes will be conservative in space and the resources they require to provide people with heat, light and power.

The layouts proposed for this community differ in details but are all roughly circular – with “spokes” that allow residents farther away from the city center direct access. There will be an emphasis on public green space. For those who wish to have or need cars to access the world beyond the city, specifically designed car parks are being proposed on the outskirts of the community. Outside the city limits, organic farms would provide the city with fresh fruits, vegetables and animal products.

Proponents of this kind of community cite the pollution caused by automobiles, the space automakers take up within a city and the danger to life and limb caused by automobile accidents. No automobiles is one solution for obesity and health problems related to lack of exercise – if one wants to go anywhere in a car free city, one must walk, bike or take public transportation. The high expenses of a car could be mostly or completely avoided by the close proximate of work and play.

There are challenges to be met in the car free city. The ban on automobiles can create difficulties with transportation of heavy / dangerous goods and access to transportation for the handicapped. Most people do not object to exemptions for emergency vehicles, but when it comes to personal vehicles for the elderly, injured, or infirm, the line becomes fuzzy. Some people believe that there should only be electric or other alternative fuel-powered vehicles allowed anywhere in the city. Non fossil-fueled public transport is being proposed to resolve most of the transportation issues.

The car free city has, so far, been only a consideration. In the face of the changes society will need to make in order to meet the needs of its population, though, this kind of community may not be too far away.

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Display Energy Certificates

Since 1st October 2008 public buildings in the UK over 1,000m2 must display a Display Energy Certificate prominently at all times. These Certificates were introduced by the British Government in response to the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive which all EU member states were required to implement by January 2009.

Display Energy Certificates are designed to promote the improvement of the energy performance of buildings. They are based upon actual energy usage of a building and increase transparency about the energy efficiency of public buildings. The certificate looks similar to the energy labels provided on new cars and electrical appliances such as refrigerators and freezers – it uses a similar scale for energy efficiency, ie from A to G with A being the most efficient and G the least. The A3 sized certificate is valid for one year and is accompanied by an Advisory Report (AR) which is valid for seven years. The advisory report is designed to help building owners occupiers to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings so that future Display Energy Certificates show a better rating. ARs do not need to be displayed, but must be available

Display Energy Certificates and ARs must be undertaken by an accredited energy assessment using Government approved software. In order to produce the Display Energy Certificate the energy assessor needs to know the gross internal floor area of ​​the building and the operating hours together with actual meter readings or consignment notes for all fuels used during the year of assessment. It is, therefore, very important for owners and occupiers of public buildings over 1,000m2 to maintain good records of fuel used. If the energy assessor does not have access to sufficient and sufficient information then the software will generate a default G rating!

The penalty for failing to display a Display Energy Certificate where required is GBP500 and the penalty for not having an advisory report available is GBP1,000.

In the future the Government will extend the requirement to smaller public buildings and sometimes to large privately owned buildings which the public have access to, such as supermarkets. It is, however, certainly right that the public sector should lead the way in making buildings more energy efficient, thereby reducing the burden of high fuel costs on the tax payer and helping to reduce Britain's carbon footprint with a view to meeting the ambitious targets that the Government has set itself.

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Financing Unusual, Eco-Friendly and Just Plain Weird Homes

There's a lot of attention being given to eco-friendly homes, 'alternative' homes and other dwellings that are not your average single-family home. You can find lots of information on the Internet, in books and magazines. However, one thing you might have a fair amount of trouble finding is an institution that will finance your alternative home venture, especially in today's depressed economy. There have been a number of individuals who, when seeking financing, found that anything that was not a standard 'stick-built' house was automatically in no-man's land when it came to the 'free mortgage market'.

For an interesting story of one couple's search for financing, head over to and see what they tried before they found a financial institution (a local credit union) to loan them the money for their dome house. Since the fact that 'green' homes are held up as the houses of the future, there still remains a sizeable amount of banks, credit unions and other lenders that will not take risks on them.

Another stumbling block for alternative housing is that institutions want to see comparable home values. It's kind of hard to produce comparables when you're embarking on an alternative housing project. However, this is another reason that lenders shy away from this kind of endeavor.

The three 'musts':

First of all, your credit has to be very good for a financial institution to even glance your way. Getting your credit up after a setback is not within the scope of this article, but there are plenty of ideas out there for you to explore. The better your credit is, the more likely your chances of a bank taking a second look at your proposal.

Second, have very clear plans about your building. It is not enough to say, “Oh this goes over here and we're gonna put that over there.” You need blueprints, sources for your materials, qualified contractors (if you're installing electrical and plumbing), and, if you're not, explain what you're going to do to heat and light the house. You also need to be extremely aware of municipal bylaws for dwellings as well as any standards you need to meet. Gather all the data you can on your house, comparable structures and the construction process.

Third, be aware of what insurance you need and how you're going to obtain said insurance. Some companies do not cover homes that are not provided with conventional sources of heat and light or are made out of materials not covered by their standard policies.

There are lenders out there that finance alternative housing, but in the case that you can not find one in your area or if all you can find is a lender who charges you an exorbitant amount of interest for a loan on an alternative lodging, here are some ideas:

Try a local institution. Local credit unions and other lenders may be more flexible than the larger national and international banks. If they have strong roots in the community and take a personal interest in what's happening around your town, they might be interested in financing an exciting new project that elicits strong interest from the public.

Search out other alternative home owners to get an idea of ​​what their experience at valuation was like. If you can get valuations of any alternative housing, even if it's not in your area, it's at least something you can use to go on. Also, other alternative home owners may have contacts or ideas that you can use to find lenders.

Publicize your search for financing. Green is 'in' and many news outlets could find this a good story to cover. Lenders may feel better about investing in a 'human interest story' instead of (to them) some random person wanting to live in a hole in the ground.

Consider private lending. There are online resources, such as where you can post your story, provide potential investors your story and hope that enough decide to invest in your endeavor. Private lending is generally more expensive than a mortgage, but less expensive than most credit cards.

The fight to get alternative housing legitimized by the real estate and mortgage industry is an uphill battle. However, the more alternative dwellings built, the more votes will be raised for equality among home owners – whether that home is a conventional one or something a little different, a little greener and quite a little better for the Earth.

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