Green Eco Homes and Real Estate

Have you ever wondered what makes real estate properties 'green' or 'eco friendly'? Hopefully I can help you learn how to identify properties that meet some or all of these green qualifications in both construction and operation. Whether you are looking to buy green, or you want to 'green' your present home in order to sell it I hope to help you in your endeavor, and especially if you are simply looking to implement easy green features and habits, creating a green home and a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

I certainly know there are countless things I could add to my list here, but for now I want to sincerely create the mood of what a green home would look like. One thing's for sure, no matter how green you go, make sure it's done in a light, joyful way that does not impose on others. We are where we are at any given time in our lives, and there will always be someone greener than us! Green pride, should always be personal.

These green lifestyle choices not only enhance our health, but also our finances! Yeah green, puts green in your pocket!

So what features might make a property green or eco-friendly …

Usually homes are demolished, but do you know they can be deconstructed instead? Antique stores have known for centuries the brilliance of reclaimed and reuse of materials. Certainly a great percentage of a homes materials can come from a pre-used source. I know of one yoga studio that has the most gorgeous wood floors reclaimed from an old Bank of America historic building that was being refurbished. And it was free! Only the cost of removal! What a conversation piece! Just as relevant are materials derived from easily renewable sources, bamboo versus ancient oak trees.

The paint we use, low or zero VOC paint. You know that 'new home smell' we all love, usually from a fresh coat of paint? Well that's the smell of your lungs being poisoned! There are many sources of green power or at least eco choices, such as solar panels for electricity, natural day lighting via skylights and low voltage lighting for the evening. Site orientation makes such a difference, imagine orienting the home toward the sun in colder climates and alternatively catching cool breezes in warmer climates? Not only that but using landscaping to help. Deciduous trees to shade windows in the summer, yet let in warm sun in the winter. Green comes in many shades! Overall, we should seek durable, healthy, sustain-ably sourced 'green' building materials, ones that are non-toxic that helping improving indoor air quality.

In the garden permeable paving helps guide 'fresh' water to underground tables rather than run off via drain pipes to the salt water ocean. The use of native, zero or low water use gardens not only replace a strange obsession with antiquated English grass lawns but also encourage native birds and butterflies into your garden! Green landscaping can create a truly magical garden.

Not every green home will embody all features. The hope is that we are making lifestyle choices that are healthier for us, cheaper on a daily basis and kinder to our planet.

I think green, eco-friendly lifestyle choices are not only the logical thing to do, but the financially clever thing to do. I'm no Donald Trump, but if I had two homes, one build in the conventional manner with all toxic formaldehyde off gassing materials, with my kid suffering from asthma, expensive to heat and cool … then across the street is another home for sale, especially the same design and price except it's cheaper to run and healthier to live in … what is the choice?

The green one of course! No doubt you would choose the green, eco-friendly home. Ask anyone … Green is the new black!

{ Comments are closed }

New York DOE Embraces LEED, Sets Guidelines For Energy-Efficient Design Of New School Buildings

New York released new guidelines to encourage the use of energy-efficient design when building and renovating schools.

The state will pay out more than $ 1.7 billion in building aid in 2007. Building aid can be used to help fund the construction and renovation of “green” schools. And, depending on the wealth of the district, the state may rebound up to 98 percent of those costs.

The voluntary guidelines, known as the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (NY-CHPS), were created through a joint effort between the New York State Education Department and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. NY-CHPS will help schools develop and maintain learning environments that contribute to improved academic achievement while reducing operating costs and protecting and conserving our natural resources.

“We know that green buildings use less energy, require less material costs, use less natural resources and emit less pollution? Including greenhouse gases,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis. “Initiatives such as these encourage schools across the state to move towards green buildings, helping to create smarter, cleaner, healthier communities and a stronger environment.”

Schools built according to the NY-CHPS guidelines are durable, easy to maintain, healthy, energy-efficient and comfortable. These improvements contribute to a better learning environment that has been shown to contribute to reduced absenteeism and better teacher and staff retention.

Some have argued that building energy efficient schools is too costly. But recent studies show that those arguments no longer hold up. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, for example, studied 30 high performance schools nationwide and shown that despite additional upfront costs ranged between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent more than conventional schools, these green schools provided significant long-term financial benefits, saving the district many times that amount over the long term. Savings can accrue from reduced energy use, reduced water and sewer use, reduced equipment maintenance and replacement costs, reduced site maintenance, reduced liability costs, and even reduced costs due to lower teacher absenteeism.

{ Comments are closed }

Al Gore and Green Home Choices

Former US Vice President Al Gore, has been a long time proponent of green living. He supports everyone's efforts to become more environmentally friendly, and lives by example. From his home to this speeches, Al Gore focuses the majority of his energies on leading others to greener pastures. Here are some of the things that Al Gore has done to make his own home more environmentally friendly, or green.

Gore has installed solar panels on the roof his families home. This will let the Gores collect sunlight and make their own energy; thus powering their home with natural resources as opposed to man made electric funds. This should make significant inroads into cutting the amount of electricity that they use from other sources. This is something that everyone can do. Solar panels help the environment and save money on electricity when installed in a home and maintained for a minimum of 5 to 10 years.

Al Gore and his family have also changed their lighting to become more energy efficient by using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). These bulbs last up to 10 times longer than standard light bulbs and best of all, they use less than half of the energy than a standard bulb requires.

The Gore's have also upgraded their windows. Every citizen can save money, and benefit the environment, by installing windows that retain heat in the winter and help keep their home cool in the summer.

Their home in Nashville, Tennessee also has a pool. To make their pool more energy efficient, they have installed a geothermal system. This system takes heat from the ground and transfers it to the pool, so keeping the pool water at the same temperature all of the time without using energy and a pool heating system to accomplish the same task.

Al Gore is clearly one of the most influential, environmentally sound advocacy of our day. By following the examples of both Al Gore and his family, we all can live a little greener.

{ Comments are closed }

Green Houses Gaining Momentum!

It is getting more and more popular to go green, and many Americans are leading the way in their housing choices. One area recently reported that their realty market was stagnant except for a big rush on newly built homes that came up for sale. They were powered by solar heating and were extremely energy conscious to run.

Solar heating is one smart choice in a sunny area. You will always have hot water to hand and solar power can be converted into other energy and stored for when you want to run different appliances.

It may be that many of these buyers are trying to help the environment, but one good side effect of going green, is that the running costs will be less once you have set yourself up to be operating an energy conscious home. Heating and cooling systems can account for up to a half of your total energy bill in a non-green home.

One place to read about how to save energy in your home is Energy Star, the government's on line site. Their many tips point out which energy is being wasted and where and how to avoid it. The on line site offers advice and free booklets to send for, and gives dozens of points on how to live green and how to build green.

One of the sites on Energy Star give you the top ten tips for finding a good contractor in your area, if you want to build a 'green' house or have a radical make-over.

Of course, there are other small ways that you can save energy and money in your pocket. One of their recommendations is that you stop buying the old-fashioned light bulbs and start buying the new compact fluorescent light bulbs.

These are expensive to buy at first, but on the cost of one light bulb, you can save up to $ 30 over the lifetime of one light bulb. If you live in a hot climate, you may be pleased to know that they put out less heat, so will also keep your air conditioning costs down. This is a very small change for you to make, yet it does save your cash and the environment.

The local governments and / or the federal government offer a selection of rebates to try and encourage people to become more energy conscious in their homes.

These grants, or one time rebates, can cover several different areas of green living. For instance, if your own state does not offer incentives for you to buy an efficient wood stove or furnace, you may be able to get one from the federal government.

The amount of the grant does not cover the cost of buying a new stove, however, it can save several hundred dollars from the price.

If you are planning to buy a home and have it built for you, remember that many builders will add your requirements at the end, so there is it often often easy to ask for preferred green options in a newly built house.

There is also a scheme that is run through the Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM). Under this scheme you can use green building materials and designs and qualify for a green mortgage. You can even get mortgage help from these people if you are only planning to renewate, as long as you will be using green techniques and ideas.

If you want to find out more ideas about how to incorporate environmental considerations into the design, you will get some input from the green site at the National Association of Home Builders (NAH). Their site also includes such simple pointers as planting trees that let light into the home in the winter, and give shade in the hot summers, as well as tips on water conservation, and other reminders.

Some of the luxuries in a home which are not so 'sustainable' are being changed – gradually. For instance granite counter -tops are still fashionable, but buyers will often choose the look as it is made from engineered stone. These are lighter and have not used up large amounts of gas being carted around the country.

Similar 'swaps' are made with hardwood floors and kitchen cabinets. Bamboo is widely used nowdays in homes by people who prefer to use sustainable resources. Bamboo wood flooring looks like hard oak wood floors but it grows in one tenth the time of an oak tree!

Another popular flooring is cork, which feels warmer and softer than ceramic tiles and is also a sustainable source. A bathroom with cork walls and cork flooring always feels warmer due to the quiet 'insulating' properties of cork.

{ Comments are closed }

Easy Green Building Practices

The pressure is on to adopt green building practices. However, green building might seem overwhelming if you associate it with unfamiliar building methods, new technology, and higher costs. You might wonder where to start.

Breathe a sigh of relief, because green building does not require dramatic changes immediately. What it does require is a commitment to better building and greater attention to installation. With a few easy strategies, you can begin building greener homes that are more energy-efficient, durable, and healthier for homeowners. For instance, consider upgrading your insulation and air sealing, installing a vapor barrier under the slab, and installing fluorescent light fixtures. These steps will help you improve the energy efficiency, durability, and indoor air quality of your homes. As a starting point, begin implementing the easy green building practices below.

Insulation: A simple way to boost energy efficiency

The green benefits: Insulation reduces heat loss from a home, contributing to a more comfortable indoor environment. Insulation that's installed correctly can have a significant impact on the home's energy efficiency.

Installation: The more insulation, the better. Insulation should be installed at the correct depth and density to be effective at resisting heat flow. Batts should not be compressed or installed with gaps; instead, they should be flush with the framing. Similarly, blown-in insulation should be installed with consistent coverage and depth and fit completely around wires and electrical boxes.

Vapor barrier under the slab: Durability and IAQ benefits abound

The green benefits: A vapor barrier under the slab mitigates moisture related problems, such as mold growth under carpets, grout staining, and wood flooring de-lamination. These problems impair the home's durability and indoor air quality.

Installation: Use a 10-mil polyethylene vapor barrier to fully cover the foundation footprint. For basements, extend the vapor barrier 2 “to 4” up the foundation wall, and fix it to the wall with construction tape or adhesive. Overlap the seams 12 “, and seal them with construction tape. For slab-on-grade foundations, lay down the vapor barrier on top of the gravel, and extend it into the footer, continuing the vapor barrier 12” up the formwork.

Fluorescent light fixtures: An easy way to cut energy usage

The green benefits: Fluorescent lighting is the most practical energy-efficient lighting option available to residential builders. Fluorescent lights reduce the home's overall energy usage; in turn, the environment benefits from fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Installation: Install Energy Star high efficiency light fixtures and hardwired fixtures that are designed for use with fluorescent lamps in locations where lights remain on for extended periods of time: kitchens, living areas, and outdoors. Incorporate efficient task lighting into kitchens and bathrooms.

Air sealing: A strong step to energy efficiency

The green benefits: Air sealing is another critical component of an energy efficient home. It ensures the effectiveness of insulation; therefore, ensuring healthy indoor air. Without air sealing, cold air, moisture, and pollutants can leak into a home through cracks and penetrations.

Installation: Seal all gaps with low-expanding foam, foam strips, weatherstripping, weatherproof tape, and caulks. Make sure that no leaks remain at each step of the construction process. Conduct a blower door test to determine leakage paths.

OVE framing techniques: Green building at the frame

The green benefits: Optimum Value Engineering (OVE) framing techniques reduce the amount of wood needed to build a home. Framing members are placed only where they're absolutely needed, reducing the amount of wood waste. OVE framed walls also provide more room for insulation.

Installation: OVE typically involves framing 24 “on center (oc) as opposed to 16” oc, and using 2×6 studies as opposed to 2×4 studs. If you're not ready to adopt these changes, start integrating open corners and ladder panels into homes. Orienting the studies at a corner horizontally can allow you to install more insulation there. When framing a partition wall, rotate the stud to create a ladder panel, which helps accommodate more insulation.

{ Comments are closed }

Start Getting Healthy Nutrition Series Part 5 – Stress

In the pursuit of getting healthy we all tend to be aware of the negative foods we need to eliminate that I have covered so far in this series. However there is a silent enemy that is causing as much damage to your healt as all those detrimental foods: stress.

At the moment 43% of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and the American Medical Association has observed that stress is the cause of 60% of all illnesses and disease.

Stress makes up a very large part of our lives and it has evolved over the centuries from stress over not having adequate shelter to me worrying about not getting caught up on MadMen in time for the newest episode.

Our stresses today range from significant to trivial but they can all have the same effects in our body. There are good kinds of stress, ones that can keep us alert and help us avoid danger. Then there are ones that continually challenge us without allowing us breaks or relaxation in between.

What Actually is stress?

Stress is how your body reacts to potentially harmful situations, and it does not matter if it is a real or a perceived stress, your body reacts the same way. When stress hits your body releases chemicals and hormones that are helping you to prevent injury or trauma, your fight or flight response more or less.

This is helpful for jumping out of the way of a car running a red light but gradual, long term stress can have some serious effects on the body. Ready for a long list? Here it goes…

{ Comments are closed }

Energy Solutions For Various Types Of Buildings – Part 2

In yesterday's post, we started looking at the helpful tips that the Department of Energy's Building Technologies program provides on their website to assist in making various types of buildings more energy efficient. Because the department has been obliging enough to provide tips for 10 different types of buildings, we are splitting this up over the next couple of days. Yesterday we looked solutions for single family homes, multifamily homes, and office buildings, and today we will continue this series.

Retail Buildings

The Department of Energy admits that it is a difficult thing for retailers to strike a balance between creating an energy efficient environment and attracting customers. Due to displays and signs that potentially consume vast amounts of energy, in addition to regular energy costs for heating and cooling, it is a hard feat to accomplish. It is, however, possible to reduce these costs, and the following tips show retailers how to do this.

* Reduce lighting costs with energy-efficient lighting such as T-8, compact fluorescent, and metal halide fixtures

* Install energy management systems to monitor and control energy use through the building

* Control air infiltration in heavily trafficked areas with energy-efficient doors and windows

* Improve comfort and indoor air quality with proper maintenance and cleaning of heating, cooling, and ventilation systems

Health Care Buildings

It probably looks pretty obvious that with the large amount of people entering and exiting health care buildings, as well as utilizing various types of medical equipment in the process, finding ways to reduce energy costs is a difficult one for hospitals and medical facilities. According to the Department of Energy, “medical facilities spend $ 5.3 billion annually on energy, and rank second only to the food service industry in intensity of energy usage.” This astounding budget expenditure on energy can be reduced through some fairly simple adjustments, as seen in the following solutions.

* Reduce energy and maintenance costs and increase patient comfort by installing centralized energy management systems

* Save energy and water with solar water heating systems and low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets

* Reduce lighting loads by replacing inefficient fixtures with T-8, compact fluorescent, and metal halide fixtures

* Specify ENERGY STAR products for administrative offices

The two building that today's post provided tips for have some obvious difficulties facing them in regards to preserving energy and cutting the costs of energy bills. As we have seen, it is possible through the adjustments mentioned above in the solutions, as well as the assistance of those occupying the buildings. Customers obviously do not have the responsibility to conserve your buildings energy, but workers employed at the building can help out. The big picture, however, is that many energy saving aspects can be best implemented in the construction of new buildings. Many hospitals, as well as retail buildings, are being constructed with this in mind.

We will continue tomorrow with this series and look at some more tips for conservation energy in buildings, thanks to the solutions of the Department of Energy.

{ Comments are closed }

Energy Solutions For Various Types Of Buildings – Part 3

If you have been following along the past couple of days, you will know that Building Technologies Program aspect of the Department of Energy is trying to make buildings across the nation “greener.” In their quest to do so, they have provided tips at their website to help various types of businesses cut their energy bills and become more energy efficient. ; If you have not been following along, check over the last 2 posts that give energy solutions for single family homes, multifamily homes, office buildings, retail buildings, and health care buildings.

Lodgings

Lodgings, the places we go stay at when we just want to “get away,” are based on pleasing the customer. In fact, if it was not based on this, the leasing simply would not stay in business. Those customers that frequent the facility want to be able to use the air conditioner, swim in heated pools, takes showers, and many other things, and, depending on how large the building is, you can probably see how much energy could potentially be consumed . Here are some tips that lodging owners can work with in order to do their part to reduce energy costs:

* Save energy and water with solar water heating systems and low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets

* Encourage guests to reuse towels and linens

* Save on utility bills and maintenance costs by installing centralized energy management systems

* Install digital thermostats that monitor room occupancy and automatically adjust the temperature when guests enter or exit

* Save on lighting costs with energy-efficient lighting and occupancy sensors

* Educate cleaning and maintenance staff to turn off lights and adjust thermostats, and implement preventive maintenance programs

School

Although the Department of Energy did not list tips in the way they did for the other building sections, the website did not give much information on the EnergySmart Schools program. This program has been implemented to build new energy efficient schools, as well as renovate existing schools so that they are also energy smart.

The goal of the EnergySmart Schools initiative that is currently in place is to create buildings that:

* Save $ 2 billion annually

* Provide healthier learning environments, through better indoor lighting, temperature control, acoustics, and air quality

* Familiarize parents, teachers, and students with affordable, advanced energy-efficiency technologies and practices

* Help slow the demand for new power plants, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions

* May serve as emergency community Shelters during grid power outages

This section of the Department of Energy's website contains information to help with planning, financing, design and building, and operation and maintenance. The site even has a section that incorporates links to over 350 lesson plans and activities for students in kindergarten through 12th grade that teach about energy efficiency and renewable energy.

{ Comments are closed }

Energy Solutions For Various Types Of Buildings – Part 1

Part of the Department of Energy is the Building Technologies Program. The purpose of this program is to improve on how various buildings across the United States use energy efficiently. The Department of Energy has provided energy saving tips in regards to 10 different types of buildings. Today we will look at 3 of these, and continue through the next several daysson the remaining building types. I have left the links that the department provides within the tips so you can find more detailed information about each one.

Homes

According to the Department of Energy's website, the average amount families spend each year to supply energy to their home is $ 1300. Everyone is looking to save money, especially with the increased costs that come with providing a home with adequate energy, and the following are tips to help your family reduce that yearly amount:

* Use a programmable thermostat to control the heating and cooling in your home

* Compare your energy use against the national average

* Conduct a home energy audit to determine the largest savings potential

* Install energy efficient lighting such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)

* Hire a professional to help you insulate and repair your ducts

Multifamily Buildings

Multifamily buildings are apartment buildings, high rises, town houses, and other various buildings in which multiple families live. The Department of Energy asserts that energy and water costs have more of a tendency to be high in multifamily dwellings, since the fact that they have more opportunity than single family dwellings to be energy efficient. These tips are generally intended to assist those operating and constructing such buildings in their quest to become more efficient with the building's energy use.

* Lower heating bills by converting electric or oil heating systems to natural gas, and replacing inefficient boilers

* Reduce water usage by repairing water leaks and installing low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toiletts

* Replace old refrigerators with new energy-efficient models

* Use compact fluorescent bulbs in common areas

* Specify ENERGY STAR appliances and other products

Office Buildings

The tendency to consume massive amounts of energy in office buildings is outrageous. According to the Department of Energy, “office building energy bills are the highest of any commercial building type.” The use of office equipment adds to this energy consumption. It may be more difficult to use energy efficiently at the office because of the fact that not everyone is “on board” when they are not the one paying the energy bills. However, the following tips can help, provided office workers pitch in on the initiative.

* Control energy costs and enhance employee comfort by installing energy management systems, occupancy sensors, and programmable thermostats

* Save energy costs and improve productivity through increased use of daylighting

* Replace inefficient lighting fixtures with T-8, compact fluorescent, and metal halide fixtures

* Choose ENERGY STAR computers, printers, copiers and other office equipment

We will continue looking at ways to cut energy costs in various buildings through the next several days.

{ Comments are closed }

“Green Building” – A Household Word That’s Here To Stay!

Green building has started to become a household and industry word here in Orlando, Florida and elsewhere! People are accepting that it is not only here to stay. . . but it is the way of the future!

Yes, the same green movement that has spurred our schools to discourage brown paper lunch bags, and encourage motorists to trade in their gas guzzling SUV's for a hybrid has now crept into the housing market as a growing number of builders construct environmentally responsible homes. State and local governments are now offering incentives to help promote the use of eco-friendly materials and methods in green residential building.

A widely accepted definition for a green building is: A building that is sited, designed, constructed and operated to enhance and improve the well being and quality of life of occupants and to minimize negative impacts on the community and natural environment.

Here are just a few innovative ways to build gener homes:

* Install Energy Star efficient appliances

* Use low VOC house paint

* Use recycled content materials

* Use quickly renewable products such as bamboo flooring

* Install engineered wood

* Landscape with low water drought tolerant plants to minimizeize irrigation use

* Install energy and water efficient irrigation systems

* Install green seal certified windows and doors

* Foam insulation which can save up to 50% on energy bills

* Solar water heaters

* Compact fluorescent lighting

* Computer controlled vents that pull in fresh air

Although it can take a little more work and research on the part of the builder and homeowner because of all of the new products and technology that is now available, the pay off can be huge. A green building will:

* Provide a healthier and more comfortable environment

* Improve long term economic performance

* Reduce construction and demolition waste

* Bring a higher resale value

* Improve indoor air quality

* Reduce environmental impact

* Are easier to maintain and are built to last

The US Green Building Council is a nonprofit organization working very hard to promote environmentally responsible building practices. They are composed of more than 12,000 organizations from across the building industry. Members include building owners and end users, real estate developers, facility managers, architects, designers, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors, building product manufacturers, and government agencies. For more information about this organization you can go to: http://www.usgbc.org . This is just one of many nonprofit agencies that are committed to promoting green building practices for a healthier, more energy efficient environment.

{ Comments are closed }

Solar Lighting For Subdivisions – Earth-Friendly Ways To Make Your Community Beautiful

Solar lights solve many challenges for housing subdivisions. This article describes simple applications of solar technology that homeowners' associations can use to cut costs, increase security, and improve the aesthetics of their community. These applications include:

  1. Solar sign lights for entrance signals and public buildings.
  2. Solar-powered security lights to automatically light common areas as people approach.
  3. Deck lights for use around pool, patio and tennis areas.
  4. Landscape lights to highlight garden features and pathways.

Generally, solar systems save money in both installation and operation. They do not need expensive wiring for installation and there is no need to connect to your local electric utility. The sun charges them every evening, and will automatically turn them on each evening.

Solar Sign Lights Most subdivisions have signs at their entrances, but these signals are typically far from the homes and utility connections. Rather than dig trenches and run wires to distant signs, solar sign lighting provides a cost-effective solution. They turn on automatically each evening, eliminating the requirement for a lamp timer. Smaller solar spotlights can even be used to mark street intersections or common buildings.

Motion-Activated Security Lighting Solar-powered floodlights come with motion sensors that automatically turn the light on as someone approaches. This capability can be used to improve security in dark areas around the complex, including entryways and walkways.

Deck Lights Many housing developments include swimming pools, tennis courts and common decks as part of their amenities. Solar deck lighting can be used to highlight these areas at night. Placed around the perimeter of a deck or walkway, these lights help guide residents to their destination and create a more festive atmosphere.

Landscape Lighting A wide range of solar garden lights are available to highlight landscape features around common areas. Most useful are solar pathway lights, which consist of decorative independent lights that emit a soft glow. These typically include an embedded solar panel so no wiring is necessary. All that needs to be done is stick them in the ground.

Help your homeowners' association create an earth-friendly, low-cost and pleasant environment with solar lighting!

{ Comments are closed }

Green Building – New Ways To Beat High Energy Costs

Green building is becoming increasingly more popular with architects, builders and homeowners each year. Consumers' environmental awareness is growing and they have come to demand more naturally sustainable and recycled materials incorporated in the construction and renovation of their homes and favor homes that utilize construction and design techniques that improve energy efficiency and reduce indoor air pollution. These green building techniques not only let homeowners feel good about leaving a smaller environmental footprint, but can provide long-term savings in utility bills.

Does a greener house have to look like a yurt or geodesic dome like so many of the first-generation eco-homes of the 1970s? On the contrary, green-built homes are often indistinguishable from their traditional counterparts. Green buildings will, however, function much differently. Their heating and cooling costs will be lower if they are sited to maximize wind-sheltering trees and incorporate passive solar design principles.

Green building is a growing segment of the new home and home renovation market. Go to any Homebuilders Expo these days and you'll find plenty of vendors exhibiting green building products and services, from energy-efficient appliances to roof shingles made of recycled plastic to architecture firms that specialize in sustainable design. The hit television series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has incorporated green building in many of its episodes, in part to help out its financially struggling families with lower energy and maintenance bills for the future, but also in recognition of this progressive trend in the building industry .

Realtors are finding that green architecture components are a good selling point for their listings. Homebuyers in this relaxed housing market can be more selective about their many housing options and the long-term economies of green homes make for an attractive real estate package. Banks and financial lenders are also recognizing the investment value inherent in green construction and are responding by offering more favorable terms for these loan customers.

There is also the social trend of environmentalism as a way of life. Just as consumers are veering away from sport-utility vehicles and snapping up hybrid and more fuel-efficient cars, so too are prospective home buyers thinking about twice the status of traditionally-designed homes and thinking more about building green.

If you are interested in learning more about green design, check out your next home builders fair in your area or contact a local architect to discuss this exciting home building and renovation option. You'll be happy you did.

{ Comments are closed }

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 does not 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 are 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 absolutely 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 ever 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 outer 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.
  • Do not 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 extra electricity from you during times of low use (like when you are on vacation).

Green Building Block # 4 – Reducing Waste
You can reduce excess 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, so 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.
  • (HRV) system to bring fresh outdoor 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 may turn green with envy.

{ Comments are closed }

Go Green And Save Some Dough

Although you may not think it, but 21% of the green house gas emissions produced in the united states come from everyday household energy usage. By implementing cost efficient energy saving techniques, you can help reduce these emissions while saving money at the same time.

Improving your homes efficiency

Compact fluorescent light bulbs last up to 10 times longer, produce 75 percent less heat, and still produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb with only 25 percent as much energy usage. By simply swapping your old lights out for these new ones, you can see a drastic reduction on your monthly energy bills. If you want to take it to the extreme, you can easily make the switch to solar power. Solar panels are getting cheaper to purchase, easier to install, and will last for around 20 years. In addition to cutting your energy bills, the federal government also offers a tax credit of up to 30 percent of your installation cost.

Reducing Heat Loss

By making your home almost air tight, you can improve your homes energy efficiency by 20%. Add / replace old weather-stripping to your windows and doors as well as plugging any other leaks in your home can stop / reduce heating and air conditioning losses. You may also want to consider adding insulation where it's missing or has a minimal amount. this will reduce heating / cooling expenses as well as reduce moisture buildup in your ceilings and walls.
Electronics and Appliances

75% of a homes electricity is consumed by electronics and appliances while they are turned off according to the US department of Energy. This can be reduced by unplugging devices when they are not in use. You can also reduce this amount by swapping out your old appliances with new energy-saving models.

Hot Water

For every 10 degrees in temperature you increase your water heater, you use an additional 5 percent of energy. By reducing the temperature you can be saving yourself unnecessary expenses as well as lengthening the lifespan of your water heater. If you wanted to eliminate this problem all together, Tankless water heaters only warm your water when you need it. Instead of constantly heating your water to maintain a set temperature, these devices use up to 60% less energy than your traditional water heater.

{ Comments are closed }

Building Modular is Greener

Resources are becoming scarcer, the environment is more polluted, and the icecaps are melting. These are legitimate concerns that affect everyone and every industry. In selecting your preferred home, you should also take into consideration these factors which make modular homes one of the best options. From waste management, to resource allocation, to energy efficient designs, the modular home industry is meeting the challenge to e environmentally conscious and socially responsible.

If you have ever seen a site where local contractors are building a home, debris and overflowing waste sets in a dumpster waiting for transfer to a waste facility or dump. How much of the material thrown away could actually be used in other projects or be recycled for future use? Actually quite a bit. In a factory setting where modular homes are constructed, waste is limited to the bare minimum. Lumbar cut from one home will be used on the next if possible. The same occurs with other materials including drywall, insulation, electrical wiring, etc. In addition, the true waste that remains often is handled through recycling efforts. Many manufacturers have affiliations with lumbar yards that recycle wood debris in return for their business. Waste management offers a significant advantage in modular home construction.

Resources are always limited in general, and in today's age of oil dependence and electrical outages, energy is has the largest focus. By constructing homes inside a climate controlled factory, the amount of energy consumed per house is remarkably less than energy spent per house while building on site. Conservation of space leads to conservation of energy. In addition, labor resources are better utilized as more efficient work is generated per employee compared to on-site jobs. And lastly, time may be our most valuable resource. By reducing the construction time to several weeks instead of several months, time plus all forms of energy resources are saved. Each of these makes the modular home industry a leader in conservation.

The other major area of ​​being environmentally responsible is in the area of ​​design. Architectural designs within the modular home industry have truly targeted energy efficiency in their efforts. “Non-livable” space reductions in design as well as making layouts conducive to better heat and air circulation reduce the demands of energy consumption for the homes. In addition, many homes have options for solar panels, geothermal systems, and other alternative energy sources if the consumer desires. While these measures are also possible within site-built home, the factory setting allows these designs to be more conducive to large scale manufacturing. This can create a larger impact in the housing market faster.

It goes without saying that as a society and planet the environment demands our attention. It is appropriate for all industries to consider these requirements and make the best effort to lead in a direction of ecologically friendly products and services. Through resource allocation, waste management, and innovative design, the modular home industry is taking this responsibility seriously; and current measures in place offer further advances for the future.

{ Comments are closed }