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Why Go Green
Why Go Green?

Why buy or build a green home?

Green homes are good news for everyone. As a green homeowner, you may enjoy lower utility bills, greater comfort, and a healthier living space. Your green home will require less time and money to operate and maintain and will likely have a higher resale value when it�s time to move.

The benefits of living in a green home over a conventional home may include�

  • Lower utility bills
  • Increased comfort & durability
  • Healthier living spaces
  • Less maintenance
  • Better indoor air & water quality
  • Enhanced ecosystems & biodiversity
  • Less environmental impact
  • Natural resource conservation
  • Waste reduction
  • Tax incentives
  • Greater resale value

Fact: Eighty-five percent of green homeowners are happy with their new green homes, and they are recommending those homes. Source: McGraw-Hill Construction, �The Green Homeowner,� 2007

Fact: Sixty-three percent [of green homeowners] report lower operating and maintenance costs as the key motivation behind buying a green home. Additionally, nearly 50 percent said they are motivated by environmental concerns and their family's health. Source: McGraw-Hill Construction, �The Green Homeowner,� 2007

Fact: An ICF Consulting study found that home value increases by about $20 for every $1 reduction in annual utility bills. Source: ICF Consulting study published in the Appraisal Journal, October, 1998.


What is a green home?

Simply put, a green home is a high quality home. Green building is common sense building.

In a perfect world, every home would be green; energy, resource, and water-efficient, healthy to live in, and environmentally sound. In the real world even the �greenest� homes are far from perfect, but each step toward making a home greener is a step in the right direction. The bottom line is what is important to you?

To help you decide which green features matter most to you, here are some attributes to look for in a green home.

Energy Efficient

An energy-efficient home is comfortable in all seasons, but uses less energy than a conventional house. Specific design and construction details vary among climate zones, but most energy-efficient homes feature:

  • A tight, well-insulated building envelope
  • An efficient heating, ventilation, and AC (HVAC) system

Other characteristics of an energy-efficient home include:

  • Appropriately placed high-performance windows
  • Careful and comprehensive air sealing of the building envelope
  • Careful duct sealing of the HVAC system
  • Properly placed and installed air and vapor barriers from foundation to attic

Fact: If the energy efficiency of U.S. buildings improved by 10 percent, Americans would save about $20 billion and reduce greenhouse gases equal to the emissions from about 30 million vehicles.
Source: Energy Star, www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=challenge.learn_challenge

Resource Efficient

A resource-efficient home features any or all of the following:

  • Materials containing recycled content
  • Reused materials, often retrieved from deconstructing existing structures
  • Durable materials that won�t require frequent maintenance or replacement
  • Local materials, using them reduces the need to transport over long distances
  • Engineered wood products that convert more of the tree into structural lumber

Fact: More than 325 million tons of recoverable construction and demolition materials are generated in the United States annually.
Source: Construction Materials Recycling Association, www.cdrecycling.org

Water Efficient

Experts tell us that �water is the next oil,� but unlike oil, nothing can replace water. We can, however, be more efficient about the way we use this precious resource, both inside and outside our homes.

Signs of water efficiency in a home include:

  • Waterwise landscaping appropriate to the climate zone
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Efficient sprinkler and irrigation systems

Fact: Nationwide, landscape watering accounts for nearly one-third of household water use. Many experts estimate that more than 50 percent of residential irrigation water is wasted due to evaporation, wind, improper system design, or overwatering.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/watersense/pubs/outdoor.htm

Healthy � Products containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, and naturally occurring substances like pet dander can cause toxic buildup in homes. Keeping toxins out of a living space is especially important in energy-efficient homes that are well sealed.

Some ways to decrease toxins include:

  • Non-toxic finishes and materials
  • An energy recovery ventilation system that ensures a supply of fresh air
  • Radon mitigation in radon-prone areas
  • Careful design and construction to ensure a dry, mold-free indoor environment
  • Add a HEPA filter

Fact: Most Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, where pollutant levels may be 2 to 5 times higher�and occasionally 100 times higher�than outdoor [levels].
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/watersense/pubs/outdoor.htm

Environmentally Responsible - The strategies that make homes greener also reduce their environmental impact. If you�d like to do more for the environment consider these possibilities:

Some ways to decrease toxins include:

  • Going solar. In many regions, generous financial incentives make installing solar equipment a cost-effective choice. Go to www.dsireusa.org to find financial incentive programs in your area.
    • Installing a solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) system allows you to generate electricity without producing any carbon or other emissions
    • Installing solar equipment to heat water for pools, spas, and household needs avoids the use of fossil fuels for water heating, cutting down on related emissions
    • If you�re building new, siting and orienting your home carefully will allow you to take full advantage of natural heating and cooling opportunities
  • Organic gardening and landscaping. Take gardening and landscaping cues from your locale. Using native or adapted plants appropriate to your climate zone not only reduces yard work, but also curbs the need for watering and the use of chemicals.
    • Avoiding the use of pesticides, herbicides, and other poisons on your property protects you, your family and pets from exposure to these dangerous toxins, and helps eliminate the possibility of these chemicals finding their way into groundwater or storm sewers
    • Reducing water use conserves this precious resource
  • Using renewable resources. When planning projects around the house, consider using materials and products made with renewable resources.

    A few examples include:

    • Bamboo flooring and millwork, which is widely available
    • Wood products certified through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which come from sustainably managed forests
    • Wheatboard and other materials made from rapidly renewable agricultural products, which are now commercially available
  • Location, location, location. If you�re in the market for a home or a building site, you have an opportunity to reduce your environmental footprint by choosing a location that is:
    • Near a bike path
    • Accessible to public transportation
    • Pedestrian-friendly
    • In a mixed-use development that includes shops and restaurants within walking distance
  • Renewable energy credits. By purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs), you can help support the development of new renewable energy installations.
    For more information, go to www.epa.gov/greenpower/gpmarket/rec.htm

Fact: Data from the U.S. Department of Energy�s Energy Information Administration illustrates that buildings release almost half (48%) of all greenhouse gas emissions annually. Seventy-six percent of all electricity generated by U.S. power plants goes to supply the building sector.
Source: Architecture 2030, www.architecture2030.com

What effect do buildings have on our environment?

The built environment has a profound impact on our natural environment, economy, health, and productivity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in the United States buildings account for almost half (48%) of total energy use every year. Residential buildings alone consume 21 percent of the total energy used in this Country. Green buildings minimize these impacts and help restore damaged ecosystems to a healthy state.

Adopting green building practices can provide local, regional, national, and even global environmental benefits, including:

Land

  • Reduce sprawl and the destruction of farmland and fields
  • Reduce habitat destruction and ecosystem disturbances and restore habitats and ecosystems
  • Reduce erosion
  • Reduce consumption of raw building materials

Air

  • Reduce air pollution from the production of energy for building operation and manufacture of building materials
  • Operate buildings without the use of ozone-depleting and smog-producing substances
  • Reduce reliance on autos by encouraging livable, mixed-use neighborhoods and communities
  • Improve indoor air quality

Water

  • Reduce water consumption
  • Reduce burden on municipal water treatment facilities
  • Reduce contamination of water from pavement runoff

Natural Resources and Solid Waste

  • Reduce landfill burden through the reuse of buildings and materials, and better management of construction, demolition, and building operations waste
  • Strengthen markets for building products with recycled content, and sustainably harvested and rapidly renewable materials

Source: www.gbapgh.org/GBBasics_Benefits_main.asp

How do you know your home is green?

As green building becomes more common, consumers must learn to distinguish between whether home features are actually green and whether a builder or seller is greenwashing. Here are a few suggestions to help you make that distinction.

Energy Efficiency

  • Ask to see a year�s worth of utility bills and inquire about the average thermostat setting.
  • Get a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating performed by a rater certified by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). Go to www.natresnet.org for more information.
  • Get an energy audit. Check with your local or state energy office or local energy non-profits try to find qualified energy auditors in your community. An energy audit has the added advantage of highlighting the most cost-effective energy efficiency improvements that you can make to the house.
  • Look for low-energy equipment like Energy Star appliances, compact fluorescent lights, high efficiency water heaters and HVAC. Ask the seller for documentation that the appliances are Energy Star-rated and the lighting is energy-efficient.

Resource Efficiency

  • Ask for documentation. Some green building programs require documentation of the green features in a home, which may also provide some good tips on how to use resources more efficiently.
  • Get a green home inspection. If you�re lucky enough to have a green home inspector in your area, he or she might be able to confirm the resource efficiency of the products or materials used in a particular home. There may also be a local green builder who does home inspections and may be able to provide you with additional information and suggestions.

Water Efficiency

  • Check model numbers on plumbing fixtures and sprinkler equipment with manufacturers.
  • Hire a local landscape architect who is knowledgeable about waterwise landscaping.
  • Look for low flow showerheads and low capacity toilets or dual flush toilets.
  • Look for Lunder-sod and drip sprinkler system.

Healthy Living

  • Test for pollutants. Tests are available for some indoor air pollutants like radon and formaldehyde.
  • Look for natural surface finishes. Materials like solid wood, tile, cork, stone, and bamboo are less likely to contain toxins than synthetic finishes.
  • Notice how the house smells. The characteristic �new house� smell is usually an indication of formaldehyde and/or other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), (which are chemicals that become a gas at room temperature.) A musty smell can be an indication of moisture or mold problems.

Environmental Responsibility

  • Look for solar equipment on the house. Ask if it is working properly and when it was last serviced if it is a solar hot water system. To find a local solar professional, start at www.findsolar.com.
  • Hire green building professionals. If you�re unsure about claims the seller or builder is making, look for a local green building professional to help you. Most areas have nonprofit organizations or builder trade groups that can direct you to green building professionals. One national source is www.thegbi.org/residential/.

Green Home Finder's proprietary rating system, which makes it easy for users to identify and calculate the number of green features in a property:

=     1-20 points received for green features 
= 21-40 points received for green features
= 41 or more points received for green features

"Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design", a green certification process developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that sets standards for environmentally responsible building construction.

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