Green Acres Is the Place to Be (Your Guide to Buying a Green Home)
For today’s sophisticated homebuyers, things like claw-foot tubs, pedestal sinks, beadboard trim, and wide porches with rocking chairs are the coolest. There’s something about the character of houses built nearly a century ago that draw people like magnets. However, when it comes to daily maintenance of those homes, only the 21st century state of the art will do, thank you. Most want a home that looks lovely, but also functions well, where they can live comfortably, aesthetically and affordably, and where they can live, well, ‘green’.
The growing interest in and demand for green living has been fueled by economic and environmental concerns. But how do we evaluate green design? Green building is still relatively new and most don’t know how it can positively affect their lives or homes. Almost everyone wants a green house, but few know how to find and evaluate it. That is so far.
First of all, it is important to note that a green house is built like any other house. The difference is that the builder has taken extra precautions to use sustainable materials and techniques that improve the air quality inside the home and reduce the amount of energy needed to operate the home. The builder also takes steps to ensure that the house contributes positively to the outside environment.
arts and crafts
Atlanta’s artsy Reynoldstown neighborhood is home to an eclectic mix of bungalows, shotguns, craft cabins, lofts, and moderns. Reynoldstown now has a growing population of certified green homes as new construction replaces some of the older inventory.
The bungalows are very interesting and you can have a lot of fun with them. The Art Deco movement inspired bold colors and artful design like high baseboards, tall doors, decorative moldings, and picture-perfect bathrooms. In fact, the inherent design of the Bungalow makes it naturally suitable for green building. Let’s take a walk through a typical energy efficient building and identify the features to look for when buying a green home.
One of the best ways to reduce a home’s energy use is to downsize. So one simple thing you can do, if you want to live more green, is to look for a smaller home. Just think about it: smaller houses use less of everything. If enough thought is put into planning and designing a home, then a smaller home can look and feel more spacious than it actually is. And sure, you get a little less space. But that pays off with efficient use of each room, utility savings, comfort, charm, and aesthetic appeal.
healthy air there
All outdoor spaces, from the smallest to the most obvious, should be sealed, as even the smallest air leaks can cause more damage than you think. Sealing areas such as windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, attics, floors, walls, light fixtures, and electrical outlets will reinforce the building envelope, reduce energy consumption, and keep out stale air. More importantly, it keeps bugs out. The ladies of the house will appreciate it.
Be careful if you walk into a home and see wall-to-wall carpeting, as carpeting tends to trap dust mites. If a home has carpet installed, it does not necessarily mean that it is not a green built home, because builders have the right to choose which green features to incorporate into their design. There are different levels of green building. Just remember that if a house has carpeting, you will have to deal with more dust, and that will also reduce the air quality inside your house.
Although it won’t be obvious to the naked eye, you should always ask what type of paint was used on the walls. You want a non-toxic paint where no chemicals were used. Paint made without volatile organic compounds (no VOC) or low VOC works best.
Another feature that will improve a home’s air quality and create a healthier living environment is having a detached garage. People don’t realize that buying a house with a garage attached to the house prevents potential exhaust emissions that can enter the house from the garage and pollute the air you breathe in your home.
One of the most impressive green features a home can have is a product called Techshield, which looks like a regular piece of plywood with aluminum foil on one side. This plywood is called OSB board, which is an engineered wood panel. The aluminum side provides a radiant barrier that is placed along the roof line. It is designed to reflect the heat of the sun, thereby reducing the amount of natural solar heat entering the home. It will certainly keep living areas cooler and HVAC costs lower, and should save the homeowner hundreds of dollars in sweltering Atlanta summers.
In fact, you may not need to turn on the air conditioning during some summer days. That’s how good it is. On a performance scale, you definitely get an A+ and a letter of recommendation.
Buyers hoping to invest in a green home should also look for things like a wood-burning fireplace that can be used to cost-effectively heat the home during the winter months. Other basics that will help you run your home more efficiently include ceiling fans, compact fluorescent lights, low-flow faucets and showerheads, low-flush toilets, programmable thermostats, pipe insulation leading to water heater (or tankless water heater), heat pump, or other high-efficiency system, above-normal insulation in attic and laundry room, as well as ceiling, floor, and wall cavities , and low emissivity windows and doors.
Also, be sure to ask what the home’s HERS rating is. HERS stands for Home Energy Rating System. Determined after analysis of home construction plans and on-site inspections, and after testing for ductwork and home leaks. Each point below 100 obtained by the home corresponds to a 1% reduction in energy consumption. A HERS rating of 76 means the home is 24% more efficient than the HERS benchmark standard home.
Exterior Green Benefits
Living green means choosing a healthier lifestyle. That means the green benefits of your home don’t stop at the back door. They continue outdoors. If a house is in the inner city and is close to a variety of services (libraries, parks and other places of entertainment) and has the advantage of easy access to the highway and to all parts of the city, and if it is walkable, close to restaurants and public transport – so the house provides additional ecological benefits. Exterior green points are awarded, because it saves the owner the cost of gas and reduces environmental emissions. The more places you can walk from home, the better.
use it again
If the yard has a smaller footprint than you would normally find, there is less grass to cut and less water is needed for the landscape to thrive. By recycling leftover materials on site during the construction process, the house reduces waste, enriches the soil, and sends far less to landfill.
take our word for it
All eco-friendly houses will not contain each and every one of these elements. As mentioned above, builders have the right to choose which green elements to incorporate into a home’s design. But if a house is truly green, it will contain a fair amount of these elements. Some houses will even contain much larger green areas, such as solar panels, geothermal energy, and even green roofs. There are many more green features to choose from depending on how high up the green tree (and money tree) you want to travel.
Any home built to Energy Star guidelines and certified by independent third-party inspection and testing programs, such as Earthcraft House or LEEDS, will provide the homeowner with immediate savings. Reduced energy bills and water savings are a doubly attractive benefit for homebuyers in today’s economy.
If you’re not sure whether or not a home meets the official green test, be sure to ask to see the seal of approval from a third-party certification program like EARTHCRAFT House or LEEDS. They have already done the work for you and determined that the house in question is certified green.
The next time you go house hunting, take this checklist with you. If you’re lucky enough to find a place that appeals to you and suits your needs, plus it’s greenly built, buy it and be proud to call it ‘home’. As an added bonus, you’ll enjoy substantial energy and utility savings as well as a healthier daily living environment. Be prepared to pay a little more up front for your green home. There are some additional costs involved in making a home energy efficient. But those costs are mitigated by utility savings, energy tax credits and fewer doctor visits. In the long run, you win!