The green building trend that has taken hold across the US in the past few years, and is surprisingly evolving toward a whole new level. Whereas before when there were only a few green real estate developments, today this trend in sustainable development has expanded to whole communities and neighborhoods as well.
The west coast city of Portland has been well known as an urban-design innovator, particularly for its transit-oriented developments, and is noted to be among the pioneers of green building and design.
Single-Family Home Builders Are Now Joining The Trend
The basic tenets behind green building- energy and water-efficient buildings that have features that stress the natural over the chemical, the recycled over the new and the renewable over the finite- have now become firmly mainstream.
According to environmental and real estate consultants, big developers today are slow to move, but they still see a using eco-friendly designs and materials green building. Even in the suburbs, which are home to large-scale builders of single-family homes, there is a lot more consumer interest swelling. In a McGraw-Hill Construction survey done in March of 2006, it forecasted that green building would reach a “tipping point” in 2007 and that two-thirds of US builders will be constructing greener homes.
Why Home Builders See The Need To Go Green
Home builders and real estate developers and are not simply riding the green building trend purely out of a sense that it’s the right thing to do. The housing and development industry knows that they can’t afford to be left behind. By 2007, it is expected that at least 6% of the nation’s non-residential construction, which represents a $15 billion slice of the industry, will be green, according to green-building experts, as six years ago it was less than 1%. More real estate developers are finding that using green technologies and construction materials adds no more than 1%-2% to total costs, which area easily recovered through energy savings.
Offering Incentives For Developers To Go Green
At present, the federal government, 15 states and 46 cities now require new public buildings to fully comply with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), that requires the use of non-toxic building materials, among other things.
Four states and 17 cities now offer incentives for LEED-rated private buildings. The Green Building Council has certified nearly 550 buildings across the country since 2002, and recent real estate developments have adopted eco-friendly standards by creating greener multi-structure projects, such as South Waterfront in Portland, Oregon. The Green Building Council is also working on creating LEED standards for single-family homes as well.
The corporate world was the first to see the value of going green that are way beyond energy savings. Businesses and companies now notice less absenteeism among workers, less time lost to asthma, allergies and other illnesses aggravated by mold, stale air and chemicals found in many conventional buildings.
However, to large corporations like Ford, Bank of America, Target, Toyota, Honda, Starbucks,Adobe and others, going green also was about image-building as well as cleaning up the environment and cutting costs. Many corporate giants know are aware that aside from image-building, the products they make should also be green, along with their manufacturing processes and factories as well.
There are three, interdependent challenges to Florida housing providers: a) Safety; b) Affordability; and c) Energy efficiency.
If we can’t find a way to address all three challenges at the same time, we’re likely to complicate solutions for two of them while we focus only on the third. For instance: We can make houses super-safe and super-energy-efficient while driving costs beyond the abilities of most folks to pay.
We can make houses cheap enough for most people to own by taking short cuts on safety and energy efficiency. But making homes that are safe and energy efficient and also within the reach of most citizens requires addressing the ways these challenges are connected.
Green building requires green community planning. As important as our innovative approach is, we can’t address the larger carbon footprint/climate change issues through housing technology alone – no more than we can address the problem through automobile technology alone.
Going Off The Grid
Creating off-the-grid, energy-efficient housing in “greenfield” suburbs and rural enclaves will still require each adult in the family to commute to separate daily needs in separate automobiles, canceling out many of the energy gains. Over the last 30 years, the number of miles
Americans drive has grown three times faster than the population and almost twice as fast vehicle registrations. Spread-out development-sprawl is the main reason for that.
Research suggests that people who move into compact, walk-able neighborhoods are making as big a contribution to fighting global warming as those who buy hybrid vehicles but remain tied to car-dependent lifestyles. We need to make living in more dense configurations appealing.
Practical Can’t Be Ugly
To succeed, green community planning needs housing alternatives that are not only practical-safe and energy efficient-but also beautiful. Neighbors have to be willing to welcome these new additions to their communities. Even if they can’t explain why, neighbors must instantly associate these new house designs with admired regional vernacular, and they must immediately sense quality in the choice of materials and construction approaches.
Affordable Can’t Be Cheap
The trouble is, quality design and construction costs more than inferior design and construction. Factory-built housing approaches can help deliver higher quality at manageable price points. But up until now, the manufactured home industry has focused on using systems building technology to reduce prices and not to raise design and construction quality. The result is factory-built housing’s image as the last resort for home ownership.
Many communities, including those in hurricane zones along the Gulf Coast, have zoned manufactured homes out of existing neighborhoods for fear of lowering surrounding property values.
In conclusion, our new mission is to re-invent a whole category of manufactured housing that delivers optimum safety, energy efficiency, and curb appeal — while making the most of cost-saving advantages inherent in factory building.
If you are about to buy or build a house make sure it is environmentally sound. It will make a difference to you. You will be much more comfortable in a house that is working to help the environment rather than being against it. It can be cooler in summer and warmer in winter without any additional use of electricity.
If time allows go to look at the house you are about to spend hard earned money on at the worst possible time. Go on a hot and windy day or when it is freezing cold. Go in the rain when the sky is dark or in the late afternoon. Don’t let yourself be seduced by a spring day or lovely autumn weather that will make the house seem perfect. It might not be on the wrong day. See past the flowers and the smell of coffee if the house is being tarted up to receive you by an estate agent. Check which way it is facing, where the windows are and smell the drains.
If you are renovating an existing house you probably already know its faults. Renovating the right way may fix some of them. If you are planning to build a house you can make a perfect plan on the drawing board and stick to it. Creating an environmentally friendly house is getting easier. Councils are being forced to look at buildings in a different way.
Begin by making a list of all the things you would like to have in your home such as how many rooms. Bedrooms, living spaces, at-home offices, kitchens, bathrooms, verandahs and patios. There could be more than one kitchen if you include an outside kitchen/ barbecue. Then add all the subsidiary things you want such as picture windows, heated floors, pantries, built in wardrobes and book cases etc. When you are sure that you have included everything you want then show it to a builder who understands and has already built eco-housing.
You can get a list of such people from the Housing Industry Association. A suitable builder will talk you through your ideas and tell you if they are possible before anyone sits down to make a plan.
You may be suggesting a very expensive house but good design is not expensive if simple construction is understood and carried out. Any extra expenditure on design features and appliances will be quickly repaid by the saving in energy bills and maintenance. Australian families spend 40% of energy costs on heating and cooling their houses. If all this is part of the house it just contributes comfort without fuss as a background accessory to the life of the house.
To some people a house is only four walls and a roof. It uses x amount of energy and emits x amount of waste over its lifetime.
But a house can be looked at as a living organism. Water can be accessed from the sky to a tank big enough to service the whole house. Proper insulation of ceilings, walls and floors will help produce an even temperature throughout the year. Strategic vents can extract heat by wind power. Australia has enough sunshine to provide solar power to the house with enough left over to feed back into the system ina sort of banking system. Waste water can be recycled for the gardens. Cross ventilation was once considered imperitive for Australian houses but now many large houses are being built on American and English patterns that have no cross ventilation. Bring it back so that in summer your house catches every breeze that blows. Site your house to face north with wide eaves or covered verandahs that will let the sunshine in when the sun is low in winter and exclude it in the summer.
It is completely possible to live in eco housing that will give you year round comfort and the cheapest energy bills in your street and suburb. Make your garden part of the scheme. Plant wind breaks where necessary. Grow your own vegetables and plant deciduous trees for shade in summer and sunshine through the bare boughs of winter. Fruit trees for instance. It is all simple and possible.