Canadian builders going green, read the headline, and it got me thinking about the cost of not just building ‘green’, but of converting to green in our existing homes. Being able to list your house as a ‘green’ home must still be a novelty these days. One reason is that it can be expensive to switch to green, but there are reasonable contributions that the average family can easily make toward green living.
Of course, people go green for different reasons; for some of them it is just a common sense solution to allergies suffered in the family. But why do other people choose to put themselves through this hassle. It is not money, we know that much; going green usually costs more, not less.
Many people seem to object to the idea that their home contains more chemicals than homes used to. What is more, we are paying for that privilege! It is strange to think that Vinyl linoleum gives off toxic gasses, but it is a fact. True linoleum does not, although it can be more difficult to find. (It is often a fact that the newer replacement product also brought with it toxicity.)
Another way of helping the environment is to follow your municipalities outline for re-cycling. Private re-cycle depots in your area will often pick up where the government leaves off. The trick is to get it organized at the home base with different containers that are easily accessed.
When you decorate the home, if you want to think green, use paint that has either no, or low, VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). Also if you plan on re-sealing sealing wood doors or floors etc, latex has no pollution factor to worry about.
If you decide to remodel, you will find many appliances on the market that will help you to go green. Most appliance companies now offer at least one green choice. Both washing machines and dish washers offer cycles which operate with less water. There are also toilets with the same feature, and all of these options will give you cheaper bills to pay, both on hydro and on water consumption.
If your remodeling or green choices are extending into your kitchen then when choosing a new stove or other kitchen appliance, look for the Energy Star rating. Many of these appliances are designed with a healthy environment in mind, and the stainless steel look of them will bring your kitchen up to the minute!
If you are like me, you are constantly trying to reduce your carbon footprint and dependence on oil and other non- renewable energy sources. I drive a hybrid, am slowing converting all my incandescent light bulbs to CFL bulbs, recycle as much as possible and use water bottles instead of buying bottled water. Needless to say these are small steps and I often wonder if I could be doing more – much more.
As a realtor I tour homes every week in which the builder or homeowner has spared no expensive to upgrade the kitchen and baths, finish the basement, add decorative moldings, plant expensive landscaping, install automatic sprinkler systems, etc. But rarely do I see a home with an alternative, eco friendly heating and cooling system.
Here in Massachusetts about half of all homes are heated by oil. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association costs for heating a home by oil this winter are expected to increase by 47.3% from last winter. Projected increases for natural gas and electricity are less shocking, 9.2% and 8.6% respectively. Given these high costs you would think that more consumers would be going green and turning to alternative sources of energy, such as geothermal or solar, for home heating and cooling. Apart from the very progressive developer or builder, that is just not the case from what I see in my day to day adventures in real estate.
Many people are under the impression that 1) eco friendly systems for heating and cooling are too expensive install and/or 2) not possible without the perfect climatic conditions. These systems can be more expensive, but as the technology improves the price will and has decreased. There is also the additional offset of long term savings on heating and cooling costs. In regards to the second issue – geothermal and solar systems can be installed almost anywhere. Germany, not exactly the sunniest of locations, uses more solar energy than any other country in the world. Even in New England the ground is sufficiently warm enough to produce geothermal heat. Case in point – Monarch Lofts in Lawrence is installing a geothermal system to heat and cool 202 residential condo units.
Granted going green does often increase costs, at least in the short term, but should home heating costs continue to escalate, I am sure consumers will begin to demand homes with alternative heating sources and other eco conscious features. Recent surveys have shown that buyers are willing to pay extra for a new home with eco friendly features.
Of course in the interim there are options for those of us wanting to do our part for the environment, but unable to build a new home.
- Remodeling? Incorporate some green or renewable materials such as bamboo flooring, low toxic finishes, low flow toilets and showers, countertops made from recycled glass, etc. For inspiration and materials check out Ecohaus.
- Install programmable thermostats, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), and solar or on-demand water heaters.
- Pay attention to the Energy Star ratings and buy energy efficient appliances.
- Install energy efficient windows and insulation.
By doing what we can now and demanding alternatives in the near future, perhaps we can make a difference in preserving the planet for our children and grandchildren.
As an internet platform for green, energy efficient and sustainable homes, we have reviewed some interesting and creative verbiage used by some sellers in the real estate marketplace. In the environmental business we call this “green washing”.
Green washing is when someone uses “green” terminology to help drive more interest to an otherwise typical (in this case) home for sale, in a currently flat and bloated real estate market.
This “green” terminology could be words such as:
- Healthy environment
We’ve seen ads that would say “a solar home”, when all they really had was a wall that faced south.
Or maybe the home just has CFL’s (compact florescent lighting) and not much else in the home. Although minimal improvements help the environment in a small way, there are cool innovative green homes out there that are making heads really turn in a BIG way. includes ( loves to promote) innovative building technologies that we believe will make the quickest (and the biggest) change in the environment regarding the way we live, the homes we live in and the way we build them.
Things we take for granted every day, do have a direct impact on global warming. The toilets we flush, the indoor air we breathe, the utility bills we pay; all these everyday duties affect the environment and our health.
There currently are so many new technologies in sustainable home building, that we could make a huge impact right now, not years later. We can currently heat most of our water with thermal solar and not the black stuff you see on roofs, but innovative glass tubes that absorb UV rays year-round; recycle all our grey water (sinks and showers) and redirect that water to flush our toilets; building design and orientation to take advantage of the natural heating and cooling effects in a particular location; construct living environments utilizing innovative building materials that may come from recycled or renewable sources that also offer a tremendous R-factor.
A one-two punch in not only saving our limited building material resources, but also less requirement from fossil fuels and the like, to heat and cool our homes everyday.