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 definitely know there are countless things I could add to my list here, but for now I want to merely 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 doesn’t 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 thus helping improve 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.
Green is big. No matter your political/scientific beliefs, you cannot deny the power the green movement has. Implementation of Green Technologies have an immediate impact on a universal expense: Utilities. This article s about saving you money, and building the value of your house. Currently, over one-third of all electricity usage goes to heat and cool our houses.
Solar power has been around forever… literally. It is an inexhaustible source of energy, and in all respects, it’s free. In fact, we already utilize solar energy to heat and cool our homes, cook our food, and power our vehicles. The fossil fuels we burn today are nothing more than stored solar energy that plants captured through photosynthesis. Over millions of years, heat and pressure transformed dead plants and animals into deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas.
Right now, solar house systems are available that reduce monthly energy bills 50 to 70 percent. There is also a current trend in building “Zero Energy Houses.” Utilizing this process, builders construct homes utilizing airtight envelopes, Energy Star appliances, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and of course a passive photovoltaic solar system. In Lenoir City, Tennessee, Habitat for Humanity volunteers constructed these modest sized homes (1,000-1,200 sq ft.) homes for around $100,000 each. Each of the homes in the neighborhood dubbed ‘Harmony Heights,’ each energy bill averages less than $25 per month.
When building a new house, consider the following tips from Mother Earth News:
Solar design for Cold Climates:
1. Choose a building site with no obstructions to the south for complete access to the low angle of the winter sun. Another plus is a site with trees that can block prevailing winter winds, which are usually from the north.
2. Choose a design with a long south wall facing within 15 degrees of true south.
3. The house should include ample thermal mass (dense, heat-storing materials such as concrete or earthen floors). Consider building an earth berm on the north side for more thermal mass.
4. Most of the windows should face to the south for access to the winter sun. Place a minimal amount of window area on the east and west sides, and place very few windows in north walls.
5. Use shorter overhangs over south windows for better winter heat gain and ample overhangs over other windows for shading.
6. Cover windows and glass doors at night with insulating shutters or insulated drapes to prevent heat loss.
7. Maximize insulation in walls and ceiling. Use rigid insulation under the floor and around its edges.
8. Consider using a dark roof surface to pick up maximum solar gain in winter.
9. Mechanical ventilation will probably be needed in winter; a heat recovery ventilator, which preheats incoming air, is a good option.
10. Consider a porch or plantings to the west to block afternoon sun in summer.
Solar Design for Warmer Climates
1. Look for a site where the house can be positioned with plenty of outdoor living space to the north. Another plus is a site with trees to the east and west to block morning and afternoon sun.
2. The house should be compact in shape, with less wall area exposed to the sun. Build shaded porches and patios.
3. Focus on creating outdoor living spaces to the north and east for cooking, sleeping and relaxing. Comfortable shaded verandas are inexpensive additions that make a house feel luxurious.
4. Take advantage of the cooling effects of vegetation by planning for plenty of trees, vines and garden space. Established shade trees are an invaluable resource -protect them!
5. Maximize insulation in the walls and in the ceiling.
6. For the roof, use a radiant barrier and reflective metal or light-colored roof tile and create air space between the roof surface and the sheathing.
7. If some winter heating is required, thermal mass, such as a concrete floor, and windows to the south can be used.
8. If using south-facing thermal mass for winter heating, use deciduous trees or a vine-covered arbor to shade it in summer.
9. In arid climates, use thick walls as a buffer against the sun. Minimize windows to increase this effect.
10. In hot, humid climates with no winter, don’t worry about thermal mass. Lift the building off the ground over open crawl space to encourage airflow. Maximize window and door openings on all sides.
Green building is more than just a trend. An often overlooked part of Green building is what is called Biophilic design. The goal of this sub-genre is to bring the outdoors into interior living spaces, either residential or commercial. The introduction and interaction with natural elements for aesthetic and health purposes is beginning to receive wider acceptance as indoor air pollution becomes a growing concern for urban dwellers and suburban ones who live in air-tight energy efficient homes.
Biophilic design injects real or simulated natural components into living and working spaces to promote emotional and physical wellness. Morning sun exposure, water features, natural vistas through window-walls, sky-ceilings, and greenhouse rooms where plants dominate and restore air quality while providing an indoor forest refuge are some common applications of this recent design extension. Biophilic design is based more in a emotional or Zen-like perspective than save-natural-resources Green building. Understanding that nature and natural settings allow humans to relax and is part of our DNA, professors at major universities study ecology and it’s effect on our home environments as well as dispositions.
Here are some tips to get a start on Biophilic design in your home.
- Find a room that faces good morning sun and install floor-to-ceiling windows to receive a daily dose of high-powered natural light. Studies show that hospital patients who receive morning sunshine need almost a quarter less pain medication that those with north facing windows.
- Install a sky ceiling in a family or living room. These new ceiling systems mimic full-spectrum light emitted from mid-day skies.
- Place a waterfall or pond with fountain in side a favorite room. Flowing or spraying water adds a relaxing sound to your environment and helps screen out exterior noise pollution.
- Build a green house room with many indoor and outdoor plants, more the better. Put a comfortable chair to use for reading or relaxing in your home garden.
- Use window-walls to allow outdoor vistas in. I have seen homes that installed large glass areas in a well-used room. The increase in natural light and the ability to see from the ground to the sky is welcomed especially in the dark days of winter.