If I want to ‘go green’, what size home should I build?


I see everything going green today: companies, cars, coffee, and so on. Though, when it comes to your home, what is your real motivation to go green? Is it a concern for the environment? As defined on the EPA’s website, http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/about.htm – Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.
“Green is money saved”, we say – but what about the environment? In my opinion they go hand to hand. As we continue to see new technology being utilized in Green building practices, I often think about how we do not know yet what the usage of it will add to emissions and/or what toxins are being added to the environment? What type of waves do Z-waves really cause? Any health risks? The answer is NO, at least none that we know about yet. This is life though, isn’t it? We so often don’t know what harm things cause until later… It has been this way since the beginning of time I am sure. Unfortunately, we sometimes even ignore the warnings – such as those labeled right on the side of the item and we take the risk anyway!
So, back to the point at hand, when someone asks me what size home to buy because they want to go green, I ask, “Do you really?” The concept of green building isn’t new, as our great-grandparents built climate-appropriate homes, mostly with materials right on the property! Does ‘what’s old is new again’ sound familiar? Today’s green homes integrate not only climatic thinking but are resource and energy efficient, safer for occupants, and often much less expensive to maintain. Most of all a lot smaller than we’ve gotten used to building. Most new homes never need much of what we have been installing that requires a power source (even when we are not using it)!
So what does go into a green home? Some key components of a green home include:
1. Energy-efficient features: appliances, windows, water/heating systems, light bulbs;
2. Water-efficient features: showerheads, faucets, toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, irrigation systems, rainwater collection system, wastewater treatment systems, hot water circulation systems;
3. Resource-efficient features: home orientation on lot, floor plan layout, natural light design, wood species such as bamboo, recycled materials in carpets, tiles, concrete;
4. Indoor Air Quality features: The heating, air conditioning and ventilation system (HVAC) must be properly sized for an accurate and properly ventilated home. Using fans inside will cycle fresh air and release stale air. Low-VOC paints and finishes and wallpapers should be used as well. If you are unfamiliar with Low-VOC material, you may reference this site for more information http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/construction/materials/low-voc-paint.htm ;
5. Outside the Home features: take care in preserving trees and other vegetation, proper plant selections for climate (Rhody Natives are a great choice, here’s their site to reference http://rinhs.org/who-we-are-what-we-do/programs-projects/rhody-native-home/ ) and watered as needed, driveways and other impervious surfaces should be reduced – use gravel, pavers, other permeable systems.

Bottom line – going green is not only a decision that needs to be made by the consumer, but the homebuilder must have a clear understanding of the homeowner’s desires, budget and expectations as well. These are the many “shades of green” and spending the time together (contractor and homeowner) without being rushed along in the process will ultimately accomplish an environmentally friendly, safe, and cost efficient home.

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