Green Houses

Create an Eco-Friendly Dwelling and Reap a Bevy of Benefits

With rising energy costs, limited natural resources and unpredictable weather patterns, the concept of eco conservation continues to permeate the public consciousness. The movement is also having quite an impact on American home building, and for good reason. According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC)—a non-profit organization founded in 1993 that has since been at the fore-front of green building—buildings are responsible for 39 percent of the United States’ total energy consumption and 60 percent of our electricity.

 

In response to such statistics and in an effort to build a greener future, many architects and home builders have begun to take proactive approaches to traditional building methods. “It must be the responsibility of builders, interior designers and architects to work together in a systemic manner to provide the consumer with a home that performs and functions in the most cost effective way to con-serve resources,” said Lisa Nussbaum Ph.D., senior interior designer for Fort Worth-based AG Builders.

 

A forecast by the National Association of Home Builders estimates that 50 percent of home builders plan to incorporate some form of sustainable design into their projects. And though the initial investment in a green home can sometimes be a bit pricey, the savings incurred throughout the life of the home result in a lower lifecycle cost, not to mention a bevy of benefits.

 

A variety of studies continue to show that a green home equates to better health and greater comfort for inhabitants, as well as lower utility bills, less maintenance and lasting value. Before venturing into any green building project, tap the resources of such organizations as the USGBC (www.usgbc.org). There you will find a variety of educational tools, informative links, products, services and more. If you’re planning to build anew, select a home builder with a solid reputation for green building practices. AG Builders is passionate about creating homes that embrace a sensitivity to the environment. “We spend a large amount of time with the architect and interior designer to ensure that the home functions in the most effective manner in the environment and to those who will occupy it,” said Gary Nussbaum, principal and senior construction manager.
At the planning phase, consider a climate responsive design. Passive solar daylighting, the practice of orienting a home to the south so rooms are warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, will result in substantial energy savings. And be sure to select local building materials, which will reduce the energy consumed from cross-country transports. Also consider installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which directly convert the sun’s rays into usable energy. If purchasing PV panels is too costly, a new program by Delaware-based Citizenre (renu.citizenre.com) allows homeowners to rent panels for a one-, five- or 25-year contract. Homeowners simply pay for the electricity generated by the panels at a fixed rate at or below the current electricity price. Also atop the roof, install recycled roof tiles and a rainwater collection system, which catches and stores rainwater that can be used to irrigate lawns. When landscaping, select native or water-light plants, which require less irrigation than other varietals.

 

Inside your home, be sure to choose non-toxic paints and sealants, install programmable thermostats and opt for Energy Star-rated appliances. Such appliances incorporate advanced technologies that use 10–50 percent less energy and water than standard models. Also consider energy-efficient lighting. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescents and last up to 10 times longer. Natural flooring, as well as natural fiber rugs and fabrics also contribute to a green home. In the end, a green home will produce a bounty of benefits for years to come, and you’ll rest easy knowing the place you dwell is positively impacting the environment.

 

Article by Shalene Roberts

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