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Green Homes Outperform Conventional Homes

Green homes stem from an overall concert for their environment. Their design, materials, and systems set them apart from conventional homes. For example, green homes outperform conventional homes these areas:

Environment / Site: Landscaping which focuses on using native plants has a positive effect on the site by reducing irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizers. Tree selection and preservation can reduce energy costs by creating buffers from winter winds and providing shade for summer.

Home Design: Using passive solar design techniques such as maximizing southern exposure and south-facing windows helps keep the home warm in winter and increases natural light. Green homes have a minimal footprint, which keep energy costs low.

Exterior Shell: Energy efficient materials such as SIPs panels (structural insulated panels) and ICF (insulated concrete form) foundations provide a thermal barrier against winter cold and summer heat. Energy efficient windows with low-E coatings reflect infrared light which helps heat the home in winter and cool the home in summer.

Building Materials: Durable, low maintenance, recycled materials for the roof, siding, decks, porches, trim, and fencing reduce replacement costs, save money on installation, protect against water and insects, and provide longer warranties. Purchasing pre-built factory components uses raw materials efficiently, reduces on-site waste, and energy costs to deliver materials to the site.

Heating, Cooling, and Water Systems: Green homes use less energy than conventional homes. Having heating and cooling equipment and water systems correctly sized for the home saves money. Water conservation techniques such as reducing overall consumption by specifying low-flow water fixtures, low-flush or composting toilets, installing aerators on all taps and nozzles and installing grey water systems reduces energy costs and water usage. Solar and geothermal systems heat and cool the space in green homes and provide hot water, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Interior: Green homes include natural interior products such as Marmoleum (made with flax, rosins, and wood fiber), wood, concrete, wool carpet, tile, local slate, and cork. Also, low odor / low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and environmentally-friendly finishes for wood and stone help create a healthy indoor environment. ENERGY STAR appliances contribute, using an average of 30% less energy over standard appliances.

Green homes are designed to combine systems, materials, and features reduce energy and impact to the surrounding environment. Naturally you have questions. Consult with a green architect to design an energy efficient home you will be able to enjoy for years to come.

Five Principles of Green Home Design

A green home minimizes the negative impact on its environment through its home design. Here are a few considerations an architect takes into account when designing a green home:

1. Site: Evaluations and analysis of access, slope, ledge, soil, bodies of water, and vegetation in order to limit the home’s impact on the site environment. This includes the site location (farmland, wetland, protected species habitats) and proximity to public transportation, parks, schools, and stores.

2. Size: A green home is efficiently designed to keep the square footage to a minimum. This reduces the amount of energy to heat and cool the home, lighting, and the quantity of building materials used, and also controls costs and reduces site impact.

3. Solar: Whether or not there is a plan to install a solar energy system to heat the water or produce electricity, there are several other solar considerations in green home design. Designing the home for passive solar makes the most of solar energy by harvesting it into the homes’ natural energy flows. Passive solar systems include day-lighting strategies, heating and cooling control techniques, and natural ventilation. When a whole-building approach is taken, energy savings can be great both in terms of reducing the home’s carbon footprint and the costs associated with heating, cooling, and maintaining the home.

4. Energy: Lighting, heating, and cooling systems are an important consideration in green home design. Renewable energy systems such as solar, wind, and geothermal systems use the earth’s natural energy to heat and cool the home, as well as provide electricity to run appliances and technology..

5. Water Conservation: Building a new home presents a unique opportunity to save water. Two money and energy-saving strategies which can be easily incorporated into an energy efficient home design are 1) reducing the overall water using in the home by specifying low-flow water fixtures, low-flush or composting toilets, installing aerators on all taps, and installing low-flow showerhead nozzles; and 2) specifying a plumbing system that reuses grey water (wastewater from domestic usage such as dish washing, laundry and bathing) for flushing toilets, watering lawns, etc. (note: some grey water systems require approval by most local building jurisdictions, your architect will verify this prior to design).

Of course, a new home should use minimal amounts of fossil fuels, last a long time, and cost less money. Many home design strategies don’t cost a dime in materials but can save hundreds of dollars on heating and cooling costs. The result is a beautiful, healthy home – for both the homeowners and the environment.

World Variations in Green Home Building

Every day, it seems like citizens and governments all over the world are becoming increasingly aware of the need to conserve. And while America is focusing more on the environment than it used to (with its newly popular green home building initiatives in particular), the U.S. is still behind the times when it comes to conservation. Europe in particular has been leading the way in green home building and especially in energy conservation for many years.

Energy Conservation in Europe

Europe is at the forefront of the green movement, including green home design… and with good reason. Because on the continent, gasoline, natural gases, and energy costs significantly more than it does in America, and it has been that way for many years. Because of this, both individual Europeans and European governments are much more energy conscious than Americans. This is seen in European culture in a lot of ways.

A big thing that separates Europe from the U.S. in energy conservation is a massive network of railroads and other forms of public transport. In addition to mass transit in essentially every major European city, the continent also boasts a well utilized long distance passenger rail service. And even though there are plenty of individually owned vehicles in European countries, most cities in Europe boast a higher percentage of mass transit users (and bicycle riders) than the United States.

European energy consciousness is also visible in the way Europeans build their homes. In Europe (especially in larger cities), they use green home building in a very practical, widespread, and simplistic way. Most people residing in a large European city live in a much smaller space than the average U.S. home. In addition, most European houses, apartments, and businesses use simple green home building ideas to keep their spaces cool in summer instead of the air conditioning so common in the U.S. These include roll down screens, patio shading, double windows, and more.Green Home Building in America

To sum it up: in Europe, the people have been conscious of the need to switch off the lights when they are not using them for decades… because they needed to save money. In the U.S., people are just getting used to not seeing energy as something that will always be inexpensive and easily available, and are slowly developing a better instinct for conservation. This changing mindset is evidenced by the increasing popularity of green home building.

The green home building concepts being used in America revolve around simple ideas, such as less square footage, improved insulation, and smarter positioning to the sun, as well as the use of alternative energy sources like solar paneling. Green home building also incorporates more complex concepts, such as the use of sustainable materials and less harmful products, to protect the environment and conserve energy in the long run. America is a little behind, but with luck will start catching up to the standard set by Europe.