It is not the color of the home of which we’re speaking, however. Earth-friendly homes and construction practices are being sought by environmentally conscious consumers across the U.S. No, we’re not talking about people living in cob, straw, or sod houses either, though there are people who choose to live in these types of abodes. We are talking about homes when have been built with renewable building materials and with peak energy efficiency in mind. This is called “green building.”
Green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency of an edifice throughout the entire construction cycle. That means when creating a structure in this manner, human health and the environment will be taken into account through the dwelling’s design, the site its foundation will be laid upon, and construction. The completed building’s future operation and maintenance will also be taken into account. Probably most importantly, a green building is conservative when it comes to water and energy consumption.
Buildings have a profound effect on the environment, which is why green building practices are so important to reduce those impacts. The environmental impact of creating a building and the maintenance of an inefficient structure is often underestimated. At the same time, the perceived costs of building green are overestimated. A recent survey by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development finds that green costs are overestimated by 300%,
Effective green building can lead to a variety of benefits for the homeowner. Because of the increase in productivity and use of less energy and water, the cost of running and maintaining a green home can be quite significantly less than their inefficient counterparts. Because of a green home’s carefully planned materials and design, these homes have greatly improved indoor air quality, which can have health benefits for its occupants. This may be particularly important for adults or children alike who may have respiratory afflictions, such asthma or allergies. Finally, a green home after construction continues to temper its impact on the earth. Some examples might be by lessening storm water runoff and reducing the heat island effect.
The creation of a green home brings together a vast array of carefully and systematically applied environmentally friendly practices and techniques, with attention paid to the home’s consumption and pollution emissions throughout its full life cycle. Construction materials usually considered to be green
include renewable plant resources like lumber from forests certified to be sustainably managed, dimension stone, recycled stone, recycled metal, bamboo, and other non-toxic, reusable, renewable, or recyclable products. Some green home builders go so far as to use only such sustainable or recycled materials which were also made locally. Salvaged windows, doors, mantels, hardware, stone flooring, and other materials reclaimed from older buildings which are going to be demolished are popular as well.
Green homes are oriented on their properties to take advantage of sunlight, with many windows and skylights to reduce the need for lights during the day. Of course, they use energy efficient windows. These are made with low-e glass which reflect infrared light, use multiple panes with spacers to keep them in place, and contain non-toxic gases within for better insulation.
Green homes are also built in a manner which tends to take advantage of outdoor wind currents and sunlight in order to minimize the energy loads within. Convection currents and prevailing breezes can passively cool the house in the summertime. Thermal materials collect and store heat during the day and release the warmth at night.
This brings us to the subject of insulation within a green home. Well-insulated windows, doors, ceilings, and walls help to reduce energy loss. This in turn reduces energy usage and the costs associated with it.
These design features don't cost much money, while at the same time they significantly reduce the energy needed to make and keep the home comfortable. As you can see, green building is rooted in the philosophy of using that which is available already and naturally. Green building also focuses on designing a home which is in accord with its surroundings.
Green building does go at least one step past reducing its impact through design and maintenance. That comes with the more advanced green practice of generating renewable energy. This could be through solar power, wind power, hydro power, or biomass. The ability to generate power is the most expensive feature to add to a green home.
The production of a green home is not one-sided towards the environmental, however. Producers of green homes often seek to achieve an aesthetic harmony between the structure and its surrounding environment. A sustainable building cannot simply be identified from the curb. A green home can be nestled in any neighborhood, completely indistinguishable from their less efficient equivalent.
New houses are being built with a higher standard of energy efficiency as building codes increasingly require it. With fuel prices rising, consumers are fast tiring of high energy bills, driving the movement and green home popularity. Does having a home in harmony with nature interest you? Perhaps reduced electricity, water, and heating bills sound attractive? An energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly green home may be just what the doctor ordered.