What is green building? Green building, also known as “sustainable” or “high performance” building seeks to merge high-quality design with low environmental impact. This merging results in homes that are attractive and efficient, making the best use of available resources while minimizing the amount of waste the home produces. Green building doesn't just start and end in using recycled materials whenever available. It extends to all aspects of the home, including energy-efficient windows, fixtures, plumbing, and appliances, air and water filtration systems, and even the type of paint that is used. All the elements are carefully selected to maximize the comfort and health of the home's occupants, while minimizing the home's footprint in its surrounding ecosystem. While there is some expense in starting the construction with high-quality materials, these costs quickly pay for themselves in countless ways. Energy-efficient windows work to minimize excess heat when it's hot outside and to keep heat inside when it's cold out. Energy-efficient appliances provide the same benefits while using less power to operate. Items such as these allow the home to stay comfortable and running smoothly with lower monthly energy bills and less stress on the local power grid. Installing low-flow toilets and efficiency plumbing allows for the home to use less water and recycles the water for further use in the home. Some homes are plumbed for used water from sinks to be run into the toilet for secondary use, or for water from the home to be irrigated to water the local landscape. Thoughtful design and planning allows the home to minimize monthly water bills while also helping to conserve a valuable natural resource. Many green homes also utilize alternative energy sources such as solar panels, which further reduce the home's dependence on the local energy grid and lower energy costs.
Green homes sell at a higher price with sustainable components. Because green homes are known to outperform traditional homes based on their lower utility and maintenance costs, they are increasingly more appealing in the home market and demand only continues to grow. Some studies show that investing in green buildings is 10 times more profitable than standard homes. For example, $50,000 invested in green building design can return $500,000 over 20 years. In the building economy, demand for green homes is growing, and there will be a continued desire for these homes into the future.
Green-build homeowners receive a multitude of benefits. A key asset to green building is energy efficiency. Green-built homes use materials such as energy-efficient windows, which are designed to keep out excess heat in summer and bring in heat in the winter, reducing seasonal heating and cooling bills. Similarly, green homes are equipped with efficiency appliances and plumbing as well, requiring less power and water usage. Better indoor air quality is another positive side effect — low VOC paints, elimination of mold potential, and installation of radon-mitigation systems allow for cleaner air throughout the home and its neighboring environment.
When a green building is constructed, it is designed to minimize any changes to the ecosystem, while protecting the environment's biodiversity. Green homes feature a number of filtration systems that clean both the air and water coming into and out of the home. These homes are constructed using recycled materials and are also designed minimize waste from the home, including using recycled water from the home to irrigate the surrounding landscape. The efficiency of green homes allows them to make better use of less natural resources, helping to conserve existing resources. Over time, these resources are able to be restored to higher levels.
Green homes are designed to run supplemented by alternative energy sources, which puts less demand on the general power grid and other utility providers. The overhead to run a green home is much reduced compared to a non-green home, because utility bills are lower and water bills are reduced. An aspect of a green home's design is to improve the productivity of its occupants, and more productive individuals ar that much more of a benefit to the economy. Green building aids job growth as demand for green homes increases, and green homes themselves become valuable assets as they become increasingly more desirable to home buyers.
Green building offers countless social benefits. Green-build homes are designed to enhance the health, comfort, and overall quality of life of those living within by using natural and recycled materials, as well as reducing the amount of harmful chemicals within. For example, low VOC paints are used in green homes as an alternative to standard paints, which can emit low-level toxins for years after application. These, along with air filtration and radon-mitigation systems improve indoor air quality as well. The energy-efficient materials and supplies used in the home minimize the strain on local utility providers.
There are a number of options for increasing energy efficiency in a green build. One obvious enhancement is the use of solar panels. Solar power is a renewable energy source that can power a home while reducing homeowner dependency on the local power grid. Solar panels can be installed on roofs, but there are also other options, such as solar sunroom or a solar canopy, which can both introduce passive solar energy into a home.
Installing a metal roof on a home with the right size roof overhangs can shade exterior walls from the sun's heat, and fan-induced attic ventilation bring down air-conditioning needs by keeping the home's roof, walls, and attic cool while using less electricity than a standard home. Green builders also utilize a number of energy-efficient building materials. There are moisture barriers, heat-reflective films, and high-performance insulation that help balance your home's desired temperature without having to nudge the temperature gauge on the heat or air-conditioning. Energy-efficient windows and doors provide similar effects, helping to block excess heat in hot summer months while trapping warm air indoors during the cooler months. All of these materials have been designed to keep occupants comfortable while minimizing the amount of heating or air-conditioning power needed. Energy-efficient appliances and fixtures can work hand-in-hand with the materials the home was built with. Most, if not all, appliances offer energy-efficient options, from televisions to dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers, and beyond. These appliances are designed to perform their functions to keep a busy household running smoothly, while using less power than older model. Green homes also utilize solar, tankless, or other energy efficient water heaters. According to the Department of Energy, for households that uses 41 gallons or less of water daily, tankless water heaters can be 24 to 34 percent more efficient than standard storage tank water heaters.
The most basic form of providing energy efficiency in green home is for the builders to survey the surrounding environment and select the best place for the home to be constructed. If the property is a shady area, maximizing available sunlight in the home will provide extra warmth. If in a bright area with plenty of direct sunlight, planning the home's layout to allow for cooling breezes to flow through the home's window system provides natural cooling without need for air-conditioning.
It is no secret that a smaller home generally uses less resources and leaves a smaller footprint than a larger one. However, a well-planned home of 1,200 square feet can feel twice the size if it is thoughtfully designed. Green building emphasizes using all available space efficiently, so that all spaces have a function and aren't wasted or cluttered with unnecessary details.
Making sure that a home's square footage is used to best advantage involves maximizing whatever space is available. Green home builders make use of natural light wherever possible, incorporating windows into spaces, even using smaller, high windows to bring natural light into rooms like master bedrooms and bathrooms while still protecting privacy. Green homes are also designed with built-in storage and organization features in mind. When odds and ends are tucked away rather than out on countertops, it reduces visual clutter. Built-in storage also reduces the need for extra storage furniture, such as wardrobes and dressers. Green home builders also work to merge indoors and outdoors by creating porches and other useable outdoor living areas. Installing patio doors instead of windows maximizes natural light while also creating an easy access to yard areas where possible.
Green building aims to be forward-thinking in more than just selecting of materials, but also assessing how a family's needs might change. A green home's design can be flexible enough that it eliminates the need for a family to move as a household grows or shrinks. Homes can come with bonus areas that accommodate expansion if future children or other family members come into the picture. Planning in advance with a master suite and primary living spaces on the first floor keeps the home accessible so that homeowners can continue to comfortably function in the home as they age.
Some aspects of green homes themselves are recycled from "waste," from beautiful recycled glass counters to cork penny tiles made from old wine bottle stoppers. Other green homes have systems in place to reuse water in the home, filtering shower or sink water and reusing it to hydrate the landscape. Some homes have systems in police to collect rainwater for use in watering the surrounding vegetation.. The same people who have invested in a green home also focus on reuse within the home, from storing food in reusable glass containers rather than plastic bags minimizing the amount of "throwaway" materials brought into the home.
Green homes are designed with waste reduction in mind. From the beginning, green home builders make the most efficient possible use of materials in order to reduce construction waste. Some of these construction materials are already recycled, from glass countertops to cork tiles. When in operation, green homes are further designed to minimize waste of energy, from water to power. Building in harmony with the surrounding environment, using quality materials, from insulation to windows, and installing energy-efficient appliances all work in unison to minimize the use of excess energy. This reduces the home's ecological footprint and eases the strain on local utilities.
There are a number of innovative products in the green building market that are both sustainable and attractive, with more always on the way. Brands have even created floor tiles from scrap leather and coconut shell remnants. Other popular flooring options are bamboo and cork, both known as a highly renewable resources that are quite durable. Post-consumer recycled glass is used for countertops, floors, and walls. Low- and zero-VOC paints do not release the low-emission toxic fumes of standard interior paints. Reclaimed lumber and recycled metal can add a lived-in look to a new build in the form of doors, flooring, shelving, and more.