Over the past few decades, the awareness that resources are finite and that the materials we use and our methods of disposal are harming our environment is reaching critical mass. So many people are now demanding that these problems be addressed that builders, suppliers, homebuyers, and remodelers are listening,
As a result, working with natural materials, energy conservation, and recycling are becoming mainstream, and even mandatory in some areas. And homebuyers are starting to demand green building products, appliances, and recycled materials.
Actually, recycling began long ago on the American frontier. When early settlers needed to move, it is said they would burn down their cabins to reclaim the nails, which could be used in building their next home.
While we no longer burn down our homes to reclaim materials, more homeowners than ever are becoming recycling conscious. They are separating their trash and taking old appliances, fixtures, and construction debris to recycling centers. And from these recycled materials, companies are emerging that are able to turn them into stunning countertops, insulation, cabinets, flooring, roofing, and just about every building product you would need to build your green home.
To further advance the green movement, governments and building trade associations are realizing that this is not just a passing fad; it’s serious and it’s the future. The growing consensus today among builders and suppliers is, either get with the programs or risk being left behind.
And like a sluggish giant, this country’s homeowners are starting to stir and realize that eco-friendly and energy efficient buildings are the best ways to go. With a little prodding and more education, homeowners are certain to demand and buy homes constructed to green home building standards.
To further help the green building movement, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), whose members build about 80 percent of the country’s new homes each year, has adopted a green building standard for its members.
Another giant in the green building industry, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), has launched its version of the LEED® (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification program. The LEED rating system for green homes has four award levels—certified, silver, gold, and platinum. Your rating depends on the number of points you score for sustainability, energy efficiency, environmental impact, design, and so on.
These standards put green builders, manufacturers, and suppliers on the same page, speaking the same language. What all this means to you as a homeowner or prospective owner is that you can be assured that when you buy, build, or remodel a home to these standards, you’re getting what you want and what you’re paying for.
From the homeowners’ perspective, as the competition for energy, land, building resources, and a reasonable commute becomes more challenging, it’s obvious that changes are needed to maintain the lifestyle the majority of us want. And that means we are going to have to incorporate resource management and recycling into our lives and evangelize others to do the same in order to make a noticeable difference.
Of course, this not only applies to conservation but to taking on the personal responsibility of educating ourselves and seeking out products and processes that are energy and environmentally positive.
Builders build, manufacturers make, and suppliers stock what homeowners buy. If we demand green products, more and better building and energy efficient products will appear on the market.
One successful example is the Department of Energy’s Energy Star® program (www.energystar.gov), which rates appliances for their energy efficiency. This program has made it easier for us to determine upfront if a home or its components are energy efficient and meet specific environmental standards. The program is so successful that the rating expanded to cover insulation, fixtures, windows and other building products. And it happened because we consumers voted for it with our checkbooks and credit cards.
As you’re probably aware, the current popular buzz word for environmental awareness and energy efficiency is “green.” And why not? Green is a good nature color even though not everyone looks good wearing it, according to my wife.
Throughout the book, I’ll use the terms “green” and “eccofriendly” interchangeably to refer to environmentally friendly, and energy efficient organizations, products, and ideas. The intent here is to clarify and ease communication, not to advance any political agenda or belief.
Interestingly, over the past twentyfive years I’ve noticed that many homeowners want to be more environmentally responsible by saving energy and using sustainable products. First time homeowners especially have wanted to become more involved but haven’t known how to start. It’s for these homebuyers especially that this book has been written.
The route I’ve suggested for beginning homebuyers is to buy a home and then fix it up to be energy efficient. Although few can afford to remodel green all at once, they can do projects as their budget allows, and eventually they’ll have a green home they can be proud to live in. Many homebuyers start out with this intent but get discouraged because they don’t have a plan of action.
For those who are already home owners and want to make their homesite eco-friendly, I’ve suggested ways to help them triage their projects so that they can attain their goal of a green home. While it may take a while, the result will be worth it.
Included as well is a chapter of tips and traps to avoid for firsttime homeowners who want to buy or build a new home from a green builder. Many builders advertise their projects as green, but in reality they overlook many energysaving possibilities.
For those who have a building lot and are excited about building their eco-friendly dream home, I’ve also included tips on finding a green architect who shares your dream and working with a builder to make it a reality.
Throughout this book I’ve tried, without getting too technical, to provide an overview of the products both needed and available to create an eco-friendly home. If you want more data on specific items, check out the websites offered in the sidebars.
This book is divided into three parts. The first part focuses on finding, financing, and buying an eco-friendly home. This includes qualifying for an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM); finding an eco-friendly agent to work with you to find green properties, as well as shopping for an green home on your own. There are also successful strategies you can use when making an offer on a home, getting sellers to pay concessions, and buying a home warranty to save yourself money.
The second part deals with building an eco-friendly home. This includes finding and working with a green architect; planning your new green home, which is comprised of using passive energy saving options, ventilating your new home, determining whether solar or wind power are for you, and using sustainable products and cutting costs; and green landscaping, which focuses on creating a landscaping plan of action, working with the characteristics of your soil, determining where and what to plant, planning a sustainable landscape, and applying and conserving water.
The third part of the book covers remodeling to make your existing home eco-friendly. This includes chapters on planning your green remodel and working with a green architect and contractors; remodeling your home’s exterior with eco-friendly materials, with a special emphasis on making your roof environmentally friendly, replacing your siding with eco-friendly materials, upgrading to energy efficient windows, using eco-friendly stains and paints, building an environmentally friendly deck, patio, or fence, and recycling and disposing of construction waste; and remodeling your home’s interior with eco-friendly systems and materials, focusing on ventilating your energy efficient home, upgrading your heating and cooling systems to make them energy efficient, choosing and using eco-friendly stains and paints, selecting eco-friendly floor coverings, remodeling your kitchen using green appliances and materials, and upgrading your bathroom with eco-friendly fixtures and materials.
While no book can detail everything that’s happening with the rapidly expanding green real estate movement, Your Eco-Friendly Home will give you an overview and a good starting point. Whether you’re planning to buy, build, or remodel to have a home that’s environmentally friendly, be assured that your efforts and contribution to protecting our resources and reducing our energy dependence is important to us all.