Green homes have come a long way in the last few decades, and building a green home is quickly shifting from an “alternative” way of building to the mainstream…and it’s only growing greener. According to a 2017 study conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics, in partnership with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), about one third of home builders (33%) report that they are currently doing green builds for more than a majority of their projects. And the green home builder market share is expected to grow significantly, with the number of dedicated green home builders that will solely focus on building green homes expected to grow from 19% in 2017 to 31% in 2022. Plus, in addition to new green homes there continues to be enormous growth in the amount of green home remodeling work that is being done too.
This is good news for builders who are looking to distinguish and grow their business in this expanding market. It’s also good news for people who are interested in building the home of their dreams as a net zero home or certified green home, or just as a home with green home elements. With the expanding green home markets, there are a slew of options for consumers that improve the quality of their home, reduce energy costs, protect their health and have a decreased environmental impact.
The reported costs for building new green homes have gone down, even as more green building elements are being incorporated in homes. According to the same green home study, most green home builders believe that the cost differential to go green has decreased over time, likely because of increased builder experience and the larger supply of options and competition that are driving down prices in the green products market. In fact, about three-quarters of builders surveyed believe the increased cost for building a green home is less than 10% more than a non-green home (with half estimating the cost differential to be between 5%-10%). That’s a large drop from prior research where home builders perceived green building costs were much higher.
But the good news is that building or living in a greener home does not mean you have to conform to the strictest requirements or make your new home Net Zero Energy (where it is so green that it produces more energy than it uses). Dropping costs in green technology are helping to make green housing a popular investment and available to more and more homeowners. You don’t have to go “off the grid” to start incorporating green benefits into homes. Indeed, many green home products and technologies now can be purchased right from your smart phone or in your neighborhood hardware store.
Even well-known national homebuilders are beginning to offer green home options and choices for their home buyers. These green building concepts are being put to work for homebuyer customers at all price levels. Read more about this trend. Why not aim to continue to improve your home’s efficiency and environmental impact while making choices that work in your budget today and make your home greener?
So if you’re planning to build a new home, here are some green home building ideas you may want to consider:
No matter how green you build a large home, a smaller home with the same energy-efficient and eco-friendly construction techniques will have a smaller environmental impact. And even though”Tiny Homes” are all the rage, building smaller doesn’t mean that you need to restrict yourself to living tiny — using creative design principles you can make your more expansive dream home plans have a smarter yet smaller footprint.
Smaller housing options are becoming popular because of their efficiency, reduced maintenance costs and lower impact, and are being planned in both urban and rural settings. The point is, just be thoughtful about how you use your space when planning and building your home. Design your home around your lifestyle, and keep the space manageable and cost effective. Think of square footage as an investment; put it where you want it most instead of expanding in every direction.
The sun is the ultimate source of clean, low-cost energy. When you build, you have a unique opportunity to plan for solar power use in a way that owners of older homes cannot. By making solar power native technology in your new home, you can take advantage of light, positioning and geography to get the most efficiency and energy for your investment. How you situate your home on its lot and where you place solar panels can have a significant impact on the power you collect (evaluate the solar potential of your property and others using Google’s Project Sunroof website). Combined with other green building ideas, solar power can generate enough energy for you to start selling some back to your utility company. In fact, by law utilities are required to purchase excess power from grid-connected home solar systems at a rate equal to what it costs the power provider to produce power itself. If that isn’t incentive enough, there also are grants, tax breaks and other government incentives related to the use of solar power in your home.
Cool Your Roof
The material used on your roof can make a dramatic difference in your home’s energy efficiency. You may want to consider a product that reflects the sun’s energy away from the roof, cools faster at night and holds less heat for less time in order to help reduce energy costs and usage related to heat. Slate, terra cotta, white tiles, special membranes, and metal roofing are a few of the roofing products available with varying degrees of green benefits. There are many roofing options, and though the green options typically are more expensive – both in terms of materials and installation – you’ll likely recoup the costs through energy savings, the longevity of the product and minimal maintenance required.
We have to mention the “living roof”, because it’s just so…cool. Also know as green roofs, living roofs are constructed to hold plants that grow on the roof to catch and filter rainwater and will insulate the home. This also prevents roof water from running directly into the storm sewer system. While they’ve been used more frequently in commercial building, living roofs certainly can be incorporated into residential roofs.
Harness Geothermal Power
Geothermal power involves a substantial up-front investment, but with it, you have almost limitless energy with which to heat and cool your home. The earth itself becomes your heat sink with geothermal energy. During winter, heat moves from deep underground to your home’s HVAC system; in the summer, your AC removes excess heat and dissipates it underground using the same principle as a heat pump. Think of geothermal heating and cooling as a way to move heat instead of creating it through combustion.
Rely on Recycling
If you’ve ever wondered where old blue jeans and newspapers go, the answer might be as close as your walls. Total-fill insulation made from recycled materials pays off in the short term and the long run. Because you’re using recyclables, your initial material cost is often lower than it would be for virgin materials. You’re also saving money over time by using insulating products that perform as well or better than first-use insulation. Cotton, wool, wood pulp and soybean byproducts are a few of the materials you’ll find as spray-in or roll insulation.
There are many other recycled materials being used in green home building, such as reclaimed wood and countertops made from recycled glass, aluminum and even soda cans. You also may want to discuss with your builder options for using recycled steel or recycled wood/plastic composite, both of which are high quality, durable products that can reduce the amount of new lumber used in your home.
Use Sustainable Materials & Methods
From the frame of your home to the flooring inside it, sustainable building materials can reduce the impact of your construction on the environment. Wood is a renewable resource when you choose a supplier who follows sustainable planting practices. Flooring is one area where new products that are environmentally friendly and great for home insulation ratings and climate control efficiency are flourishing. Modern flooring of this sort includes bamboo, cork and linoleum, which is made of natural, renewable materials. More consumers, designers and builders are choosing linoleum as environmentally friendly flooring with a long lifespan — 25 to 40 years – and the ability to be completely recycled at the end of life.
Additionally, some methods of construction have inherently sustainable characteristics. Many Modular or Prefab homes can be classified as sustainable not just because of their energy efficiency and the materials used, but also because the process of building the home’s elements in a controlled setting produces many material and labor savings and can decrease waste. Modular homes have become increasingly popular and are considered an accepted form of green home construction in many markets.
Work with Your Land
If you design your home to take advantage of the surrounding landscape from the outset, you’ll enjoy easier, less expensive lawn care for the life of your home. If your property slopes, plan your planting to take advantage of its natural characteristics, planting water-loving willows in low areas and conifers on higher ground. Try xeriscaping, a landscaping technique that uses native plants and rock to minimize water use. Developers can use green land development strategies that can save money and are environmentally-friendly.
Focus on Water
Americans are becoming increasingly aware of fresh water consumption and conservation, and are taking further steps to reduce water consumption. Consider fixtures and appliances that conserve water such as low flow faucet aerators, tankless water heaters and Energy Star rated washers. There’s even a product on the market that automatically pauses your shower once the water has warmed up so that gallons of hot water aren’t wasted in an empty shower. Also consider capturing rainwater on your property. Before homes had running water, households often collected run-off in cisterns. Collected rainwater can be used to fill water features, irrigate gardens and maintain landscapes. Innovations in onsite water management technologies include using a rain garden in place of simply piping water off the property and as a natural way of filtering runoff in your yard.
“Energize” Windows in your Green Home
Energy Star windows are have quickly become rock stars in the green home product market. These aptly-named windows are government-rated as Energy Star products, and are much more energy-efficient windows than even the newer, double-pane models. Energy Star windows also greatly reduce sound transfer between outside and inside. The result? Heating and cooling costs drop and home values rise. Homeowners can experience savings of hundreds of dollars a month in reduced energy bills.
Take Thermostats to a New Level
Once only available in high-end homes, highly programmable thermostats are becoming the standard for new homes everywhere, as well as off-the-shelf upgrades being installed in existing homes. These high-tech thermostats can be programmed to adjust heating and cooling activities that take into account time of day, times when no one is home, vacations and more. This type of thermostat reduces your heating and cooling bills and saves the environment by reducing energy production. Furthermore, your HVAC system works more efficiently, meaning less wear-and-tear on the system and a longer life.
There are many, many green products and smart building options out there today that can add value to your home, decrease the home’s environmental impact and make your home perform better. In fact, as the market evolves the term “green homes” is being used alongside the term “high performance homes” to convey the efficiency and cost savings that are gained by the homeowner.
Ready to get started? Consult your builder, architect, landscaper, as well as your local home builders’ association – before building your home and throughout the process – to help you go green while building your own dream home or when building for your customers.
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