What Makes a House Green
Some sources suggest there has been a 70 per cent jump in the last year in new green building starts. The interest in green buildings and green design is definitely on the rise. So, what exactly are the components of a green building?
It may be easier to begin with what a green building is not. In an article by John Carroll, the life sciences editor of FierceBiotech.com, he suggests that we can lay to rest the tie-dyed, nuts and granola images you may have lingering about living green. No more straw bale walls. You can even set aside what was once thought of as a key element of living in a green house, the costly passive solar panels. You can be green without abandoning the electric grid, washer/dryer combo along with the microwave and other power-hungry appliances you may want to keep plugged in.
Live well and live green. Of course it’s a matter of degree, but think about the adage “one person cannot do everything but everyone can do something.”
The U.S. Green Building Council has developed a rating system for green building standards. These standards address six areas:
- Sustainable Site
- Water Efficiency
- Energy and Atmosphere
- Materials and Resources
- Indoor Environment Quality
- Innovation and Design
Let’s consider some basic examples of how these areas are addressed. Even though some of these examples are directed toward new construction, many of them are not.
Green architects would agree that the single most important factor in energy efficiency is site selection. Natural shade can cut down on air conditioning needs dramatically. A home that is set up high can also catch prevailing breezes which further decreases energy needs in warm climates. Wide overhangs designed to provide maximum shade is another way of keeping heat out during the summer while letting the sun in during the winter. The material used for the roof can also reflect heat away from a structure. Other considerations that fall under site selection are erosion control, storm water management, and access to public transportation.
Green materials choices include rafters made of recycled wood, and synthetic trim made of recycled plastics. It may be possible to recycle the building material waste from construction as well.
While the trend in luxury homes is to increase the number of shower heads, body sprays and hand-held showers, the green trend is to create a very nice shower without overdoing it. It is a significant savings in energy and water usage to have one water heater instead of two. Networking gutters systems to direct rainwater into above-ground tanks or barrels is also suggested. This water collection can be used for watering plants, gardens and yards, even washing the car.
ENERGY AND ATMOSPHERE
Windows are another important element in green architecture. The placement of windows can cut down on daytime lighting needs and window treatments can be used to help regulate temperatures.
If you are interested in more information on green building guidelines go to the U.S. Green Building Council website www.usgbc.org.