Building Green 101

Building Green ExtremeI remember well the “green home” of the 1990s. Building Green was comprised of concrete and monochromatic surfaces the models looked more like a cross between a TRON set and minimalist art. They were at best simplistic, ultra modern, and cold. Thankfully the green homes of this century present a number of new options and cozy appeals with their stylish, trendy, healthy, high-performance interiors and inviting exteriors!

Building green (one of those terms that pains me to even type) was once just a dream. It required a huge financial investment as well as a compromise on design and lifestyle. But green building today is more a reality finding a foundation in suburban subdivisions, condo and loft living, and especially tiny houses, offering the homeowners healthier homes both from the environment and for themselves.

And while yes, it does seem a bit insignificant to make your own home eco-friendly when the daily newspapers are splashed with headlines of global warming and tragic oil spills, every little effort counts.

The benefits of building a green home are as diverse as their owners. But perhaps the most obvious is the environmental benefits. Reducing your carbon footprint is an important step toward fighting global warming and conserving valuable resources. There are a number of unsung benefits too.

  • Financial savings – Cost has long been a deterrent to building an eco-friendly home. Price increases in today’s market are only vaguely higher and with tax write offs and long-term savings, the investment is clearly more rewarding.
  • Health benefits – Along with improved air quality and reduced exposure to mold, mildew and off-gassing, green homes also maintain consistent temperatures and humidity levels more efficiently.

But how does one go about building a green home? What are some ways to assure your home is eco-friendly?

Consider your goals for green building.

If you want a green home, look at refurbishing a home or rehabbing one rather than building a brand new one. Of all available options I tend to think that re-purposing an older house is the most eco-friendly because you aren’t tearing down a house, wasting materials, and then consuming new materials. Building green also means considering what you can retrofit: programmable thermostats, low flow shower faucets, dual flush toilets, LED lights, refaced kitchen cabinets, etc. You can also get some great tax credits by going with Energy Star appliances, energy rated windows and doors, solar panels, etc.

Be prepared for change.

No matter where you are in the build process you are going to change your mind on something. This is okay and also why it is important to plan. I suggest making an inspiration book and a detailed budget of smaller expenses like wall plates, kitchen hardware, door handles, light bulbs, etc. If you have all of this planned out and change your mind you have wasted no time, no money, and no resources.

Build according to the sun.

Building green isn’t just about efficiency and recycled materials. It’s also lifestyle; a pedestrian friendly neighborhood, a car-free existence, less reliance on heating/air, food storage, etc. If you investigate and design around a passive solar mentality you are likely to spend less each year on temperature control than you currently do. Likewise on living in a neighborhood that values pedestrians and bicycles. If you can use your car less then you are saving money and energy and not just building green but also living green. And lastly, if your lot is sunny, solar panels are that much more of a viable option!

Be ready for delays and cost overruns.

Permits never come in on time. That is just a construction fact. Be patient and be ready when they do come in. And while you’re being patient, keep saving money. While your budget may seem benevolent now, prices change. The lumber market changes. The cost of raw metal changes. Even in a weak economy the cost of building can be more than anyone bargains for.

Build YOUR home, not the Jones’.

When building any home (but especially a green home) you need to think about what works for your family. Geothermal heating may not make any sense or seem doable for your family. Don’t incorporate it then. However, an alternate material such as clay paint or boiled linseed oil may be well within your comfort. Go for it. Build YOUR house and do what is right for you and your family. Remember, every effort counts.

What efforts have you taken towards building green homes, or renovating an existing home to be more environmentally friendly?


Andrew and Crystal Odom of Tiny r(E)volution

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