Why Build Green?
Building a green home represents two ideas. The first relates to the building phase of the home. The second considers the benefits derived from living in the home. Both try to improve on methods and reduce ways in which energy, water and materials are used so as to conserve resources and safeguard the environment. There are many benefits of building a green home.
Conserving natural resources, reducing solid waste and enhancing the biodiversity of the home’s surroundings add to the environmental benefits of building green. The air, thermal, and acoustic systems within the home are better coordinated leading to better health and comfort for the occupants. As the home is built to be energy efficient, local infrastructure and utilities are used less than when compared to a conventionally built home.
Building a green home can contribute to economic benefits as well. Even though the initial outlay in building and equipping a home may be more than that for a conventional one, this can be recovered with savings in payment for utilities throughout the home’s life cycle. Moreover, a green home qualifies for tax and other incentives as well as zoning allowances in many cities. The superior aesthetics of a green home can promote greater productivity and improve the quality of life of its occupants.
What Makes a Building Green?
Careful planning goes into a green construction. The surrounding land is developed to promote biodiversity and ensure water savings. Landscaping takes into account the natural lay of the land and plant species native to the area. Materials used for building are mostly salvaged or recycled byproducts from other industries. Use of toxic chemicals and materials are reduced. A green home is designed to make the best use of natural light. The home may generate a part or all of its energy needs from renewable sources such as solar or geothermal power. A home that generates energy in excess of its needs can earn credits by arranging with their utility supplier to feed excess power to the main power grid.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has laid down criteria for building of green homes. According to the EPA, green homes are energy and water efficient and make use of renewable energy, environmentally preferable building materials, waste reduction, toxics reduction, indoor air quality, smart growth and sustainable development. Unlike a traditional home where each component is decided on separately, a green building project considers a home as one system where all the processes such as heating, cooling, plumbing, energy and water use are interconnected. Doors, windows, roofs, floors and walls of a green home all contribute to make it energy efficient and sustainable.
For each of the criteria mentioned above, the EPA has laid down standards and specifications that builders of green homes must adhere to. A home that qualifies for EPA’s blue Energy Star rating has an efficient home envelope containing better insulation and high performance windows, efficient air distribution, heating, cooling and lighting and uses energy saving appliances, equipment and fixtures that carry the Energy Star logo.
To promote growth of sustainable development and provide consumers with a means of comparing and identifying standards of green buildings, a non-profit organization called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has devised a voluntary rating system based on five criteria. The criteria are sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor air quality. LEED awards certified, silver, gold and platinum awards based on the extent to which the design and building of a home, office or other structure meets the above criteria.
The National Association of Home Builders as well as various state and local agencies also have green certification programs that incorporate energy efficiency and sustainability in building practices.
Sustainable living encompasses preservation of resources. A green home is built to use less energy and other resources both during its construction and while being lived in. It generates and uses clean energy to run the home so as to reduce its carbon impact. A green home promotes good health and productivity. The initial investment in building a green home can be justified considering these overall benefits.