Let's Go Green
Everybody’s talking about “green buildings”, but what does that really mean? According to the National Association of Realtors, green buildings are designed and constructed to increase performance and to enhance the health and experience for people who work, live and play in these structures.
A green building:
• Saves energy and water
• Protects the site
• Maximizes longevity and durability
• Reduces material use
• Uses low-impact materials
• Minimizes waste
• Recycles existing buildings
If you are interested in building or in renovating, you should keep these principles in mind, for we are all interested in keeping our planet healthy, and, by extension, ourselves. Here are a few tips from NAR to help you stay “green” as you remodel:
Maximize natural daylight and passive ventilation. Daylight can cut down on electric bills, and well-placed operable windows circulate fresh air throughout your home.
Choose deconstruction and construction site recycling. The demolition debris from a typical residential kitchen or bathroom equals, by weight, four years of curbside recycling from an average household. Deconstruction is the selective hand-disassembly of building structures to maximize salvage for reuse. Minimize the impact of your project by keeping reusable and recyclable materials out of the landfill.
Weatherize. Adding insulation and new, energy-efficient windows to an older home not only saves money in fuel costs, it improves comfort year-round. (Check out http://energy.gov/energysaver/energy-saver)
Buy energy-efficient kitchen appliances, furnaces and water heaters. All appliances with an “Energy Star” rating are a good choice. (Check out http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_find_es_products)
Choose water-efficient fixtures. On average, toilet flushing, showers and faucets account for 60 percent of all indoor water use. Installing efficient toilets, faucet aerators and showerheads can save a typical household up to $200 annually in water and energy bills. (Check out www.ecoact.org)
Use low-VOC paint (50 grams/liter or less VOC content). Insist on solvent free or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. Low and no VOCs will make painting a healthier and more enjoyable experience. If oil paints are being used, relocate during the paint job until your home is free of fumes. (Check out www.eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_paints.htm)
Choose formaldehyde-free products. Many people don’t know that formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen, is commonly found in carpet, cabinetry, insulation and other building products. Consider installing a hard surface floor instead of carpet. If you do install carpeting, install a green rated carpet. (Check out www.carpet-rug.com for more information.)
Buy used, recycled, certified or regraded wood products. Certified wood products are cut from sustainably managed forests, and affixed with a seal to help you identify them. They are available at an increasing number of stores. (Check out https://us.fsc.org/)
Harvest your rainwater for irrigation and toilet flushing. A well-designed rainwater harvesting system that captures rainwater from rooftops for use in irrigation and toilet flushing can reduce annual water consumption by 50 percent. (Check out http://www.phillywatersheds.org/residents)
Landscape using native and drought-tolerant plants. Native plants are naturally adapted to our environment, so they require minimal care and watering and provide valuable habitat for wildlife. (Check with the Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill or Awbury Arboretum in Germantown for advice)
Not only will you get a sense of self-satisfaction when you tend to the items above, but you can get a federal tax credit for 30% of the cost of energy-efficient improvements made to your primary residence between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010, up to a cap of $1,500. Check out the following resources for more information:
Living “green” is a way of life. More and more, prospective buyers think “green” as they hunt for a house. Whether a home is new or old, the principles of green building can apply.