Our homes are our sanctuaries;
our blocks of security, where we lay our bodies and raise our families.
Running modern style homes, we consume a significant amount of energy and resources.There are many in developing nations who also seek greater home comforts, conveniences and luxuries. It’s a big demand wave for energy and home building, and its coming. How we consume to sustain our existence could make a big difference in how we maintain sufficient natural resources moving forward.
Fortunately, there is a new era dawning in the home building business with powerful and far reaching implications. Though there is limited federal support, ‘green building’ is slowly but surely gaining momentum and becoming mainstream.
The National Association of Home Builders calls it “The most exciting and significant development in home building in the last 3 decades.” Since 1990, more than 32,000 green homes have been built and more are popping up across the country in places like California, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, New Hampshire and others.
In Orange County, California, there are 12 neighborhoods collectively known as Terramor. One area known as Ladera Ranch has 1280 homes and townhouses. The developer, Rancho Mission Viejo calls it “one of the largest green villages in the nation.” Prices range from $500,000 to more than a million. Styles include Cape Cod, Spanish Traditional and Cottage Styles. Paul Johnson, Senior VP of Community Development says, “Green building is the future. Everyone’s going to be doing this in three or fours years. And we want to be pioneers in this business.”
Resource-saving features in the green home begin at the curb. Permeable pavers on the driveway and walks allow rain to soak into the ground, reducing runoff. Two green plastic rain barrels catch water rolling off the roof and store it for watering plants.
Roof mounted solar panels provide energy for home heating/cooling, water heating, lighting and appliances. It has been estimated that one residential solar electric power system, over the course of its life, will reduce carbon dioxide production pounds, the environmental benefit equivalent to an additional 347 trees in a rainforest. That’s more oxygen which can’t be bad. Excess energy can be sold a utility company or saved for future use.
Geothermal heat pumps in the ground can collect underground heat through a loop of pipes and use an electric compressor to concentrate the heat and pump it to the rooms of the house.
Recycled insulation in the exterior walls and attic, seal the home against wind, temperature extremes and moisture. Installing windows that keep heat out in the summer and retain it in winter as a very effective way of reducing energy costs.
Bamboo floors in the kitchen and hallway offer the look of hardwood. Some species of bamboo grow 30 inches a day, while oak trees may grow no more than 30 inches a year. Using steel and recycled wood instead of wood for framing helps. It takes 6 recycled cars to frame a 2,000 sq foot house or 40 old-growth trees. Other recycled and improved materials can be used for many parts of the house from decking to carpeting to cabinetry.
To keep air quality pure, a central vacuum channels all dust and debris into a container in the garage. Special paints and finishes emit fewer gases. In the backyard pool, small amounts of sodium, rather than chlorine, keep the water clean. Solar energy heats the pool.
Although these features can add $75,000 to the cost of a new house, the NAHB explains green building offers persuasive and often measurable benefits. These include; lower utility bills, less maintenance, improved environmental quality and increased home value.
The most basic definition from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) refers to buildings that are "resource- efficient" in design, construction, and operation. It applies to environmental quality both inside and outside the home. Aside from tangible benefits, green building is also an enlightened consciousness, a renaissance of consumption if you will.
The logic is that we rely so much on all forms of life on earth for our survival, lets not consume all of it during one sitting.
With a world less populous and with a limited overview of global natural and human events, the ‘old way’ of doing things may have made sense in their day. After all, it was all of that trial and error which allowed us to improve and advance to the point where we are now. Today however, there is increasingly too much information at our disposal, for us to simply ignore all of the natural and man-made occurrences and tendencies of our world. To keep our ‘house’ alive, healthy and balanced for generations far into the future, there needs to be an intelligent, swift and consistent reaction to those tendencies.