14 February 2008

Homes of the future : Green

What makes a home green?

GLOBE-Net, 11 February 2008 - Green homes are quickly emerging as the homes of the future according to a McGraw-Hill report. The green home market in the United States is expected to grow from $2 billion in 2005 to $20 billion in 2010. But what makes a home green? It is more than just installing solar panels for water heating and involves site location, building material choices, the nature of appliances chosen and community impacts.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is recognized as the premier certification system for sustainable building designs. Until recently the system has not been applied to homes; but in response to growing demand from home buyers and developers, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) launched a pilot project to certify homes throughout the US and Canada.

When the USGBC completes its LEED for Homes pilot project it won't be too long before housing developers begin pursuing LEED certification to gain an advantage in the sale of new houses. To date the pilot project included two Canadian homes developed by Vermont Energy Investment Corp. which each received a platinum rating.

To receive the LEED home certification, a home must score high in the following eight categories:

  • Design Process,
  • Site Selection,
  • Water Efficiency,
  • Energy Efficiency,
  • Indoor Environmental Quality,
  • Using Environmentally Preferred Materials,
  • Minimizing Construction Waste and
  • Landscaping.

Built Green TM Canada , another home rating system available to Canadians, adds value to new home construction by promoting and recognizing the use of practices and products that represents resource-efficient and environmentally friendly construction. Membership is open to all members of participating home builder's associations.

The primary purpose of Built Green is to encourage homebuilders to use technologies, products and practices that will:

  • Provide greater energy efficiency and reduce pollution
  • Provide healthier indoor air
  • Reduce water usage
  • Preserve natural resources
  • Improve durability and reduce maintenance

The preferred outcome of a certified green home is a building with lower energy bills and a low or zero-carbon footprint, ultimately resulting in a ‘net-zero' home.

These zero energy homes (ZEH) utilize energy efficient design, renewable energy systems for electricity and space and water heating. The design goal of a ZEH is to produce as much energy as it needs independent of grid electricity. Some homes may even be able to produce extra energy which can be sold back into the grid.

ZEH can give deliver homeowners savings while offering them an opportunity to help mitigate climate change. Even for homes costing more up front, the reduction in utility bills can often outweigh the higher monthly mortgage payment, resulting in net positive cash flow from day one.

The concept of a zero energy home is usually reserved for new construction but through a well-planned, logical process of upgrades and improvements, almost any home can be modified to reduce its energy consumption significantly.

Beyond the obvious environmental benefits and savings to home owners, high-performance homes typically have higher resale values and are more desirable in a tight market.

A green home requires more than just environmentally friendly design. Homeowners must also make a concerted effort to furnish the home with environmentally friendly products and energy efficient appliances and exercise energy conservation and waste reduction practices.

Light House Sustainable Building Centre, located in British Columbia, has an online ‘green building product library' which can direct users to green products ranging from dishwashers to windows. The site is helpful for furnishing or renovating a house to be green.

Lastly, when it comes to green housing, neighbours matter and a home is only as green as its community. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a Crown Corporation and Canada's national housing agency, encourages neighbourhood design and land use planning approaches that reduce costs and environmental impacts while maintaining community livability.

Via: GLOBE-Net, a division of Globe Foundation of Canada

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