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What Makes a Green Home Green?

Planning to build a green home can be confusing. What makes a green home green? What factors are most important and why?

Factors such as, building envelope, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, renewable energy, local conditions and green materials have significant effects on the health and efficiency of our homes. Deciding what matters the most to you and your family is up to you.

Protecting your home from the elements is one of the most important considerations. The building envelope is the separation between the interior and exterior of a home (essentially, it is the outer shell). This separation is usually made up of walls, a roof, and a foundation and is an important factor in the home’s efficiency.

Building envelope efficiency can be improved via enhancements such as better insulation, insulating window shades, high efficiency windows, and house orientation. After optimizing the energy performance of a building’s envelope it makes sense to consider forms of renewable energy. Solar electric and thermal systems capture energy from the sun reducing the reliance on electric and gas utilities and their associated utility bills.

Energy efficiency is an integral part of building a green home, but attention to the indoor air quality is important for the health of your family. Choose wood or concrete floors instead of carpeting, which traps dust and dirt. If you prefer carpet choose one with an adhesive that has low or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds, their dissipation into the air can harm the environment) or one made of organic fibers.

VOCs have traditionally been included in other building products, such as fiberglass insulation, paint, and particleboard. Today, many low or no-VOC alternatives are available. Air-exchange is also important to indoor air quality. Indoor and outdoor air needs to be exchanged adequately so that any naturally occurring indoor air pollutants such as smoke, air-borne bacteria, odors, and dust are eliminated.

The next factor to consider is location. Considering climate is important so you can build a home that withstands common weather patterns. Also, buying materials (like lumber and stone) that are produced locally (within 500 miles) of your home is a standard green practice because it cuts down on pollution caused by transporting materials.

Rapidly renewable or recycled materials can also be used during construction. Bamboo floors, for example, are both a beautiful and sustainable material. Natural fiber or bamboo window treatments add style without compromising health. Recycled glass can be used for tile backsplashes as well as tub and shower finishes.

Building a green home is an exciting process because you are actively reducing your impact on the environment, saving money and improving the health of your family. Deciding what is important to you can be difficult, but with the information above, I hope you are able to make more informed decisions.

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