A green home can have a variety of benefits, both for the people who live in it and the environment around it. Choosing to build a green home or to remodel an existing home to make it more environmentally friendly often results in a more affordable lifestyle for homeowners. A green home uses less energy, and the energy it does use typically comes from renewable resources. This results in less expense to operate and maintain the home, while reducing the home’s dependence on non-renewable sources of energy. The living environment inside a green home is often healthier for its occupants due to enhanced ventilation and reduced levels of toxins in building materials. Building a green home can be expensive, depending on the building materials, construction methods, and geographic location of the property. However, there are ways to make green building more affordable.
Although building a green home can result in a higher-than-average construction budget, there are ways to reduce costs and make this process more affordable. Some construction companies are beginning to offer consumers a few prefabricated options for building greener homes. These prefab homes usually include features such as building materials that do not contain potentially harmful volatile organic compounds, locally sourced and recycled materials, metal roofing materials, plumbing fixtures that use less water, high-efficiency insulation, appliances that use less water and energy, solar panels, and equipment to enable homeowners to harvest rainwater. Floor plans available will usually enable homes to utilize natural light for passive heating and cooling of the structure.
Using recycled materials is an important feature of green building. Common recycled materials used for green building include reclaimed lumber and recycled plastic, aluminum, and glass. Contractors can use these materials for general building materials, roofing materials, insulation, and interior components such as counters, cabinets, and finish work. For example, copper shingles are made out of recycled copper. Not only are shingles made out of copper environmentally friendly and extremely durable, but they are less expensive than cedar or slate shingles. Insulation made from recycled materials such as newsprint is both affordable and extremely effective. Natural products such as cork and bamboo are also at home in a green structure.
A hay-bale or straw-bale house is an alternative type of green home that utilizes bales of straw for the exterior and interior walls. Contractors build the panels using bales of compressed straw fitted around wood inserts. Layers of stucco secure everything together to finish the panels. Depending on the placement of the panels, they can be built to meet load-bearing or non-load-bearing specifications. Straw panels generally provide effective insulation for a home.
Another option for alternative building materials is plastic or glass bottles. These materials are recyclable, making them environmentally friendly. The construction process generally involves filling the bottles with sand or soil to give them strength. With a concrete foundation and grid to hold the bottles in place, it’s possible to use the bottles to make exterior and interior walls. The bottles also make for effective insulation for homes.
The tiny house movement shows the popularity of a choice some people are making to downsize their living spaces. Instead of living in an expansive home filled with many unneeded and unnecessary belongings, some people choose a home that might be as small as 100 square feet. These homes can be virtually any shape and style, but they all incorporate a streamlined use of the space inside. Living in a tiny home usually means that the homeowner has a less-negative impact on the environment.
Green homes usually utilize renewable sources of energy to run and maintain them. Examples of renewable energy include solar, wind, water, and geothermal energy. Solar panels on a house will help heat the home, provide electricity, and heat water. A green home built on at least an acre of land can use wind power: Wind turbines can be effective for producing electricity. A home built near a source of flowing water could use hydropower to run the structure. A geothermal system located in the yard outside of a green home can utilize the stable temperature of the Earth to maintain the interior temperature of the house throughout the year, keeping the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Visit the following resources to learn more about green home construction and lifestyles:
- Green Building Materials
- Salvage and Reuse (PDF)
- Building Your Green Home
- Building Green: Living Better (PDF)
- Definition of Green Building
- Green Strategies for Your Home
- Green Building Guidelines (PDF)
- Recycled Construction Materials
- Consumer Alert: Going Green
- Can You Really Build a House With Straw?
- Straw Bale Construction
- The World’s Most Unique Recycled Structures
- Tiny Houses Fact Sheet (PDF)
- Tips: Renewable Energy
- A Green Home Begins With Energy Star Blue
- Renewable Energy
- Energy-Efficiency and Sustainability (PDF)
- Passive Solar House Design
- Automating Energy Management in Green Homes (PDF)
- Students Harness Wind Energy
- Wind Power
- Green Homes (PDF)
- Geothermal Energy: Another Way to Soak up the Sun in the PNW