Shades Of Green – What Makes a Green Home?

January 10, 2015
Posted by in Design Principles & Certifications, Energy Efficiency, Microgeneration | Tagged , , , , , , , |

There is a lot of debate about what qualifies as a green home. While some would say if a house has a wind turbine or a few solar panels to supplement the energy used with natural renewable energy then it is a green home others might argue that even lacking any renewable energy sources a home could be considered green if it was energy efficient in other ways and constructed of sustainable building materials. The truth is that “Green Home” is an objective as opposed to an object so both of those could be or neither could be depending on the other ideals used in planning and upkeep.

Manzanita-P2_Front Elevation

The basic checklist for a green home could include a variety of factors. Some considerations follow, but it is not and never will be an all-encompassing list. It is more than just the home that counts; it is also how the occupants choose to live in it and the ideals they pursue in making decisions in how they conduct themselves in practice in day to day living. While recycling some bottles and cans alone does not make a person an environmental friend, a person that uses solar power and does not recycle would not be “greener”.

Energy Efficiency

For a person pursuing the ideal of a green home, there are many areas to look at. The most basic would be overall energy efficiency. This includes both the big things and the small things. Heating and cooling systems are the first thoughts that come to mind. Use of Heat Pumps or at least modern efficient heating systems and cooling systems is naturally a large consideration. Included in the overall topic of energy efficiency though one must include appliances that are Energy Star Rated, high efficiency light bulbs, and even details like programmable thermostats. No one item will make a home environmentally sound as much as a continual thoughtful approach to all things that use energy in the home.

Energy Obtained from Renewable Resources

Someday the majority of the energy used in homes will be from renewable resources. This is a certainty because the non- renewable ones will be exhausted at some point. Until that point is reached however there are different approaches that work in attaining this goal. Some homes may include things like solar water heaters or PV panels and wind turbines to generate the energy directly for their home. Others may elect to purchase only energy that is obtained from renewable resources from their suppliers. While the Photo Voltaic Panel display looks impressive to supplement their power from the grid, the home that purchases only energy generated from renewable resources may be considered “greener”, even lacking their own personal solar panels.

Building Construction and Design

The use of sustainable building materials in the construction of homes cannot be overstated in importance to the environment. The use of artificial plastics and fiberglass as well as toxic heavy metals (lead paint for example) has to be reduced and eliminated for a sustainable future. Only with thoughtful design can there be adequate insulation for true energy efficiency. The insulating materials must come from sustainable non-toxic (don’t forget the asbestos nightmare that still haunt us) materials. Windows that allow in the natural light to allow us to be part of the world must not compromise the overall energy efficiency of the design so use of modern windows with multiple panes of glass, energy saving spacers, and thermal glazing are a must. Efficient windows can save 40% more energy than older styles. Floors and countertops can be made from materials that are both sustainable and produce a healthier inside environment to live.

Location and Landscaping

For truly eco-friendly buildings, where you place them is as important as what they are made of and how they are built. Keeping homes in areas that do not infringe on environmentally sensitive wetlands, and that do not cause rerouting of natural water supplies is a consideration. Placement where there is access to public transportation is desirable, as well as “fill in” placement over previous commercial lots that are no longer used to reduce the impact on other still natural areas. The yards and grounds should provide for not only the home and its occupants but also for the continued growth of native plants and as an environment suitable for plants and native birds and small animals.

The Green Home Ideal

Whether purchasing an existing home, or building a new one, the only way to have a green home is to make consideration of the environment a priority in both planning and in actual usage. The practice of basic conservation by the occupants in daily living combines with the carefully planned execution of sustainable building techniques and designs to make the objective of a green home into a reality.


Thanks to our guest blogger, Louise Yeoman, for this post.