In the last decade numerous programs have been rolled out to make green home ownership a reality instead of a pipe dream. The debate of over need and viability has been finished for years and real steps have been taken to transition from concepts and ideals to plans and implementation.
Now instead of “artist’s concept” and black and white line drawings of solar powered homes there are albums and collections of the actual homes being built and lived in, and in many places seeing homes with the latest green technologies is as simple as a drive around town.
While the dream of these beautiful sustainable homes is now a reality, and their place in modern architecture has solid foundation as the technology has been merged with aesthetics and style, there place as the new standard of living is still slow in coming. It can be well argued that all deserve to live in a home that uses less energy, or even one that is energy self-sufficient but attaining that goal is still many years away.
One step in the right direction is the acknowledgement that in most place 50% or more of people live in multi-family homes or buildings. In most cities that number exceeds 80%. Due to space restrictions and the design of cities, the existence of apartment buildings in the central urban areas, and multi tenancy buildings in the closer suburbs is the standard. This fact presents both challenges and opportunities in the conversion to energy efficient green housing.
One of the challenges in retrofitting a single family home to a modern green design is that it needs to be done either in small steps or may require periods of vacancy for the work to be done. Major renovation projects can sometimes be more costly then new construction, but preservation of heritage and history is a viable consideration in many neighborhoods. Changing heating and cooling systems, the addition of insulation and energy efficient windows, and the addition of solar panels, wind turbines, or geothermal heat pumps are major undertakings.
In a multi-family dwelling, these challenges are made greater simply by the number of effected people. Another issue is that many programs designed to offset the cost of these type of improvements are designed for homeowners as opposed to landlords or their renters. When renters and multi tenancy buildings make up the majority of the neighborhood, it is clear providing all equal access to the benefits of living in a green home is difficult.
One innovative program that is available in the UK is included as part of a government initiative of the Green Deal. Perhaps the most innovative part of the Green Deal was the fact it included tenants and property owners in a cooperative manner to make the conversion to green homes far more readily available to many people. It recognized that a home to many people is in actuality a flat that makes up a larger building.
By allowing the individual tenants to work in cooperation with the landlords, each flat can make improvements such as insulation, heating, draught-proofing, window replacements, and even renewable energy installations like solar panels individually with tenants paying for the improvements as part of the utility bill capped at what the old bill was before the improvements.
This type of program makes the possibility of living in a green home available to the many that do not have the beautiful luxury homes, but still want to enjoy the many benefits. It also means that Green Homes can now be wherever one lives and calls home and is not a benefit only for the lucky few.