Build it green
Thousands of new green buildings have come online since the first green-built house was constructed in Austin, Texas in the early 1990s. What are the most important considerations to building the greenest house or condo that you can? Here are some ideas to organize your exploration of green building.
Green buildings are designed to:
1. protect occupant health
2. reduce operation and maintenance costs
3. use energy, water, and resources efficiently; and
4. reduce the overall impact to the environment
Many green buildings follow one of these established and respected design and construction standards:
- LEED for Homes
- Enterprise Green Communities
- National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Green Building Program
- Passive solar design
- Net-zero energy
- Passive House
- Living Building Challenge
How efficient is the location of your green-built home? Are you building on a sustainably sized lot (closer to a ¼-acre than 5-acres)? Does your city have sidewalks? Does it have commercial districts woven into each neighborhood?
An efficient location can be measured in how much it expands your options. Is the store, work and school within easy walking and biking distance? Vibrant cities are more convenient. They reduce your need to drive a car, and make transit effective in connecting you. An efficiently located home can shrink your carbon footprint just as well as size or insulation.
How ‘green’ is that wood flooring or the cerulean-blue paint you have your eye on? It depends on a range of considerations like how were the raw materials mined and processed, manufactured and whether it can be recycled. Thankfully, third-party certifiers are getting better at confirming the ‘green’ claims companies are making. In fact, they’re far more reliable than company marketing and industry-funded groups in assessing the entire lifecycle of a product.
Building walls and structural materials are another area to consider the source of materials. The Kious family built their beautiful retirement cottage in Cleveland Heights out of strawbale, for example. Houses made of earthen and adobe materials are being built in cold as well as desert climates.
An emerging field of research on building materials is looking to ‘train’ plant-like materials to grow into building blocks. Others are designing the shape of walls made from organically grown materials to function more like a natural habitat.
With the financial crisis of 2007–2010, the small house movement has attracted more attention as it offers housing that is more affordable in acquisition and maintenance and in living more sustainably. Read more.
After you find the most convenient location to live and find the smallest possible dwelling that meets your needs, the next step is to make your home operate as efficiently as possible. Read more.
Why build green?
Green buildings recently surpassed 1 billion square feet in America. They’re owners are finding benefits that go beyond energy reductions to:
- Higher resale value (because they meet a rigorous building standard)
- Lower cost of ownership
- Greater comfort during very hot and cold days
- Green, locally sourced materials are better for the local economy, environment and your health
Green Building in Northeast Ohio
Northeast Ohio has 127 LEED Certified commercial projects—123 of them publicly recognized on this list with more than 250 additional projects registered and in the process of certification. Updated 10/22/2012.
A survey of National Association of Home Builders members showed that more than two-thirds are incorporating at least some green features into the homes they build–and that as the home building industry begins to revive, it will be significantly greener
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