A small home can pack a super-sized punch when it comes to reducing a house's environmental footprint. Energy-efficient, sustainable homes tend to be smaller homes, which inherently have less square footage inside and less acreage outside. The inside costs less to heat, cool and light, leading to less energy consumption, and a minimal-sized lawn-if any-needs minimal maintenance, reducing emissions and contributing to a much healthier environment. But there's more to a “green home” than meets the eye.
A green home does not need to look as if it was built for the year 2100. In fact, many green homes look, from the outside, like other homes going up in new subdivisions. But on the inside and some unseen places on the outside, these abodes are unusual. Features such as rainwater capturing systems, a roof designed for solar installation, carpeting made of recycled materials, and wind power are just a few ways that a house is built with the environment in mind.
The greenest of the green are residential homes built to be certified to the highest standard of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Conforming to the standards provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Building America Program, LEED has long been used for commercial and government buildings, but home certification is a relatively new phenomenon. One way that a green home is defined is its rating as being at least 40 percent more energy efficient than standard-code homes.
For the pure sake of building cost, smaller homes are the most likely to be built as “green” homes. Many of the systems that are constructed as eco-friendly are not cheap, and the fewer solar panels and the smaller self-sustaining heating and cooling systems equate to a smaller build-out budget. The elements that make a home a green home have dropped in cost over the past several years, but constructing a basic LEED-certified house still runs about $3,500 more than it would cost to build a regular house. The highest-level LEED-certified home costs about $29,000 more. The smaller the home, the less expensive the process. The same concept applies to existing-home renovations or “greening up” an older home.
One example of a company that successfully merges the concepts of “green” and “small” is seen with Tumbleweed Tiny House Company founded by Jay Shafer. Shafer started building small homes out of his concern about the impact a larger house has on the environment. More than 10 years later, these “tiny” portable homes not only minimize square footage, but the green homes are fully insulated with double-pane windows and an adequate heater.
More and more homebuilders are greening the American Dream. It is suggested to verify a builder's credentials by asking for their ANSI-approved ICC-700-2008 National Green Building Standard certification (see http://www.nahbgreen.org for more information). Check out these builders online:
Atlas Home Contractors, atlashomecontractorsinc.com BPC Green Builders, bpcgreenbuilders.com Castalia Homes, castaliahomes.com Dominion Homes, dominionhomes.com Grady O Grady, gradyogrady.com Integrity Builders, homesbyintegrity.com Jurenka Custom Homes, jurenka.com Ondra Home Building, ondrahomebuilding.com RC Green Builders, rcgreenbuildersaz.com Summit Custom Homes, summitcustomhomeskc.com Zero Energy, zeroenergyllc.com
Andrzej Kozlowski has written numerous articles on topics ranging from home downsizing to simple living. He is also editor and co-author of the book, “Living Smart: The Money Saving, Eco-Friendly Guide to Downsizing Your Home and Belongings.”