What is a "Green" Home?

Does Green mean LEED? A certain color? Read on to find out.

Man installing solar panels on the roof of a Green Home.

Big Stock Photo

Is a home green because you paint it that color? Or because of the way it helps or respects the environment? Nowadays, a “green” home more often than not refers to a building that is ecologically friendly. It makes a positive contribution to the environment; or at least has only a minimal negative impact. There is no single standard about what makes a home green. However, as a general principle, it is easier for a home to be truly “green” if it is designed that way when it is built.

Helping the Planet and Generating Greenbacks

Preservation of the planet is already a key reason to go green. But there is more to going green than pure humanitarian reasons. In fact, there are excellent financial factors driving the “green home” trend. Many green construction methods can save construction companies money while they build, and save home purchasers money when they move in. The advantages for contractors include recycling certain materials and minimizing construction waste. Building a home with resources (materials and labor) that are available locally keeps transport pollution to a minimum too. Green construction solutions or home outfitting can save thousands of gallons of water a year and reduce power and gas bills by as much as 30%.

Designing in the Greenness

The list of opportunities to go green and save money is extensive. Construction management software can help you keep track of major items like:

  • Locating a home within easy range of public transport to help keep down emissions from private vehicles.
  • Insulating the home to keep it warmer in winter and cooler in summer. This helps reduce heating and air conditioning costs for homeowners. Placing shade trees in strategic positions is a further natural solution for living better at lower costs.
  • Using ecologically friendly materials that avoid harmful chemicals. Construction safety is enhanced for workers and the quality of indoor air increases for those who then live in the home.
  • Energy efficiency through the provision of household appliances such as fridges with low power consumption, but also through better placement of windows to allow more natural light into the home.
  • Water efficiency also with sanitary installations and appliances such as washing machines that use less water, and through better land irrigation and rainwater collection.
  • Energy production through renewable energy resources, such as solar panels to heat water and generate electricity. Homeowners producing their own power can sell surplus electricity to power companies in certain cases. The home becomes a profit center instead of a cost center!

Thanks to these different advantages, green homes can then also command higher purchase and resale prices.

Who Says a Home is Green?

Recognized organizations exist to help guide building projects and provide certification that homes are environmentally friendly. As a contractor, your options include:

  • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, now also being applied internationally.
  • Model Green Home Building Guidelines from the National Association of Home Builders.
  • Energy Star ratings for appliances, but also for construction components such as windows. Originally American, the Energy Star system has also been adopted now also adopted by Europe as well as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Taiwan.
  • Air Plus ratings for the quality of indoor air. Ratings are defined by the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) for moisture control and ventilation, and reduction of mold and exposure to chemicals, combustion gases, and other pollutants.
  • WaterSense ratings (also from the EPA) help designers to make high water efficiency products part of the project, as well as guiding the choice of homebuyers.