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Ask the Expert: 5 Benefits of living in a green home

 
Nov. 14, 2011 | by Teena Hammond

There are numerous benefits to living in a green home. To share some of the key points, ProudGreenHome posed the question to its experts, or ACEs, to talk about some of the advantages to living in an energy-efficient and green home.

ProudGreenHome: What are the benefits of living in a green home?

Scott Flynn, principal with Flynner Building Co.

There are five main benefits to living in a green home, everything from a better return on investment to having a positive environmental impact:

  1. A healthier home environment through improved indoor air quality.
  2. A more comfortable home due to fewer temperature variations.
  3. A return on investment through energy savings and lower maintenance costs.
  4. A positive environmental impact.
  5. A reduction in the use of natural resources.

Farah Ahmad, fifth-year architecture student at New York City College

 

There are many benefits associated with living in a green home! While I could break them into five, I find that they can be separated into three main topics:

  1. Economic Benefits: Durable materials last a long time — not only are they sustainable, but they save the cost of replacement and regular maintenance. Check out your local government regulations; some states offer incentives, such as tax rebates, for living in a green home. Green homes provide long-term savings. Green homes utilize less energy, resulting in cheaper utility bills. Coupled with this benefit is the fact that your home value will be much higher! Consumers are attracted to lower utility and maintenance costs.
  2. Environmental Impacts: The natural environment is positively impacted. Using renewable and clean energy sources lessens our reliance on fossil fuels and other depleting sources. The construction process of a traditional home alone emits much construction waste. Recyclability of materials therefore lessens negative emission on environment.
  3. Health: Green homes take advantage of non-toxic materials. During construction, less toxic waste is emitted into the air. Over 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are derived from fossil fuel combustion! Such combustion produces other air pollutants as well. There are also purer ventilation systems in green homes — the air is cleaner. Instead of recycling stale indoor air, fresh outdoor air is continuously brought into the home, promoting a healthier indoor environment.

Melissa Rappaport Schifman, principal at Resonance Companies

The beautiful thing about the word "green" is that it captures two of the most important things that most people care about: their health, and their money. And there is a wonderful third reason to go green: The community benefits in the long run, because it is better for the planet.

Since we recently got our home LEED Gold Certified (I wrote about that whole process in my blog), I feel I have a good handle on the benefits of living in a green home. Here are our top five:

  1. Lower energy bills. Green means better insulation, tight ductwork, sealed doors and windows, efficient heating and cooling, efficient lighting and appliances. All of those together pay us back over time with lower electric and gas bills.
  2. Lower water bills. Green means low flow faucets and showerheads, dual flush toilets, efficient irrigation systems, and managing the storm water on site — all of which lead to lower water bills.
  3. Healthy indoor air quality. Green means paints, adhesives, sealants and finishes are low VOC so they don't stink and cause respiratory illness. It means fresh air is brought into the house, air filters are working, so we breathe clean air. It also means mold prevention, non-toxic pest control and non-toxic household cleaners. All of these lead to better indoor air quality and a healthier home — which also saves money.
  4. More durable. Green means quality building that lasts longer than a comparable product. Over time, we save money in maintenance and replacement costs.
  5. Increased the value of the home. While we haven't yet tested this because our home is not for sale, studies have shown that a building's value increases by 3-5 percent when it is green. This can make a big difference in today's market.

Your home is typically your biggest asset, so it makes sense to invest in it wisely. Green investments, in my opinion, are some of the best you can make.

Luis Imery, principal of the Imery Group

For this post I will briefly mention the benefits of living in a green home, but will focus in particular in the one that I have found matters the most. Unfortunately we are still a long way from making a sale just based on of the environmental benefits of a green home, many appreciate our commitment for sustainability, but when it comes to the financial aspects, cost is what matters the most.

 So, what are the benefits of green home? We can just look at your typical definition here:

 “Is a home that has been designed in a system approached, delivering a building that is healthier, more comfortable, durable, and out performs homes built to meet code by at least 15 percent.” In addition, these homes are:

  • Third-party verified
  • Voluntary programs
  • Requires builder to undergo training and to partner with the program 
  • At least two inspections done through construction process, including an air leakage test
  • HERS Index lower than 85

     

    I like using this slide, which I borrow from Energy Star to illustrate the added benefits of a green house, or in this case an Energy Star home:

    Now, going back where it matters the most, which is in people’s pockets. This table below shows how you can actually save a good deal of money just by doing nothing, and buying a green home:

    This comparison was done by Southface, which is one of the organizations that developed the EarthCraft green building program. I have done my own comparisons, and you can look at the chart in a previous blog on ProudGreenHome.

    In any case, in the previous illustration you can see that the home owner pockets roughly $500 a year which equates to about $14,500 in present value, even if the home purchase price is $2,000 more than a less energy efficient home.

    For more information, see our Building a Green Home research center.


    Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED, Indoor Air Quality, Sustainable Communities, Water Saving Devices


    Teena Hammond / Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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