It's going to take more education to "fix the bad ones"
It’s great to see so many homeowners and builders adopting green and sustainable building strategies in the homes they build or remodel. These newer houses, with super tight envelopes and off-the-charts HERS ratings, should go a long way toward helping to wean the U.S. from fossil fuels.
However, even more important than building ultra-sustainable and highly-efficient homes is the mission to fix all of the bad houses that were built during the past 20 to 40 years.
As award-winning builder Michael Chandler of Chandler Design-Build told me soon after I became the Editor of ProudGreenHome, “We’ve got to get out there and fix the bad houses and stop building more bad houses.”
He’s right. And I should know. I own one of ‘em. My split level ranch, which we purchased in 2001 after falling in love with the views of Boston Harbor, was built in 1972. From what I understand, builders paid little attention to the environment during that time frame.
Slowly, we’re doing our part to turn this energy hog of a home into a more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly living space. We’ve replaced our wind tunnel of a garage door with an air-tight one, and we do our best to seal up cracks and other voids where cold air can leak in. We’ve replaced most of our appliances with Energy Star models, although we’ve still got a ways to go.
Next month, our drafty, 20-year-old single-pane casement windows will be replaced with high-efficiency, Low-E advanced argon gas windows from Pella. I can’t wait to stand near those windows during that first nasty New England Nor-easter this winter and NOT feel a strong draft from the 40 mile-per-hour gusts outside. My cooling bill will be lower next summer, although in New England it’s the heating side of things that really matter.
In order to fix the hundreds of thousands of “bad homes,” much more education is needed. Although I have recycled for years and am well aware of my carbon footprint, I did not seriously consider the green home mission until I became involved with the launch ProudGreenHome. Otherwise, I was fairly naive to the green options out there, as are many homeowners. Often, homeowners want to do the right thing, but don’t know where to start.
The message needs to spread to the contractor and building trades as well. Last fall, before my ProudGreenHome assignment began, I was faced with replacing my leaky, 30-year-old roof. I asked several builders about green roofing options, and received blank stares – not green solutions. With a prolonged period of rain in the forecast and the elaborate “water containment system” of tarps in my attic not cutting it anymore, I opted for a quick fix replaced my roof with traditional shingles, failing to take advantage of the potential envelope improvements while my roof was exposed. I’ll chalk that one up to inexperience, and vow to never let it happen again.
In the meantime, the editorial team at ProudGreenHome will work to educate the masses about green homes, so the lack of information I encountered from roofing contractors becomes a rarity and not the norm.