The residential (mostly) green movement

| by Joe Holliday
The residential (mostly) green movement

From Humble Beginnings to Five Billion ENERGY® STAR Appliances

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) definition of “green building” is:

“…the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle… This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. Green building is also known as a sustainable or high performance building.”

That definition encompasses quite a bit, as does the history of the residential (mostly) green movement.

Some practices, such as using local and renewable materials or passive solar design, date back as far as the Anasazi or Ancient Pueblo people near the end of the 13th century. The Anasazi, located in the Southwest United States, engineered entire villages sustained by solar heat during the winter months.

According to, although the history of green building dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when Henri Becquerel documented the solar energy’s transformation into electrical energy—or photovoltaic power—the contemporary green-building movement stepped up its game in the last four decades.


The birth of the environmental movement with the first "Earth Day”—April 22, 1970.

Increases in oil prices spurred significant research and activity to improve energy efficiency and find renewable energy sources. These factors led to the earliest experiments with contemporary green building.


Although not specific to only the residential market, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) formed the Committee on the Environment (COTE), which works to advance “design practices that integrate built and natural systems and enhance both the design quality and environmental performance of the built environment.”


Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried and Mike Italiano established the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Their mission: to promote sustainability in the building and construction industry.

The “Greening of the White House” Initiative—which also took into account the 600,000 square-foot Old Executive Office Building—was launched by the Clinton administration. The initiative focused on seven categories: building envelope; lighting; heating, ventilation and HVAC; plug loads; waste; vehicles; and landscaping. According to a white paper from Building Design+Construction, within three years the approximately 200-year-old residence had reduced its annual energy and water costs by $300,000 and its carbon emissions by 845 tons annually.


The DOE partners with the EPA and established the first ENERGY STAR® specifications for residential appliances. (Note: The ENERGY STAR® Program was introduced in 1992, but only applied to office products, starting with personal computers and monitors).

The DOE adds lighting, windows, doors and skylights to the program. In addition, ENERGY STAR® requirements are incorporated for consumer electronics.


The ENERGY STAR® TV PSA campaign runs more than 25,000 times reaching an audience of more than one billion viewers.


More than two billion ENERGY STAR®-qualified products were purchased in only six years.  The EPA and Sears joined forces to announce that American families across the country saved $12 billion on utility bills and reduced the total electricity demand by 4 percent in 2006.


The USGBC publically introduces the LEED for Homes program. LEED for Homes is a national voluntary certification system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes that use less energy and water and fewer natural resources; create less waste; and are healthier and more comfortable for the occupants.


More than 10,000 homes across the U.S. have earned LEED certification through the LEED for Homes program, according to the USGBC.


Over the past 20 years, Americans have purchased more than five billion ENERGY STAR® products.

In just over a year, another 10,000 homes were LEED certified, bringing the total to more than 20,000 in five years.

In the last decade, a number of additional residentially focused energy-efficient programs have risen to prominence, including the HERS Index, REGREEN and many state-based initiatives. And, according to, “…it’s not surprising to learn that the green building market is booming and the number of green homes are expected to grow between 29 to 38 percent by 2016, equating to $87 to $114 billion.”

So, the question is—are you ready for the next step?

Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED, Energy Star, Going Green

Companies: Rinnai

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