Most people I talk to don’t really know what “green home” is unless they are specifically interested in the “green” things. According to Wikipedia, Green homes focus on the efficient use of “energy, water, and building materials.” For some people, “environmentally sustainable” may sound too scientific or technical. Green homes are also often called, “high performance,” “energy efficient,” or “eco-friendly” homes. In a nutshell, green homes have lower utility bills, improve health and comfort for the inhabitants both humans and animals, and minimize the impact on the environment.
A home that has installed the technology that automates some functionality of the house such as temperature control, lighting control, security and audio systems may be a “high-performance” home and somewhat green but may not be completely green. Having solar panels that generates some or all of the energy the house consumes is certainly considered green in general but doesn’t necessarily mean the house is high-performance or energy efficient. This is because if the house has drafty windows, old HVAC system, and/or old plumbing fixtures, it wouldn’t be as energy efficient or eco friendly.
Other than the commonly recognized elements of green homes such as the solar panels, programmable thermostats and LED lights, for a house to be energy efficient, it should have good “envelopes” with good windows and insulation. It should also have energy efficient appliances and water-conserving plumbing fixtures. And energy efficiency alone wouldn’t make a home truly green.
As health is another critical element of green, using non-toxic building materials and finishes is important to be a green home. Recycled or renewable materials, non-or-low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint and sealants are becoming more available these days.
Using native plants in landscape is also critical because they require less fertilizers and watering. Especially in California where the prolonged drought has made water a precious commodity. Many municipalities in the dry states are offering rebates for transforming your front lawn into a drought tolerant landscape similar to the solar panel installation.
And something that most people wouldn’t think about is the location. Even if you build a fabulously efficient and clean home, would it make it really green if you have to drive to go get some milk at the store? Living in a neighborhood where you have easy access to public transportation, bike path, or you can get to places you need to get to without driving is called, “location efficiency,” which can be a part of a green home.
There are certifications that green home can have such as National Green Building Standard (NGBS) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) by U.S. Green Building Council. Yet at least in my city of Los Angeles, it’s really hard to find any homes on the market with such certification. Since these programs can be cumbersome with a pretty stringent standards, many green homes go un-identified as such. But my hope is (with some evidence) this will change as there are more people who care about the home environment they live for themselves and their family. It is also my hope and desire to contribute to making more green homes.