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What Makes a Home Green?

With all the talk of sustainability and environmental concerns, it's easy to think of these vague ideas as little more than a pie-in-the-sky dream. The nitty-gritty of green homes is often lost on those outside the industry, largely because the concepts are unique to each location and build. We'll look at just some of the techniques used around sustainable new construction, and what that means for the people who build them.


There is no clear-cut definition for green homes other than a general focus on conserving energy. If you're building a project and want to incorporate green technology, the truth is that you have quite a bit of leeway based on personal preference and site-specific conditions.


Location makes a difference when it comes to carbon footprint. Ideally a green home should be nearby public transportation and local necessities to reduce travel emissions. The orientation of the home on the lot also matters for energy consumption reasons. A home built with solar panels will need to face a certain direction to absorb as much energy as possible. If you're relying on traditional HVAC, you might avoid a west-facing home to avoid sun exposure.

Location should also dictate the materials that you use. Ideally, your home should be taking advantage of the resources in your area. Opt for locally produced materials. This not only streamlines the build (because there are fewer chances of delay), it also cuts down on energy expended in transportation.

Energy and Water Consumption

ENERGY STAR labels on appliances are just one thing to look for when you're deciding which green technology to utilize in a home. Green homes give the grid a break by making their own energy whenever possible. This might mean building a geothermal HVAC system that draws air from the Earth's core. Green homes might also build water irrigation systems using rain runoff of gray water from sinks and showers to maintain gardens or even recycle into drinking water.

Sustainable Materials

From glass to plastic to fabric, builders are rethinking what they use in homes today. Even raw sewage can be repurposed into sustainable building material. The techniques and resources for producing these sustainable materials are becoming more popular, which increases their availability.

Top It Off

The roof of a home can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot day. All that heat ends up getting either transferred into the home or reflected back out into the environment. In a city filled with smog, that heat just gets trapped under the carbon layer. Cool roofs bring down the temperatures considerably (and can even be affixed to the home using a variety of eco-friendly methods).

Customizing Your Home

How a green new home come together will ultimately depend on the home itself, the builders you choose, and your preferences. One thing to remember is that each construction company will have their own views on the matter. Some will be happy to make suggestions for the best green home elements because they specialize in the matter. Others might be more used to traditional building techniques, and only discuss the topic if you bring it up.

Should you want to build a green home, you should have an idea of what this concept means to you so you can explain it as you progress with the project. This gives you the best chance of finding builders who are happy to work within your parameters.

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