Homebuilders and homebuyers across the country are increasingly interested in green building. But what exactly makes a home green?
Green building means improving the way that homes and homebuilding sites use energy, water, and materials to reduce impacts on human health and the environment. Building a green home means making environmentally-preferable and sustainable decisions throughout the building process-decisions that will minimize the environmental impact of the home while it is being built and over the many years it will be lived in.
What should homebuyers look for first in a green home?
Energy efficiency is the place to start. That's because the energy used in homes often comes from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and risks of global climate change. So, the less energy used, the less air pollution generated. And the easy way to make sure a new home is energy efficient is to look for the blue ENERGY STAR mark, the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency.
ENERGY STAR certified homes are independently verified to meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes save money on utility bills, provide a more comfortable living environment with better indoor air quality, and help protect the environment.
Typical features to look for in ENERGY STAR certified homes include:
- Efficient Walls and Windows, the levels of wall, floor and attic insulation properly installed designed to block drafts, and high-performance windows;
- Efficient Air Ducts, so rooms get enough air to have consistent, comfortable temperatures throughout the house;
- Efficient Equipment for heating, and cooling the house, helping you save money while staying comfortable;
- Efficient Lighting and Appliances, including ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers, refrigerators, light bulbs and clothes washers.
These energy efficiency improvements not only save money, they provide a house that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. By providing comfortable homes efficiently, homeowners are operating their homes using less power, and less resources, a green choice that continues to give back after the construction has been completed.
What comes after energy efficiency?
Homebuyers can also look for the Indoor airPLUS label — a specification developed by EPA to address the indoor environment component of green building. Homes that achieve this level of excellence are first certified as ENERGY STAR, and then also incorporate more than 60 additional home design and construction features to control moisture, chemical exposure, radon, pests, ventilation, and filtration. Together, these features help protect certified homes and their residents from mold, chemicals, combustion gases, and other airborne pollutants.
EPA's WaterSense® program helps homebuyers purchase high efficiency products that save water without sacrificing performance or quality. The WaterSense® label makes it easy for homebuyers to find and purchase water efficient products and appliances that are backed by third party, independent testing and certification. Products with the WaterSense® label perform as well if not better than their traditional counterparts and are 20 percent more water efficient on average that other products.
Completing the green home picture
Through the ENERGY STAR Certified Homes, Indoor airPLUS, and WaterSense® programs, homebuyers can address two critical green home elements. Then, look to the wide variety of available green home programs to complete the picture with water-efficient products, renewable energy technologies, waste reduction, recycling, and sustainable land development practices.