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The Green Home


What is a Green Home? 

A Green Home is a home that uses a sustainable design concept to reduce energy waste; to reduce use of water, emissions, liquid effluents and solid wastes that can pollute air, land and ground and surface water, including rivers, lakes and ocean; to use building materials and furniture with little environmental impact when manufactured and that are biodegradable when disposed.
A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources, creates less waste and is healthier for the people living inside compared to a standard home. It is as simple as that!
Why built Green Homes? 
The reason for building greener homes is really quite important!  We need to live more lightly on the earth because the degradation of our environment is compromising not only our survival, but the survival of most other living beings on the planet. We can no longer ignore the impact we, as persons, have on the earth's ecosystems. The way we live, the choices we make in providing for our needs, will have an enormous influence on the quality of life of our descendants and future generations that will follow us. At the same time, you can be saving in energy, water and waste bills and very important, living in a better environment.
Green homes consistently use a third less energy than traditional construction, making energy efficiency the cornerstone for reducing environmental impact. If all buildings met today's leading green standards in the U.S.A., energy use and greenhouse gas emissions would drop nearly 15%. Electricity demand would drop even more, cutting air pollution from power plants using fossil fuels and reducing nuclear waste from nuclear plants, and helping offset utility bill hikes for all consumers.
Energy efficiency is also your ticket to lower construction costs with reduced environmental impact. When you take advantage of the sun and wind and construct a high-performance house or building envelope, you can right-size HVAC systems and save money and materials upfront. Smaller mechanical systems and energy saving features save space and allow for a more compact building footprint with reduced site impacts, such as minimized storm water runoff and limited urban 'heat island' effect.
It is never too late to have a Greener Home!
Green Home is a concept more suitable for new construction. However, rehabs and existing homes can benefit from this concept if changes and improvements in construction can adapt to the various aspects involved in a Green Home (including efficient appliances, illumination, insulation, etc) and contribute therefore, to have a better world all.
A home can be built green since the beginning, or it can be transformed green later (U.S. Building Green Council-ReGreen Residential  Remodeling Guidelines, ASI & USBGC 2008). Transforming the home greener can take place all at once, or it can be a gradual process. It only requires a different attitude: a new way of thinking and a new way of living. It actually doesn’t matter whether you rent or own, live in an apartment or single-family home, or live in center city, the suburbs or the country side. Follow this link to learn about the HUD Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor.
In this way, you will bring down your water, waste and energyl bills, reducing at the same time the amount of CO2 emissions going into the atmosphere which is causing the Greenhouse effect and undesirable climate change. Every time we send too much waste to the landfills, leave lights and electrical equipment on unnecessarily or use too much water, we are contributing to increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere and environment degradation.

Characteristics of a Green Home

How we build and use our homes, both in design and choice of materials, equipment and appliances, is one of the most significant ways that we can directly affect our future. Much of the concerns are centered in the efficient use of energy as pointed out previously. How much energy is embodied in the manufacture of building materials, in their transportation and assembling? Then once the house is built, how much energy does it consume to keep its inhabitants comfortable? Consumption of energy has a direct influence on environmental quality, because of the inherent pollution through greenhouse gases and other emissions that can cause a variety of problems that could affect air, soils, global temperature, rainfall, draughts and desertification, compromising industry, agriculture, food production and water supply. Besides this, there is the loss of natural beauty, ecosystems and basic resources associated with the extraction of fossil fuels and production of building materials.

There are some very simple ways to design houses that require very little energy to keep them comfortable. The following outline that will help you to characterize the ideal Green Home is mainly based on the information presented by U.S. Green Building Council.

·   Location: New green homes and neighborhoods must not be built on environmentally sensitive sites like prime farmland, wetlands and endangered species habitats. The greenest development sites are “in-fill” properties like former parking lots, rail yards, shopping malls and factories. Look for compact development where the average housing density is at least six units per acre. Your home should also be within easy walking distance of public transportation like bus lines, train, and subway systems so you can leave your car at homeA green home should also be within walking distance of parks, schools, and stores. See how many errands you can carry out
on a bicycle.That’s healthier for you, your wallet, and the environment. Follow the link for detailed information
about Green Home Community Criteria (2006 edition) of Green Communities TM

·  Size: No matter how many green building elements go into your home, a 5,000-square-foot green home still consumes many more natural resources than a 2,000-square-foot green home. The larger home will also require more heating, air conditioning and lighting. If you really want a sustainable home, choose a smaller size.

· Building Design: The home should be oriented on its site to bring abundant natural daylight into the interior to reduce lighting requirements and to take advantage of any prevailing breezes. Windows, clerestories, skylights, light monitors, light shelves and other strategies should be used to bring daylight to the interior of the house. The exterior should have shading devices (sunshades, canopies, green screens and best of all: trees), particularly on the southern and western facades and over windows and doors, to block hot summer sun. Dual-glaze windows reduce heat gain in summer and heat loss during cold winter months. The roof should be a light-colored, heat-reflecting Energy Star® roof, or a green (landscaped) roof, to reduce heat absorption.
· Green Building Materials: A green home will have been constructed or renovated with healthy, non-toxic building materials and furnishings, like low- and zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and sealants and non-toxic materials like strawboard for the sub-flooring. Wood-based features should come from rapidly renewable sources like bamboo, but if tropical hardwoods are used, they must be certified as a renewable source (such as the Forest Stewardship Council). A green home uses salvaged materials like kitchen and bathroom tiles and materials with significant recycled content. Recycled crushed concrete and masonry and bought locally manufactured materials should be used when possible to reduce the carbon emissions caused during transportation . Wood and other building materials should be eco-friendly and certified.

·   Insulation: Non-toxic insulation, derived from materials like soybean or cotton, with a high R (heat resistance) factor in a home’s walls and roof will help prevent heat gain from outside in the summer and heat leakage in the winter. Hot water pipes should be insulated to reduce thermal losses.

 · Windows and Doors: Windows and exterior doors should have Energy Star® ratings, and they should seal their openings tightly to avoid heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter.

· Energy Efficiency: The green home has energy-efficient lighting, heating, cooling and water-heating systems. Appliances should have Energy Star® ratings.
Energy audits conducted by professional engineers are very useful to reduce and optimize energy comsumption in existing homes, offices, buildings and industries.

The Green Home should be provided with energy-efficient illumination, such as high efficient long lasting (up to 20 years)
LED (light emitting diode) lamps that consume one third of the energy of commonly used energy saving CFL (compact fluorescent lights) but without the drawback of their Mercury (Hg) content that results in environmental contamination when disposed in landfills after use. New technologies such as OLED (Organic light emitting diode); and Planilum lights, consisting on a recyclable crystalline compound capable of emitting light during more than 20 years, among others, are used.
 · Renewable Energy: The green home should generate some of its own energy. Energy can be provided from renewable alternative sources such as solar power (photovoltaic solar panels for electricity generation and solar heating units), wind generators or other sources. The electricity generated from renewable sources such as photovoltaic systems not only  provides energy for home use but can also be a source of income if sold to the main grid (electrical company) when excess electricity is being generated (smart grid). There are Federal and State incentives for the generation of electricity from renewable sources. Geothermal energy is clean and cheap in places where it is available. 

· Water Efficiency: A green home has a water-conserving irrigation system and water-efficient kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Look for a rainwater collection and storage system, particularly in drier regions where water is increasingly
scarce and expensive.
Green Homes should also be equipped with water conservation systems such as dual-flush toilets or toilet flushing systems using pressure-assist  technology requiring less than 1.6 gal per flush; 2-gallon-per-minute shower heads and 1.5-gallon-per-minute sink faucets to dramatically cut back on home water use, water heating bills and wastewater generation. When possible, re-use of water should be considered. Remember that fresh water is one of the more precious commodities for mankind in the planet Earth.

·  Indoor Environmental Quality: Natural daylight should reach at least 75% of the home’s interior. Natural ventilation (via building orientation, operable windows, fans, wind chimneys and other strategies) should bring plentiful fresh air inside the house. The HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system should be Energy Star® rated and should filter all incoming air and vent stale air outside. The garage should not have any air handling equipment or return ducts, and it should have an exhaust fan.

Green Homes should be provided of sealed glass smoke-free gas fireplaces as well as efficient sealed-combustion boilers to reduce internal air pollution along with continuous background ventilation to keep the air healthy, as does the use of low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, cabinet finishes, sealants and adhesives. If necessary, they should have Radon mitigation systems.

·  Furniture and Carpeting. When possible look for biodegradable carpets and furniture made with recyclable materials. Cabinet and other home furniture should be made with safe and eco-friendly wood made from formaldehyde-free plywood.

·   Landscaping: Vine-covered green screens, large canopy trees and other landscaping should shade exterior walls, the driveway, patios and other structures to minimize heat concentration patches. Yards should be landscaped with drought-tolerant plants rather than water-demanding plants and grass. Also, when possible, plants not requiring the use of large amounts of insecticides and fertilizers should be used.

If you plan to install solar panels in your property remember that they should receive sun light all-year around and should be located in areas not shadowed by trees or other constructions. They should be oriented to the south.