More Homeowners Now Demanding Green Living

Residential design is not going green. It’s gone green. More homeowners are demanding that their home be sustainable, healthy to live in and affordable to maintain. By going green, they choose to reduce the burden on the environment and to add value to their homes.

With rising voices in the national discussion on the urgency of global warming and other environmental issues, homeowners in the tri-state area are simply waking up and learning what it means to be “sustainable and green.” The more they learn, the more they will demand homes that are thoughtfully designed and energy-efficient.

This trend is fast becoming the status quo, because it makes economic sense to build green. Responding to this trend, many communities are promoting an environmentally-sustainable approach to growth that demands homes that use less water and energy. Taking it a step further, other communities are stimulating development by allowing building departments to fast-track the permitting process for developers with sustainable designs, by providing tax-incentive programs for building green–and even by going so far as to require homes to be designed and built green. In fact, the average premium to go green is less than $2000 per 1500 square feet of new home construction.

Where water is apparently abundant, municipalities and departments of health often resist efforts to capture gray water. A graywater system collects water from shower drains, bathtubs and the laundry, then filters and pumps it through a dedicated supply line to toilet tanks for flushing, reducing average household water consumption by one third. It can be designed into the plumbing in new construction and added to existing residential home systems.

Managing water runoff is one of the simplest things a homeowner can protect the environment. Runoff contains fertilizers and other pollutants that find their way into rivers, streams and other sources of drinking water. It also contaminates our waterways.

Another simple solution is the installation of solar electrical systems. A solar electrical system converts sunlight into electricity by capturing the sun’s energy when it strikes solar cells made of a semiconductor material, typically silicon. Solar panels produce direct current (DC) electricity. inverters convert that electricity to alternating current (AC) for use in the home, precisely matching the electricity provided by the electrical utilities. Typical residential systems can satisfy most electricity needs, including the heating of domestic hot water.

Rebates from the states of N.Y., N.J. and Connecticut generally pay about 40 to 50% of the installed cost of a solar electrical system. Federal tax credits (and a state tax credit for N.Y. residents) can help to reduce the cost even further. For solar domestic hot water systems, the federal tax credit can cover as much as 20 to 25% of the cost. Additionally, the New York State tax credit can cover another 25% of the cost to home-owners.

For builders, another valuable tool in the green arsenal is the use of salvaged building materials. Salvaged building materials divert reusable building materials from the landfill, thereby preserving resources and providing cost-effective remodeling supplies for communities. Each month, countless tons of building materials are salvaged.

Once the hurdles are cleared, homeowners and builders see more clearly the benefits of going green. Homeowners’ benefits are simple: Profitability, affordability of operation and indoor-air quality are all enhanced. Builders gain a marketing advantage and can easily differentiate their homes from the competition. Communities benefit even more because they conserve their water resources, save energy, burn fewer fossil fuels and manage their waste and storm-water runoff. But the biggest beneficiary is the environment.

Green is more than a color–it is rapidly becoming a way of life for many Americans. And builders and architects who address this need will not only grow their businesses but also protect the environment for future generations.

Real Estate Weekly, May 9, 2007 by William Hallisky

COPYRIGHT 2007 Hagedorn Publication
COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group

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