Evertson Hill


What Makes a Home Green?

The dominant scorecard for the "green-ness" of a new or renovated home is that promulgated by the United States Green Building Council and known as LEED for Homes. Using this as a framework and some of the USGBC's language, we summarize some of the features that make a home green:

Innovation and Design Process: The process begins with assembling the right team of professionals and having them work together to produce an integrated green home. Planning for the home's durability is the first item on the agenda, as a home that lasts longer will generally use less resources over its life-cycle, since the construction and demolition processes are inherently very resource-intensive. Useful innovation is integrated wherever possible.

Location and Linkages:New green homes and neighborhoods must not be built on environmentally sensitive sites such as prime farmland, wetlands and endangered species habitats. The greenest development sites are "in-fill" sites such as former parking lots, rail yards, shopping malls and factories. A green home should be within walking or biking distance of community resources such as parks, schools, and stores.

Sustainable Sites: This begins with controlling erosion during construction and minimizing the disturbed area. As landscaping is designed and planted, it is important to avoid invasive species and to limit turf/plants that require much irrigation. Similarly, large canopy trees and other landscaping should shade exterior walls, the driveway, patios and other "hardscape" to minimize heat islands. Provisions for managing surface water are critical.

Water Efficiency: A green home has a water-conserving irrigation system and water-efficient kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Ideally the home has a rainwater collection and storage system, particularly in drier regions where water is increasingly scarce and expensive.

Energy & Atmosphere:A green home complies with the ENERGY STAR® ratings. It should have energy-efficient lighting, heating, cooling and water-heating systems. Ideally, the home should generate some of its own energy with technologies like photovoltaic systems.

Materials & Resources:Minimizing the materials used in construction is critical. Off-site fabrication can be a way of doing this, but it can also be done on site with careful planning of materials usage. A green home will have been constructed or renovated with healthy, non-toxic building materials and furnishings, like low- and zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and and other non-toxic materials. Wood-based features should come from rapidly renewable sources like bamboo, but if tropical hardwoods are used, they must be certified. A green home can use salvaged materials like kitchen tiles and materials with significant recycled content.

Indoor Environmental Quality: A green building is designed and built to comply with the ENERGY STAR requirements including the Indoor Air Package. 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 filter all incoming air and vent stale air outside.

Awareness & Education: The builder / developer should provide materials and educational sessions to allow the homeowner to make the most of the features of the home.

© 2014 Petrides Homes LLC | Photography by Tim Wilkes