Environmentally Conscious Homes are Growing in Popularity
Green homes are trendy. And their value is rising.
Today, green is defined not only in terms of water, energy and cost-savings, but also in terms of the "health of the built environment. Couple that with smart technology, and homes built now may have little in common with homes built even a decade or two ago. Environmental consciousness is a pervasive part of worldwide culture and concern.
But, just what constitutes environmental consciousness? Sustainability and eco-friendly principles take many forms: The mantra of "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" has evolved. Today, eco-consciousness includes a new way of looking at the impact of human life on the planet. Global initiatives address pollution and air quality, the health of the seas and depletion of natural resources; it's all interrelated, and encompasses the way individuals use plastic bags as much as the decision to install solar panels. Environmental consciousness includes ongoing efforts to reduce costs and increase efficiency as much as the desire for a better, more rewarding lifestyle.
It's a tall order, but there are some specific ways to boost the eco-friendly quotient of your home, whether your planning to update an existing structure or to build a brand new home.
Here are some basic ways to incorporate sustainable principles, and to integrate comfort and advanced technology with the natural world in a way that increases comfort, reduces waste, saves natural resources and shapes a better way of life.
Pay Attention to the Site
If you're building new, orient a home so that you maximize daylight and solar gain, but also take advantage of the topography and existing tree cover and natural vegetation to maximize shade and natural drainage patterns. Aim for the least possible disturbance of existing terrain; you'll save money as well as retain the natural appeal of the land.
Ensure Ventilation and Light
Use windows to advantage. Modern thermo-pane windows and Low-E glazing do much more than showcase the view. Natural light reduces utility bills; opening windows improve air quality. Large windows and skylights enhance the interior environment, and both mental and physical health improves through a closer integration of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Use Natural Materials Whenever Possible
Whether you're choosing siding material, building a deck or installing flooring, weigh the benefits of natural materials against manufactured synthetics. You may find that the advantages of using sustainable wood and stone are superior, in terms of both beauty, health, durability and resistance to weather and pests.
Be Aware of Pollutants
Just as you're aware of the ingredients in food that you eat, check on the ingredients and additives in building materials. Shop for low-VOC paints, non-toxic finishes and sealers, recycled countertops and carpets, reclaimed timbers, and decorative materials sourced close to your locale.
Reduce Your Footprint
Think about the way you live, and consider reducing your physical footprint just as you aim to reduce your carbon footprint. The trend today is toward less square footage, rather than more. Call it a retreat from ostentatious living, or a return to good sense, but the "not-so-big-house" has gained favor, not only for the cost savings, but also for the simplicity of the lifestyle.
Add Flexible Spaces
Rather than adding separate rooms for separate functions, consider multi-purpose spaces, and look to the outdoors as additional living space, even if you live in a climate with four distinct seasons. Screened porches or covered patios with grilling stations extend the options; outdoor fireplaces, patio televisions, home sports courts, and hot tubs encourage family togetherness and boost property values.
Research the many ways in which you can demonstrate global stewardship, and contribute to a more sustainable environment. Your reward will be a comfortable, beautiful, energy-efficient home that's as good for your family and your neighborhood as it is for the earth.