Green homes are expected to make up to ten percent of new home construction over the next several years, according to a study done by McGraw-Hill Construction. Homeowners are interested in purchasing green homes because of the benefits they offer — from healthier indoor air to energy savings.
What are some of the primary benefits of a green home? Such a home is constructed with much thought given to the materials used in construction. Building materials are expected to be toxin-free, sustainable and energy-efficient. The use of toxin-free building materials helps combat indoor air pollution. Since we are exposed to the air in our homes as much or more often than outside air, indoor pollution can pose serious health risks to residents. A healthier home means fewer visits to the doctor and hopefully fewer respiratory problems.
Besides potential health savings, the net cost of owning a green home is typically comparable to, if not cheaper than a standard home. People who live in green homes save money by consuming less energy and fewer resources than standard homes. The savings add up over the years in decreased energy and water bills.
Insurance companies are becoming convinced that green may be the way to go. More and more insurance companies are offering discounts on policies covering green homes. Similarly, there are even a few mortgage companies offering discounted loan rates for home buyers buying green.
Here are some of the reasons for the heightened interest and discounts offered by the business community:
A green home is often more durable than standard homes because of its high-quality building materials and construction processes, requiring fewer repairs.
The value of a green home is often higher than that of a comparable standard home, and the market demand for green homes is expected to rise. A green housing development in New York has demonstrated the ability to command ten to fifteen percent higher rental rates than comparable units in the surrounding area.
And local, state and federal governments are increasingly offering tax breaks and incentives for building a green home or adding green features to an existing home.
What are some of the features of a green home? Efficient plumbing and bathing fixtures, drought-tolerant landscaping and water-conserving irrigation systems help green homes use less water than standard homes. This feature will become increasingly important as the prospect of water shortages loom in some parts of the country.
Because many green building materials incorporate significant recycled content, they require the use of fewer natural resources. The amount of excess building materials dumped in landfills is significantly less than the amount generated by traditional practices.
Some green homes incorporate carpets and floor tiles from recycled tires and bottles. Other homes use salvaged materials or renewable and sustainable products, such as bamboo, hemp and soybean. Homeowners can choose countertops made from recycled street lights and other recycled glass.
Low-volatile organic compound paints and finishes inside the home reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. Formaldehyde-free insulation also insures fewer dangerous chemicals are released into the atmosphere.
Energy-efficient appliances, insulation, roofing materials, doors and windows lower heating and cooling bills.
In many cases, builders are also including universal design elements into green homes. These designs, which include wider doorways, no stairs, flat entries and accessible bathrooms, sinks and showers, assure that people with varying abilities can live in and age in their homes and their neighborhoods.
Preston Sandlin is a home inspector and real estate investor in Charlotte NC. He has been performing home inspections and buying real estate in Charlotte NC for over 12 years. He is a member of the North Carolina Home Inspector’s Association, the Charlotte Regional Realtors Association, and the BBB.