What does a green home really mean?

November 3, 2012 -

It seems as if the term "green" or "eco-friendly" are everywhere these days.

What is a green home?

Xtravagant – Fotolia

Brent Wilker,

At some point, marketers in virtually all industries jumped on the bandwagon to get their fair share of the pie.

From plastic pop bottles to cars to even big oil companies, everyone is touting stricter policies around doing business in an environmentally friendly way. At the most basic level, this is generally a good thing — consumers spoke out, and businesses listened.

When it comes to buying a new home, you will probably notice most of the builders you look at advertise their green building practises in some form or another, but what does it really mean to you as a homeowner?

Let’s take a step back and look at what a “green home” actually is. There are many interpretations and standards, but generally speaking the less energy a home wastes, the less it requires to operate on a yearly basis.

A green home meets a certain standard of energy efficiency, which varies based on the rating system. Is a home that is built to local codes defined as a green home? The answer to that question is open for interpretation.

As building codes are updated over time, they incorporate better building practises organically as they evolve. Based on that, a new home built today is far more energy efficient that one built in 1960. Higher standards for things like insulation and windows have been introduced over the years and as a consequence, homes today lose less heat. Technology advances for appliances, air conditioning systems and furnaces have had huge impacts on reducing energy consumption, as they now require less to operate. This is the industry standard — but is it “green?”

On the other end of the spectrum, there are various non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing environmentally friendly building practises. Here in Canada we have R2000, BuiltGreen and the Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Builders wanting to achieve a higher standard pay for these organizations to conduct audits of their homes. If they pass, they achieve certification and can advertise their homes as green based on the standards set by the chosen rating system. Whether you choose to buy a certified green home or not, there is no denying that by continually raising the “ceiling” in terms of green building practises, the “floor” or industry standard will move up as well.

When looking for your new home, speak to the builder about what their definition of a green home is. Don’t be surprised if the answers you get vary wildly from builder to builder; as I stated earlier, the answer is open for interpretation.

– Brent Wilker is marketing manager for Conasys Inc., and consults to the new home construction industry. Find him at conasysinc.com or twitter.com/brentwilker.

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