Earth Day is over for this year, but I hope we will continue to celebrate it by incorporating eco-friendly concepts into our daily lives. New construction is gradually making a comeback, and this can be the best place for green thinking to begin. The first challenge of green building is often defining it, since "sustainable" can mean different things to different people. In sunny climates, going green can mean adding a solar roof to an existing home. Or it can go even further by incorporating high-efficiency HVAC, a green roof, soy-based spray foam insulation, Energy Star appliances and utility credits for unused solar power.
Increasingly in the metro Atlanta area, green design is making inroads. In addition to features mentioned above, it is not so unusual to find a system for collecting rainwater for landscaping, a hybrid car dock in the garage and the use of recycled materials from demolished homes.
The one thing preventing more Atlantans from fully embracing sustainable building practices is the fact that the price tag may exceed traditional building costs. However, if you are building something which is more durable, more long-lasting, more energy efficient, your ongoing costs are going to be much less, and you do have to factor that in. Earthcraft homes can be built for as little as 2 to 3 percent more than traditional homes, and concepts can be adapted to all price ranges.
Owners should keep in mind the resale value as well. In 2009 and 2010, certified green homes typically sold for 3.4 percent closer to list price than standard new construction. And green homes spend 21.2 percent less time on the market than non-green homes. In 2008, green features such as solar power or EarthCraft certification were incorporated into Atlanta's local FMLS search engine, which helps buyers search for green homes. So, be sure to flaunt it!
The movement toward green housing nationwide is twofold. On the one hand, it applies to the materials and systems used in construction and renovation, such as recycled materials, low-VOC paints, higher efficiency HVAC and geothermal heating systems. Often it is scientists and people in the medical profession gravitating toward green homes because of their concerns over the toxicity of environmentally hazardous materials.
But eco-building also involves sweeping lifestyle changes, including the move to smaller homes on denser home sites. Many buyers are realizing the benefits of a mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian friendly, walkable neighborhood. This may represent the greatest change in buying patterns we have seen.
All great news for Mother Earth!