Home Building Articles
Benefits of Green Building
October 27, 2009
Green building benefits the environment, the builders, the community at large, and
of course the individual homeowner. This article focuses specifically on important
benefits to the homeowner—better durability, energy savings, water savings, improved
indoor air quality—and the green building practices typically used to achieve these
A green home is a durable home. For a homeowner, this means less work and expense
to maintain the home properly, and components of the home won't need to be replaced
as often, if ever. Some examples of green building practices that achieve durability
- Durable roofing materials. Some have 40- or 50-year warranties.
- Recycled-content decking. Made of recycled plastic mixed with wood waste fibers,
this decking can last up to 5 times longer than traditional wood decking, and it
never needs to be treated or painted.
- Chemical-free pest controls. Discourage termites and other pests by separating all
Exterior wood-to-concrete connections with metal or plastic fasteners or dividers
and by locating all new plants at least 36 inches from the foundation.
Energy efficiency is the cornerstone of every green home, and it's practical for
homeowners. An energy-efficient home may save some costs during construction; it
also saves homeowners money each year through reduced utility bills. In addition,
an energy-efficient home is a more comfortable home. Some energy-efficient characteristics
of a green home include:
- Tight thermal envelope. Sealing to reduce air leakage, designing and locating ductwork
to minimize energy losses, increasing insulation, and choosing low-e windows all
will help decrease the home's heating and cooling requirements.
- Properly sized HVAC system. A downsized HVAC system can be used when the thermal
envelope is of high quality. Smaller HVAC systems can actually provide greater comfort
and lower the homeowner's energy costs. Smaller equipment also can be less costly
upfront, which may save the homeowner money during construction.
- Advanced (optimum-value engineering, or OVE) framing techniques. Framing the home
with 2x6 studs spaced at 24 inches allows increased insulation compared to conventional
2x4 studs spaced at 16 inches. Increased insulation saves heating and cooling energy,
improves comfort, and may allow the downsizing of heating and cooling equipment.
What's more, the 2x6 framing technique reduces wood use and labor costs, which may
save the homeowner money during construction.
Green building practices that reduce the amount of water it takes to run a home
certainly will save the homeowner money, and can be especially important in drier
states such as California, Arizona, and Nevada, which have water-use restrictions.
Water savings practices are being widely used both indoors and outdoors, including:
- High efficiency appliances. Installing ENERGY STAR water-use appliances such as
dishwashers and clothes washers can significantly cut a home's water use and energy.
- Plumbing system design. Reduced hot-water runs, insulated hot water pipes, and high-efficiency
toilets that use <1.3 gallons of water per flush will reduce the homeowner's water
and energy use and costs.
- New-generation landscape watering. High efficiency irrigation systems such as low-flow
drip, bubblers, or low-flow sprinklers minimize over spray and evaporation and reduce
runoff. This can dramatically reduce landscape water use while preventing plant
disease and minimizing weed growth that results from over watering.
Healthier indoor air
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air inside conventional
new homes can be 10 times more polluted than outdoor air. Green homes, however,
have better indoor air quality (IAQ) than conventional homes, making the indoors
physically healthier and more comfortable for homeowners. Green building uses these
practices to help achieve better IAQ:
- Reduced volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Using safer products, including
low-VOC paints, cleaners, and adhesives in the home reduces homeowner exposure to
formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.
- Eliminate mold potential. Mold can cause homeowners respiratory and other health
problems. A properly sealed and ventilated building envelope prevents unwanted moisture
in the home and enables effective drying for those parts of the home that do get
wet. Eliminating water issues will prevent mold growth.
- Radon-mitigation systems. Radon mitigation systems typically are set in the foundation
and allow harmful radon gas from the surrounding soils to be vented to the home's
Exterior. This will significantly reduce homeowners' level of exposure to radon,
which the EPA estimates may be the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Homeowners can benefit greatly by owning a green home. The key to encouraging more
green building is to educate homeowners that if they decide to go green, they can
have a more durable, more energy and water-efficient, and healthier home for about
the same cost as a conventional home.