Ease into Green

While enjoying a cab ride during the American Institute of Architects’ green-themed convention in May, the driver overheard my colleague and me discussing what are and are not practical solutions for combating global warming. The driver interrupted and asked, “Yeah, but what can I really do to change the world?”

I suggested he not worry about changing the world, but instead worry about changing his world. Turn lights off at home when not needed, recycle garbage, replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, or install a programmable thermostat. The point was, there’s no need for the cab driver, or anyone, to try to save the world on their own. Choose instead to make changes that are under your control. If everyone did a little bit, the benefits would add up.

The same approach applies to designing and building green homes. You don’t need to create a house that nets zero energy consumption, or that looks like a teepee, to be green. Start by swapping out a standard product for one with a green benefit, or by tweaking your design in one simple, green way.

There’s no reason to be intimidated by anything green in the home building industry, because being green doesn’t need to be as complicated as you might expect. You don’t need plants growing on the roof, or rows of solar panels supplying a home’s power, to be green. Green roofs and solar panels are great, but far less complicated green tactics can be considered.

For example, before the foundation is poured make sure the house is situated in such a way to take advantage of prevailing breezes to naturally cool the home. Or, choose plant species that are native to the home’s environment so they won’t need excessive amounts of water or fertilizer to grow. A home needs landscaping anyway, so why not choose plants that save water?

How about choosing radiant barrier roof panels to reduce the heat load in the home? You need roof panels anyway, so why not choose a product that improves the efficiency of the HVAC system and saves energy? You can choose windows with Low-E glass. A home needs windows, so why not choose windows that, again, reduce the heat load and therefore reduce the amount of energy used to heat or cool a home?

These are simple ways to be green, and you can pass on related cost increases for these products and practices to your clients. For a list of more ways to make a home green, please visit Demystifying Green Building.

For even more tips on green design visit aia.org, click on Knowledge Communities, and then click Environment/Sustainability. For more tips and information on green building visit nahb.org/greenbuilding.