When you’re looking for a home, or remodeling yours, think green. You’ll save money on energy, see your home’s value increase more quickly than a conventional home, and, if you’re buying, find yourself in a more vital community. And at the current rate of development, you’ll be ahead of a trend: Green homes are on an inexorable march into the mainstream.
What Makes a Home Green
A green home is a home designed to create a safer environment for you and your family. Some typical features include recycling graywater (including dishwater and bathwater) for watering the garden; superwindows that keep in four times as much heat as regular windows (significantly reducing winter utility bills); and nontoxic, low-VOC paints, finishes, and adhesives to ensure you’re not breathing toxic air.
Green homes can be twenty to twenty-five percent more expensive than conventional counterparts, but “the breakeven payback takes only a few years,” says Tomek Rondio, CEO of Mortgage Green, the first green mortgage company. He lists three benefits to buying a green home or remodeling your existing home so that it’s green: a healthier home, a home that’s better for the environment, and a financial payback with reduced energy costs and resale value.
Not Mainstream Yet
While green building is no longer a niche market, it’s still not mainstream. “For now it’s an industry in pre-infancy,” says Rondio. That’s because of the way the industry is set up-integrating green elements into the design and building process faces institutionalized resistance. Nevertheless, new green homes have an unquestionable marketability: 50,000 were constructed between 1990 and 2000, and a 2001 study by Cahners Residential Group found 80 percent of homebuyers had green concerns.
Today, many cities are promoting the building of green homes. In the 1990s only one local program supported green building, Austin’s Green Builder Program, but by 2005, there were more than twenty in cities that include Portland, OR; Scottsdale, AZ; and Santa Barbara, CA. Slowly, a number of large homebuilders are getting in on the action. A 2004 episode of Extreme Makeover featured a green home by homebuilding powerhouse Centex.
Finding a Green Home
The big challenge in buying a green home involves finding one. Green Homes for Sale, which provides links to homes across North America, makes it a little easier. And an increasing number of green developments are going up around the country, though you may have to hunt to find them. A few notable cases include Green City Lofts near Oakland, California; Boston’s Maverick Landing; Next Gen Homes in Carbondale, Colorado; and The Helena in New York City.
The Next Best Option
If you can’t find a green home, remodel yours so that it’s green. Green Home Guide provides advice from homeowners who want to green their home, and Build It Green connects consumers, professionals, and green product manufacturers. Finally, check out SustainLane’s peer-generated product and business reviews for an even wider range of green building product and services.
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