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Jackie Colson-Miller

Jackie Colson-Miller, CIPS
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“Green Houses” and Other Eco-Friendly Trends

Heres a look at the green housing trends you ought to know as you navigate todays Real Estate market.

  • Copper roofs. Copper and copper alloys, such as brass and bronze, are showing up on roofs, entryways, facades, gutters, and downspouts. Despite being quite pricey to purchase and install, theyre seen as a good long-term investment because they tolerate inclement weather. A copper roof thats installed properly will last beyond 100 years versus a composition roof that may last only 30 years, says Ken Geremia, manager of communications for the Copper Development Association in New York City. Copper elements also can be completely recycled, so youll never find them left on a site or plowed under a foundation, says Geremia.
  • Timber framing. Timber framing requires significantly less lumber than the traditional stick-built housing and almost always incorporates superior insulating panels (SIPS), which keeps heat and air conditioning from escaping the house. Theres less waste when large timbers are used, compared with conventional construction that produces sawdust and waste every time a 2-by-4 stud is planed, says Frank Baker, president of Insulspan and Riverbend Framing, part of PFB Corp. in Calgary, Canada. In addition, less energy is needed to power machines and kiln dry wood because timber framing uses freshly cut wood, he says. Timbers are prefabricated and arrive at the building site ready to be assembled, paring construction waste. Costs vary according to finishes selected, just as they do with stick-built housing.
  • Windows that beat the heat. Low-emittance (Low-E) windows, doors, and skylights offer natural light while blocking the suns UV rays that heat up the inside of a home, sometimes necessitating air conditioning. The special low-E glazing also stops the sun from fading fabrics, wall coverings, and artwork. When shopping for low-E windows, find out what percentage of rays are blocked by checking the UV label on the glass, advises Rod Clark, product marketing manager for Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors in Klamath Falls, Ore. Most low-E products block 70 percent to 90 percent. Next, examine the glass for clarity. Most people want glass thats clear rather than with a slight tint or color, he says. Though some manufacturers may tout triple over double glazing, Clark says its usually more than youll need.
  • Rainwater holding tanks. Capturing rainwater and storm runoff helps reduce the burden on local sewer systems and captures water that can be used in other ways, such as for watering the yard or flushing toilets. In the National Homebuilder Mainstream GreenHome, a 4,000-square-foot demonstration home being completed in Raleigh, N.C., a rainwater cistern and detention tank system will show that 95 percent of stormwater on a site can be recycled, reused, and absorbed. The rainwater cistern will collect water from the roof and gutters, filter it multiple times, and direct it to indoor plumbing, the laundry, and the sprinkler system. Overflow from the cistern will be funneled into inexpensive detention tanks to be absorbed gradually back into the ground.
  • Chemical-free lighting. LED lighting (LED stands for light emitting diodes) is a semiconductor that emits light when an electric current is applied. One big advantage: It contains no hazardous chemicals like other lighting does. For instance, compact fluorescents contain mercury and incandescent bulbs have gasses that hurt the ozone layer. In addition, an LED fixture uses 80 percent less energy than a traditional incandescent light bulb and has the ability to last up to 20 years, says Ron Lusk, chairman, president, and CEO of the Dalllas-based Lighting Science Group Corp., the first company to market a high-output, dimmable, Edison-base white-LED light bulb. LED bulbs also provide quality crisp light that shows colors in a natural palette, Lusk says. The downside: the initial cost. A typical 40-watt LED light will run about $39 while an incandescent light will cost $4 to $5, Lusk says. He believes that prices will come down as more businesses and home owners switch, as power companies offer better consumer rebates, and if the government makes the purchase of these energy savers deductible.
  • Green toilets. Water-conserving toilets can boost your budget while also helping the environment. Make smart choices in choosing products throughout your house, and you can save 30 percent to 50 percent on your annual water bill, says Ori Sivan, co-owner of Greenmaker Supply Co. in Chicago, which sells environmentally sensitive building products and materials. New green toilets conserve water in different ways: low-flow toilets use about 20-percent less water per flush, dual-flush toilets with two buttons give home owners the option of flushing with a half or full tank, and pressure-assist toilets reduce water usage by half and yield a powerful whooshing sound, says Sivan. Totos Aquia dual-flush toilet with a soft-closing seat (pictured at right) costs $300, comparable with other quality toilets, Sivan says.
  • Geothermal heating and cooling. Instead of using a traditional furnace that heats or cools air and emits carbon monoxide during the process, geothermal pumps are filled with water and glycol and rely on the earth as a heat exchanger. In winter, the system sends warm air into rooms; in summer, it brings cool air. Though the initial cost is twice as much as a traditional heating and cooling system, the payback comes five years down the road when you start reaping the benefits of much lower heating and cooling costs, says developer Ron Fleckman, president of Cyrus Homes in Evanston, Ill. His company is building 40 townhouses in Evanstons Church Street Village development, which uses a geothermal system and other green elements. It is one of the first communities nationwide to test this type of construction. Because the cost of natural gas is climbing, the payback will be quicker, he says. Home owners can also retrofit an existing house with this system.
  • Attic heat blocker. TechShield roofing panels, produced by LP Building Products in Nashville, stop the domino effect of inefficient roofing material. Poorly insulated roofing lets radiant heat into the attic, which then spreads throughout a home and requires the owners to turn on the air conditioner. By contrast, TechShield blocks up to 97 percent of the radiant heat, reduces the attic temperature 30 degrees, and cuts energy consumption and carbon gases as a result. You can cut monthly energy bills by as much as 20 percent, says Rusty Carroll of LP Building Products. The panels are made of a thin layer of aluminum foil laminated to OSB (oriented strand board) roof sheathing, which is made from fast-growing trees, and installed in the attic of new construction. The panels are used in conjunction with insulation rather than as a substitute, Carroll says. He recommends them both for houses in the South and Sunbelt where rays are strongest. A 3,000-square-foot house might cost $1,000 to $1,500 to outfit with the panels.

Smart irrigation systems. WeatherTRAK controllers automatically adjust watering schedules based on the needs of your landscape and local weather conditions. The systems brain receives satellite data with information about local weather conditions. An additional moisture sensor shuts down the system if it starts to rain when the sprinkler is on.

In Tampa, you can find “green houses” in some of the newer developments, including FishHawk Ranch. For more information about buying a “green house” or any questions, please contact me.

National Association of Realtors, Realtor News

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7 responses to ““Green Houses” and Other Eco-Friendly Trends”

  1. Bob says:

    I really appreciate the revelant topics that you pick for your blog. I know that you must spend a lot of time trying to keep us informed.

    Thanks for your efforts.

  2. Lisa Spencer says:

    FishHawk Ranch in Lithia, FL has just opened a “Green” neighborhood. I can’t wait to see the model.

  3. This iinformation is great. I am glad to see people are finally getting in on the whole green home concept. It is a long time coming. Do you have any information for those of us who own older homes (i.e. 1926 Bungalow)? I would really like to make my home as efficient as possible.

  4. Jeff Long says:

    excellent article. My home, built in 1955 still has the original copper gutters, and as tarnished as they are, they ad character to the home. I was going to replace them wtih PVC gutters, but thanks to your article, the copper stays.

  5. Nathan:

    When you remodel, or replace appliances, you can use energy efficient items and those that are eco-friendly!

  6. Jeff Long says:

    glad to hear we are finally starting to think GREEN. 100 years ago when I started driving, gas was 17 cents a gallon, and people balked when it went up to a quarter. But it too gas prices hitting over $3. per gallon before people started realizing a need for alternatives.

    Hope we are not too late.

  7. Great post! I love to learn more about green building/renovating. Bamboo flooring has been promoted as being green: Bamboo grows quickly and it’s very durable. Save the old growth forest, floor with bamboo.

    — Rob —