What makes a home “green?”

A white paper cut out of a house sits on green grass.

A Brief History of Green Building

The green building trend began to take off as a reaction to the short-lived Oil Crisis of 1973-1974. Poor insulation and a lack of climate adaptation in buildings of this period meant homes were drafty and used fuel inefficiently. Meanwhile, fuel uncertainty caused prices to rise, however briefly, generating increased interest in both improved building techniques as well as wind and solar energy. The end of the Fuel Crisis restored low prices, decimating the alternative fuel industry. However, the over-insulated homes produced in the wake of the Crisis began showing troubling side effects by the 1980’s such as rotten wood inside walls, mold, sick building syndrome and fogged dual pane windows. As a result, building science took off so builders could make sense of and eventually prevent these issues while continuing to improve insulation and home efficiency.

Green Building Today

The original interest in green building has only grown, both as a reaction to the early 2000’s trend of large, inefficient homes and in light of growing environmental concerns. However, it’s the benefits of green building that have driven most of the industry’s growth and pushed even traditional builders to adapt some green building techniques.

Home Owner Benefits:

  • Lower Energy Bills: through energy efficient lighting, equipment, and appliances
  • Healthier and Comfortable Indoor Environment: consistent temperatures and reduced risks
  • Increased Market Value: higher resale value of a home
  • Financial Tax Incentives: state and federal tax credits for renewable energy and energy efficiency
  • Performance Report: third party verification quantifying the home’s overall energy score, annual energy cost savings, and pollution prevention
  • Reduced air pollution through energy efficiency

Most of the “green” certified homes in Asheville use the Green Built NC certification, which is a third party verified program. The home is tested and then scored on a check list.

Green Built NC

Green Built NC Homes is a statewide program in North Carolina that provides a certificate for builders who meet “green home” guidelines. These guidelines emphasize comfort, health, energy and water conservation, site preservation, and renewable energy use. This certification includes either ENERGY STAR certification, or a HERS Index of 85 or less and showing that the house is 15% better than the 2009 International Energy Code, plus inspection of additional items specific to the Green Built NC program.

    The Green Built NC program encompasses all aspects of environmental design and construction including:

  • Site and Landscape: healthy outdoors by using erosion control and saving existing trees
  • Water Efficiency: lower water bills by using high efficiency irrigation and plumbing fixtures
  • Building Envelope: lower utility bills by using high efficiency windows and insulation
  • Heating and Cooling Systems: higher comfort with efficiency equipment and sealed air ducts
  • Appliances and Lighting: lower utility bills by using Energy Star appliances and lighting
  • Indoor Air Quality: a healthy interior with non-toxic finishes and minimizing moisture
  • Materials: a low maintenance home using durable, local, and recycled content materials
  • Third Party Verification: reassures the home owners that your homes are reviewed by an independent team of high performance building professionals.

 
Energy Star
EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program was created to help identify the best ways to save energy. The little blue label says this product, this home, this building or factory is doing the right things to save energy. Energystar.gov offers the most comprehensive resource available for energy efficiency advice and information. ENERGY STAR certified homes are independently verified to meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes save money on utility bills, provide a more comfortable living environment with better indoor air quality, and help protect the environment.

    Typical features to look for in ENERGY STAR certified homes include:

  • Efficient Walls and Windows, the levels of wall, floor and attic insulation properly installed designed to block drafts, and high-performance windows;
  • Efficient Air Ducts, so rooms get enough air to have consistent, comfortable temperatures throughout the house;
  • Efficient Equipment for heating, and cooling the house, helping you save money while staying comfortable;
  • Efficient Lighting and Appliances, including ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers, refrigerators, light bulbs and clothes washers.

Better energy efficiency and performance means lower utility and maintenance costs. Homes earning the ENERGY STAR label use 15-30% less energy than typical cow homes, and even more when compared to most resale homes on the market today.

    Based on national averages, ENERGY STAR certified homes built in 2015 are the equivalent of:

  • Reducing CO2 emissions by 141,952 metric tons
  • Growing 3,607,528 tree seedlings for 10 years
  • Avoiding the consumption of 330,131 barrels of oil
  • Removing 29,867 passenger vehicles from the road

 
HERS Score
The Home Efficiency Rating System (HERS) is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured relative to other buildings. It’s also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance, similar to the Miles Per Gallon (MPG) rating for cars. The lower the HERS rating the more efficient the house. To calculate a HERS score, the variables under consideration include all exterior walls, flooring, ceilings and roof, foundation, windows, doors, vents and ductwork, HVAC systems, water heating systems, etc.

The current International Energy Efficiency Code (IECC) is a HERS score of 100. What does all of this mean to you? A low HERS rating can mean high resale value, lower utility bills, better air quality and lower environmental impact.

For more on HERS Scores and their meaning: http://www.resnet.us/hers-index-score-card

Written by LeAnn Bound, Broker, REALTOR. LeAnn and her husband James founded GreenCraft, a locally owned and operated green building company that focuses on energy efficient design and environmentally sound building practices. LeAnn uses her first hand knowledge of green building to assist buyers, sellers, and new home buyers.

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