What are "green" homes and are they affordable?

Home Energy December 01, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

"Green" or "sustainable" homes are designed and built in ways that preserve natural resources, protect the environment, and create a healthy living environment for the occupants.  They typically have features such as:

  • more energy efficient and water conserving than standard homes
  • attention to high indoor air quality
  • use of eco-friendly, renewable, recycled or recyclable products
  • low-waste, yet high performance building systems
  • attention to pollution prevention in site preparation and planning
  • use of renewable natural resources and/or energy sources

Green building typically costs more than standard construction, but can be affordable to buy and a good long term investment. Houses that are energy efficient, for example, have lower utility bills than a conventional house, which makes them far more affordable for moderate and low-income families to live in. Smaller designs and alternative and salvaged building products rely less on precious resources, and can cost less than traditional approaches.

Strategic design to minimize cost is possible.  Higher costs associated with green homes can stem from adding "green" elements later in the design or construction phase, rather than planning on them from the beginning. Some building materials also can have a higher cost if they are labeled "premium," or "high-end."  Important components such as high tech windows, or high efficiency heating and cooling systems do have higher initial costs. However, over time the savings in energy costs outweigh the initial costs. For more information on "green" homes, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Building America program.  

There are also green certification programs that provide third party verification of the sustainable qualities of the house, including the National Green Building Standard and LEED for Homes.

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