If your Home Owner’s Association has decided to “go green” it is important to remember that there is more to it than a strict recycling policy and a few solar panels. Green construction is a growing niche that focuses on reducing the overall environmental impact of homes and buildings. They should be energy efficient and healthy living spaces. When “going green” there are a number of things you should look for. The most important elements of green buildings are:
Forget rolling green hillsides and farmland. The best green sites are “fill-in” sites, where new buildings make use of old parking lots, abandoned lots, commercial sites, and industrial sites. Look for developments that are within walking or biking distance from schools and shopping.
2. Building Materials
Green construction isn’t just environmentally friendly, it should also reduce the use of toxic chemicals and promote a healthier environment. The building materials should be non-toxic, energy efficient, and take advantage of salvaged material whenever possible.
3. Size Matters
Ideally, there should be at least six units per acre, but the construction of those units is important as well. Larger homes are simply harder to heat and cool. A compact design not only reduces utility bills but are cheaper to build and use fewer natural resources. A compact, smart design creates a high-performance building.
4. Heating, Cooling, and Utilities
Solar panels are a great addition to any structure to reduce utility bills. Look for other money and energy saving features, such as landscaped roofs to keep the interior comfortable. Other ideas include water efficient irrigation systems, solar water heaters, rainwater collection and storage systems, and reflective roofing materials.
5. Energy Efficient Design
Look for a design that takes advantage of natural light and breezes for ventilation, lighting, and heating. Natural light should be used in at least seventy-five percent of the interior. The design should be sure to trap heat and also provide a way to block the strong summer sun. Energy efficient windows, shades, awnings and shutters are also green features that help to keep the home energy efficient. And, of course, trees and greens spaces should be available whenever and wherever possible.
When choosing plants for the green spaces, focus on indigenous drought and pest resistant species. Use trees to provide shade to patios, driveways and hard surfaces that can become heat islands. Also, green screens and vines are an excellent way to keep the strong sun from heating up the walls and driving utility costs up.
While many of these green initiatives require a significant investment, the returns on investment have proven to be worth the pain. Many homeowners have found that solar panels pay for themselves three years, and continue saving money for years to come. Many Home Owners Associations justify the initial expenses using the returns on energy saving over the first three to ten years. But, it is also important to note that going green also raises property values. So, why not make the switch?