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Can You Afford to Build Green?

February 6, 2011

Does a green house cost more? No, not necessarily. There are a lot of expensive green building materials, but the essence of green design is to live more lightly on the earth, which can be done with the simple steps of improving energy and water efficiency, using non-toxic materials, and selecting materials conscientiously. Affordable green alternatives are available, even if they are not the building standard for many contractors.

A recent article entitled “Five Myths of Green Building” begins with these words: “Green doesn’t have to mean expensive, exotic or uncomfortable.” In fact, studies show that green buildings are often built for the same costs as other buildings when the design team uses a holistic green design approach. In other words, green needs to be designed in from the beginning, rather than being a feature that is tacked on at the end. Expensive appliances or finishes do not contribute as mightily to the performance of the house as well-insulated walls.

My experience with design and development of green affordable housing has given me a uniquely practical approach to sustainable design. Spending time on design is cheap compared to years of living in a less efficient and less healthy building. While I constantly strive to incorporate new green materials and technologies, I also counsel people to first focus on getting the basics in the construction budget – good windows, well-insulated walls, low-flow plumbing fixtures, efficient heating systems, non-toxic finishes – before focusing on other green options.

But what if your budget won’t allow for some of the grooviest new green materials and technologies? Well, we don’t live in a perfect world, and your house won’t be perfect – there, I’ve said it. But knowing that we won’t achieve perfection is no reason not to make the design as green as possible. Saving energy and water, using materials wisely, and choosing healthy materials are all attainable goals. You may not make your old home a net zero energy house, but you can certainly get closer with good design and construction of renovations and additions. Your improved home can coexist more sensitively with the natural ecosystem, as well as be more comfortable and save you money on utility bills.

See related pages for more information:
Revitalizing Your Existing Home Instead of Building a New Green Home
Houses Are For Living: Casual Green Modern
Design Principles
Green is a Verb
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ann McElligott permalink
    February 10, 2011 12:03 am

    Exceeding well written and encouraging article for someone trying to understand green architecture and how it fits their needs and finances.


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