Earth Day: Green home and building trends

If you’re looking to extend your green desires beyond a vegan lifestyle and Earth Day celebration, consider greening your home. Or if you’re going to take advantage of the home financing low interest rates, build an eco-friendly home. Here are five green home and building trends for 2011 as identified by Earth Advantage Institute, a nonprofit organization that works with the building and design industry to help implement sustainable building practices.
If you’re looking to extend your green desires beyond a vegan lifestyle and Earth Day celebration, consider greening your home. Or if you’re going to take advantage of the home financing low interest rates, build an eco-friendly home. Here are five green home and building trends for 2011 as identified by Earth Advantage Institute, a nonprofit organization that works with the building and design industry to help implement sustainable building practices.
5 Green home and building trends

1. Affordable green

Many consumers typically associate green and energy-efficient homes and features with higher costs. However, the development of new business models, technologies, and the mainstreaming of high performance materials is bringing high-performance, healthy homes within reach of all homeowners. Leading the charge are affordable housing groups, including Habitat for Humanity and local land trusts, now building and selling LEED for Homes- and ENERGY STAR-certified homes across the country at price points as low as $100,000. In the existing homes market, energy upgrades are now available through new programs that include low-cost audits and utility bill-based financing.

2. Sharing and comparing home energy use

As social and purchasing sites like Facebook and Groupon add millions more members, the sharing of home energy consumption data – for rewards – is not far behind. The website EarthAid.net lets you track home energy usage and earn rewards for energy savings from local vendors. You can also elect to share the information with others on Earth Aid to see who can conserve the most energy.

3. Community purchasing power

Neighborhoods interested in renewable energy will increasingly band together to obtain better pricing on materials such as solar panels and on installation costs. For example, the Solarize Portland program was initiated by local neighborhood leaders who wanted to increase the amount of renewable energy generated in Northeast Portland by working together as a community. The program is structured so that the price of solar panel installation decreases for everybody as more neighbors join the effort. Group purchasing creates a 15 to 25 percent savings below current prices. This group discount, in addition to current available tax credits and cash incentives, gives participants a significant cost savings.

4. “Grid-aware” appliances

While many residential smart meters have been installed, the customer interface that will allow homeowners to track energy use more accurately are not yet in place. In the meantime, manufacturers are increasingly introducing appliances that are “grid-aware.” These appliances are endowed with more sophisticated energy management capabilities and timers, offering homeowners machines that monitor and report their own electricity usage and that increase or decrease that usage by remote command. Many machines have timers and can already be manually programmed to run during off-peak hours. These developments will begin forging the convergence of a smart grid infrastructure and the control applications needed to manage energy savings in our buildings and homes.

5. Accessory dwelling units

Last year we discussed home “right-sizing” as a trend. However, with fewer people moving or building due to financial concerns, many have chosen to stay put in their favorite area and build accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These small independent units, which can be used for offices, studios, or in-law space, are the ideal size for energy savings and sustainable construction. As detached or attached rental units, they help cities increase urban density and restrict sprawl, while allowing homeowners to add value to their property. The cities of Portland, Oregon, and Santa Cruz, California, have waived administrative fees to encourage more ADU construction.

Visit EarthAdvantage.org for more information on greening your home and eco-friendly building.

More vegan lifestyle tips for Earth Day and beyond!

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