You saw Al Gore's movie and you became motivated.
Now you own a hybrid car. And you bike and walk whenever possible to avoid burning fossil fuels.
You are also doing whatever you feel you can do to reduce your energy footprint. You wonder: what more can you do?
One answer -- you can buy a green home. Not a home painted green, but one that is environmentally sensitive.
The so-called "green" building market is by all accounts hot -- and only getting hotter. More and more often, people want homes that are less taxing on the environment.
If you are inclined to march to the beat of the eco-drummer when it comes to your new home purchase, here are tips that you can look out for to know if you are getting the real deal.
- Tip 1. Look for a recognized certification indicating that the builder is environmentally responsible.
The LEED certification may be most popular and appears to be a gold standard of the industry.
Others might include a certification from the Forest Stewardship Council or the Rainforest Alliance.
All of these independent certification organizations have rigorous standards for attesting to the environmental worthiness of an organization. See if your builder has any of these or comparable certifications.
- Tip 2. Look at the appliance packages that are being offered by the builder. Are they EPA certified as energy efficient? Or are they simply the cheapest packages available? A caring builder will ensure that the appliances are energy efficient.
- Tip 3. Does your builder provide optional efficient energy alternatives such as solar heated hot water or home heating? Other options might also be available -- depending on your builder's experience and the part of the country in which you are located. These energy sources can save homeowner's money and can help the environment.
- Tip 4. Has the builder fairly and fully explained what the house was before it was a house? A good builder will tell you whether this was virgin property, a former farm, or industrially utilized. The builder will also explain whether any environmental testing was undertaken before construction began as well as the results of that testing.
- Tip 5. Finally, an environmentally aware builder will make sure that your home is completely insulated. There are a many places where insulation should be installed -- and the right type and kind of insulation needs to be employed at each location.
To be fair, the certification process that I described in number one of the list is expensive and time consuming. Also, there are frequent followup audits that a company must undergo to maintain the certification. This means that many smaller builders, who might otherwise be very environmentally sensitive, might not be able to be certified.
However, I do not see why numbers 2 to 5 should not apply to every home builder. And if a builder does not meet any of them without adequate explanation, I would have to seriously question the builder's ecological commitment.
The good news is that if you care about the environment, you can buy a home that is environmentally compatible. If this is something that matters to you (and I hope that it is!), pick a builder with a history and a good reputation when it comes to delivering green homes.