Most American single-family homes can be summed up in one word: flimsy. The exterior styling is mass-produced. The walls are hollow, and the floors are linoleum. The electric and heating bills are utterly frightful. When it is cold outside, it is cold inside; and when it is hot outside, it is even hotter inside.
Most of us accept these as unfortunate realities of living the suburban dream – the illusion of a free and healthy lifestyle. In reality, we are slaves to skyrocketing energy bills. We raise our families in homes suffering from Sick Building Syndrome1 due to the use of cut-rate building materials and assemblies; then, we wonder why so many of our kids have asthma and allergies.
To top it off, most of us live in homes that are huge contributors to not only the gradual degradation of the health of our families, but also the health of the planet. Our homes are a drain on our money, health, and natural resources.
However, there are solutions to this decidedly unnatural, unhealthy, and unsustainable manner of living.
The Green Builder Solution
Rather than rely on traditional builders, one can easily find environmentally friendly builders committed to the construction of high quality, high performance, and eco-friendly homes which provide its owners a healthy and environmentally friendly place to live with a low and non-variable cost of ownership. Builders such as Native offer their services at a higher cost precisely because they use high quality materials, assemblies, and building procedures.
The savings in energy, health, and the reduction of a building’s carbon footprint are well worth the initial investment. In fact, green builders can take a home to the next level of energy saving – net zero. Net zero essentially means that the building can sustain itself by harvesting rainwater and relying on both active and passive strategies for meeting energy demands – such as stack effect ventilation 2 or photovoltaic panels respectively.
The Self-Help Solution
If you are already stuck with a flimsy, cookie-cutter home, don’t panic! Green builders such as Native can provide retrofitting services that leave the structure of the house untouched while replacing critical assemblies and materials in the house with significantly more energy-efficient and less polluting assemblies and materials. Or, if you prefer to do it yourself, simple improvements like investing in better insulation or switching to double-paned glass windows can make a significant improvement to your energy savings as well.
The Architectural Solution
You could also hire a trained and licensed architect, preferably one with LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, accreditation to design your house. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. This can become rather more expensive than a traditional, cookie-cutter home, but the result, an eco-friendly work of art that you can live in, may be well worth the money.
1 Sick Building Syndrome (SBS): used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building. This can be due to airborne contaminates originating from building materials or from improper building design and ventilation.
2 Stack effect: a phenomenon where air circulation occurs due to the natural rise of hot air and the subsequent pulling of cool air from below.