The home is the most important space in our lives. We at USGBC believe all buildings should be designed and developed with human health and the environment at the forefront—but especially homes.
Environmentally responsible homes cost less to operate, use water and energy efficiently, and minimize exposure to harmful toxins and pollutants for residents. Here’s a list of key green features in a sustainable residence that are better for you, your wallet and the environment.
From the inside out: materials A benchmark of green homes is the widespread use of nontoxic, low- to zero-VOC and recyclable materials, in everything from the furnishings to the flooring.
VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, can cause headaches; nausea; and irritation to the respiratory system, skin and eyes, among other ailments. Healthy homes use paints, sealants and other materials that have low or zero VOC content.
Rapidly renewable resources, such as bamboo or cork, are great, eco-friendly materials for flooring, while natural fibers made of wool or containing a high proportion of recycled synthetics are excellent selections for carpets.
Lighting the way to a healthier home Green homes are brightened more with sunlight and less with artificial light, thanks to thoughtful positioning of skylights, clerestories, light shelves and other windows. More than half of the home should be illuminated with daylight.
Filling the home with natural lighting is significant in helping to reduce utility costs, but blocking the sun is equally important, too. Staples of green homes that regulate indoor temperature are shading devices such as sunshades, canopies and—the best option of all—deciduous trees in the yard.
Reduce energy and water use, reduce costs A home that’s energy-efficient will have insulation inside its walls and roof, which means less heavy lifting for its heating and cooling systems, plus lower electricity bills. Insulation derived from recyclable materials and with a high R-value, or thermal resistance, are recommended.
Green homes also use dual-glaze windows, which help reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss during the winter. Their roofs should be light-colored and reflect heat or feature landscaping to help reduce heat absorption.
Additionally, water-efficient kitchen and bathroom fixtures are a regular element in green homes. If the house is located in a drier region where water is scarce, then it’s likely it will have some type of rainwater collection and storage system.
The great outdoors: functional and regenerative landscapes The development and design of a home’s landscaping can have an adverse impact on local ecosystems. A green home will have drought-tolerant vegetation that requires less water and pesticides. Its landscaping will work to protect native plant and animal species while also contributing to the health of surrounding wildlife habitats.
Location matters Green homes aren’t built on sites such as prime farmland, wetlands and wildlife habitats. Instead, the greenest development sites are “in-fill” properties, such as former parking lots, rail yards, shopping malls and factories. They should also be within easy walking distance of public transportation, stores, schools and parks.
*Huynh, Christina, (Dec. 2, 2015). Key features: A look inside a green home’s clockwork. Retrieved from, https://www.usgbc.org/articles/key-features-look-inside-green-home%E2%80%99s-clockwork