Welcome Home Des Moines Home Trends | February/March 2014 By Tracy Dickinson Despite the trend toward green products and environmental friendliness, many consumers still shy away from the green movement. Maybe you feel it’s too expensive or only for the granola and Birkenstock crowd. Or maybe you just don’t know where to begin. Welcome Home will walk you through Going Green 101. This introductory course in green building might be just the foundation you need. As Siobhan Spain, Interim Executive Director for Iowa’s Center on Sustainable Communities (COSC), says, “Education is vital. Knowing your home and making informed decisions is the first step toward green building.” So let’s start with a definition.
According to COSC, “Green building is the practice of creating, retrofitting and rehabbing structures using processes that are healthy, environmentally responsible and resource-efficient.”
These practices include low-waste construction and incorporating sustainable products in the construction and remodeling of homes. It can mean finding alternative sources for energy and reducing consumption of natural resources. But it also means taking small steps to live more efficiently where you are right now. Spain explains it this way: “The real goal of green building is to improve your home’s efficiency, comfort, health, and its value as an investment and as a significant influence on our quality of life. We encourage homeowners to start that process wherever they can.” How do you apply that information? It might surprise you to learn that, though green building can be as advanced as using only renewable energy to power your home, it can also be as simple as keeping your HVAC system running efficiently. “Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment,” COSC states. This can include efficient use of resources like water and energy, minimizing maintenance issues, and reducing waste and pollution. Here’s what that means in the real world. Sustainable materials. Instead of buying new, find ways to reuse and repurpose existing items. Turn that old door into a table top. Repair before you replace. Purchase products made with recycled content. Reduced consumption. Install energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances. Replace old fixtures with low-flow options (toilets, water heaters, etc.). Use native plants in your landscaping and rain barrels to collect water for the garden. Healthier indoor environment. Use low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints to reduce toxins. Replace synthetic carpets with natural flooring products like woods or plant-based carpets. Maintain heating and cooling equipment. Lower maintenance. Schedule an annual HVAC tune up with a System Adjustment & Verified Efficiency certified professional (www.hvacsave.com) to verify your system’s efficiency and proper installation. Air seal the attic and install sufficient insulation. Ensure proper window and door installation and caulk units to prevent leaks. Still not sure you have all the information you need? Spain says the best place to start is right where you are. “The two most critical pieces of advice I can give are to know your own home and where to get reliable information.” In order to adopt the best green practices for your situation, you need to be an expert on your own home. “Scheduling an energy audit is a good way to get started,” Spain says, “but be engaged in the process.” She advises doing the walk-through with the auditor so you know how your equipment works, where your home’s strengths and weaknesses are, and where you can begin improving its green footprint. “Green products and practices are coming down in cost as demand increases,” she adds, “so being green doesn’t have to cost more. And it saves in health costs and improved value in the long run.” You can strive to live off the grid and consume only what you raise or make yourself. But going green doesn’t have to become an advanced course in environmental economics. Take it one step, one energy-efficient light bulb at a time. Maybe Kermit was wrong – it is easy being green. Further your education. Make being green an ongoing process, Spain suggests. “Find accurate sources of information that aren’t selling anything,” she says, “so you can make informed decisions.”
- Attend community events. COSC and its many partners offer a variety of events throughout the year, from hands-on workshops to demonstrations days and classes.
- Stay informed. Follow educational sources like iCOSC.com , IowaEnergyCenter.org, and others to get unbiased information on ways to increase your sustainable practices.
- Expand your horizons. Google searches can be helpful, however, not all the information that pops up is accurate or objective. Spain states, “Taking a discerning view of the results and cross-referencing information whenever possible is in homeowners’ best interest.”
- Make connections. One of the most effective and rewarding ways to become more informed is to network with neighbors, other interest consumers, green building professionals and regional non-profit organizations. “The Des Moines area has an engaging green building community,” Spain says. “Making connections works, and we’re here to help.”