Being environmentally friendly was once just about recycling and using products that had minimal impact on the planet, but now it has spread to real estate. Driven by the ever important green consumers market, home builders are starting to build homes that are more efficient, and are eco friendly.
The push towards eco friendly real estate started with the government backed 'Energy Star' program, which was more aimed at saving the consumer money rather than saving the environment. It covers such aspects as home appliances, heating and cooling systems, high performance windows, home insulation, and exterior air seal. Energy Star homes are typically 20% to 30% more efficient than normal homes. In order for a home to receive an Energy Star qualification, it must pass an Energy Star inspection.
In 1998, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification was introduced. This certification took the whole idea of sustainable green building and development practices to the next level. In addition to the items covered by the 'Energy Star' program, LEED covers such items as:
- Site selection. For example, not built within 100ft of water, does not impact endangered species, not built on public parkland, not built on floodplain.
- Home Air filtration.
- Construction waste management and recycling.
- Use of environmentally preferred products and materials for construction.
- Landscaping and irrigation system (minimal amount of grass, drip system irrigation for plants, native planting, irrigation systems connected to weather station).
- Nontoxic pest control.
- Surface water management.
- Reduction of local heat island effects.
Based on these and other criteria the builder can be awarded one of 4 levels of certification.
Lets take a look at a real life example of how developers and builders are trying to become more eco friendly. The Daybreak Utah development is the largest new home development ever to be built in the State of Utah. When complete it will have over 14,000 homes all of which will be Energy Star compliant. In addition to this the Daybreak Community Center was awarded a silver LEED certification. They were awarded this certification based on the following achievements:
- More than 40% of the pavement is either shaded or light colored to reduce the heat island effect.
- Storm water runoff is controlled in order to prevent water pollution.
- Outdoor water usage reduced by 50% via the use of native plants and high efficiency irrigation system.
- Indoor water usage reduced by 22% by using low flow fixtures.
- Ground source heat pump system utilizes the earths constant temperature to efficiently provide heating and cooling.
- Use of high efficiency lamps.
- More than 57% of the construction waste was recycled.
- High level of materials with recycled content were used for construction.
- Promoted the use of locally constructed materials thus reducing transportation impacts,
- The building was designed to accommodate educational, community and recreational resources. This combined use of facilities provided savings in physical space, and reduced the mechanical, material and parking.
Daybreak is just one of many eco friendly developments that can be found, and with Green consumers here to stay, builders and developers will continue to build more environmentally friendly homes and developments.