New green homes get the most attention, but greening up existing homes is the real challenge. After all, 1 million to 2 million new homes are built each year (much less than that now) but there are more than 101 million residential households in the United States today.
According to government statistics, approximately 74 million of these households live in single family site-built homes, 6 million live in mobile homes/manufactured houses, and 21 million live in multifamily buildings.
“Not surprisingly,” a Build America report says, “existing residential buildings represent the single largest source of potential energy savings.”
Here are the essentials to consider when greening up an existing home, according to an article by RIS Media:
1. Efficient heating, cooling and energy use: This includes new blown-in insulation, radiant barrier on roof or in attic, natural ventilation via windows and operable skylights, on-demand water heater, solar water heater, Energy Star appliances, efficient lights.
2. Reduced water consumption: Includes super efficient washing machines, low-flow showerheads, dual-flush toilets, moving water heater closer to point of use, landscaping with low-water-use plants.
3. Healthy indoor air: Starts with non-toxic paints and finishes, low use of carpeting, good air filters.
4. Sustainable materials: Can be achieved by using reclaimed hardwood, use of wood from sustainably managed forests, flooring from rapidly renewed products like bamboo or cork, recycled glass countertops.
5. Quality over quantity: As Sarah Susanka has pointed out so well in her Not So Big House series of books, it’s often not more space that we crave, but better functioning space. An architect or designer could help create more than just vast, featureless rooms. Smaller rooms require less energy to build and to heat and cool.
6. Recycled construction waste: And finally, recycling construction waste during a medium or large project is often as easy as calling in a waste hauler that separates construction waste at a yard and sends it off to be recycled.
(Photo: Green remodel in Santa Barbara / Los Angeles Times)