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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Choosing Green Homes Increases Sustainability: C.R. Herro from Meritage Homes reveals the many options that homebuilders are integrating into greener homes

Mar 31, 2014 10:22AM ● By C. R. Herro

With the public’s increasing focus on green living, homebuilders are taking note and offering greener options. In addition to the feel-good benefit of doing the right thing for the environment, many of the greener options now offered translate into direct benefits in improving occupants’ health, saving money and improving the impact we have on our environment.

By making better choices in the homes we purchase and the products we fill them with, people can improve their overall health. For example, many green-minded homebuyers are demanding that their homebuilder avoid the use of harmful chemicals such as high volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are commonly found in conventional paints, carpeting and cleaning products. Not only are these chemicals associated with increased asthma, allergies and cancer risks, but they also pollute the natural environment.

Alternative options to products containing VOCs are readily available by choosing green-labeled materials for building and remodels. In addition, ensuring that a home is built with proper exhaust ventilation and high-performance air filtration greatly reduces contaminants from pollen, mold spores and dust. This benefit also directly impacts the health of the occupants, particularly those that suffer from allergies.

Another way to reduce indoor air pollutants is home sealing, which involves caulking windows, weather stripping and penetration sealing—anything that reduces air infiltration into the home. Sealing also retains conditioned air, which greatly reduces the cost to heat and cool a home. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has consumer product labeling and detailed information available through its Indoor airPLUS program.

Greener homes also save money. In 1992, the EPA introduced ENERGY STAR to identify and promote more efficient products. Consumers saved more than $24 billion in 2012 by simply choosing ENERGY STAR certified products. Examples include appliances, windows and lighting, and even whole homes can be certified to meet ENERGY STAR standards. The reduction of unnecessarily wasted electricity and water translates into significant savings to the homeowner in utility bills. Also, homes that include advanced energy-efficient features are now being appraised as more valuable as a result of changes in national appraisal standards, so homeowners that chose greener home options are now capturing increased value upon resale.

Homebuyers can also save money on utility bills by choosing solar options. In the past, the cost of solar installation often exceeded the financial benefit of reduced utility bills. It was a constructive option without a lot of financial benefit to the homeowner. Now, because of significant reductions in installation costs, the average homebuyer can enjoy significant savings above the cost of selecting this option, making solar both a financially sound and more socially responsible renewable energy option. Solar is a key in transforming our carbon-based society into a more sustainable solar-powered economy.

Whether choosing a new home or remodeling an existing home, today’s homebuyers have advanced choices that can both significantly improve the quality of their lives and contribute to a more green society. One program is the Home Energy Rating System (HERS), which quantifies the cumulative impact of all the energy efficient features made to a home (resnet.us/hers-index).

When building a home, buyers can insist that their homebuilder utilize some of these new sustainable options. In addition, Realtors are now seeking advanced green training to assist buyers that demand better, greener lives and can assist their clients in navigating these options.

Even if someone is simply updating an existing home, these options can be incorporated to improve the home’s health and reduce its operating costs. In fact, local utility providers have gotten on board with the green movement by offering resources and discounts to allow homeowners to cost-effectively upgrade their homes to greener standards.

C.R. Herro is vice president of environmental affairs for Meritage Homes, with a Ph.D. in environmental engineering. He leads their energy and innovation program, which combines design, energy efficiency, water management, sustainability and new technologies to establish a new standard in home building that provides better comfort and healthier air, as well as less cost to own and operate. Learn more at MeritageHomes.com.

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