When you think of green building, a very complicated, environment-focused process may come to mind. Between choosing sustainable materials, planning eco-friendly installations, and evaluating how the building affects the land around it, the whole idea can sound like a lot of effort and expense.
However, you may want to think twice before you say “no thank you” to integrating green design. Going the eco route can actually be quite simple, and perhaps most importantly, it can help you take advantage of major savings. So even if you’re not the earthy type, there’s still plenty of reason to embrace green building.
Energy Cost Savings
This may be old news but it is continuing to prove true. People who live in green homes save money on their utility bills month after month. This can add up to huge savings over time.
Depending on the type of design approach and certification, eco-friendly homes yield very big energy savings. A green home meeting the EPA’s ENERGY STAR requirements is designed to save up to 30% on energy costs.
Meanwhile, Passive Homes can reduce your energy use by up to 90%. This means that your energy costs could drop to just 10% of that of a conventional home. This is possible thanks to leveraging features that naturally minimize the need for heating and cooling. Using a passive approach when building your new home can capitalize on your lot’s sun exposure and optimize natural ventilation, harvesting warmth when needed and maintaining a balance that prevents overheating.
Net Zero homes are designed to reduce your home’s energy consumption to less than the amount of clean energy your home’s system produces. The excess clean energy your home produces can, in our area, be put back into the grid. Currently, the local power companies generally pay you for the power you send them in the form of credits to offsetting your grid power usage to the point you reduce your electric bill to zero.
Taking this principle further, you can actually start to earn an income from the extra clean energy your home produces. If your energy credits go beyond cancelling out your usage, then you will get cash payments from your utility provider.
Since green design typically incorporates water-saving features, it can also help you save money on water bills. This is good news, considering that Minneapolis water prices have been rising year after year, and a family of four will spend over $55 per month on water alone. That’s $660 per year.
An average person uses 80-100 gallons of water per day, and while less than half of that will be used for cooking or drinking, chances are that all of it is treated, potable water from the municipal provider. But that drinkable quality of water isn’t necessary for the most common modes of household usage.
What many people don’t realize is that it’s fairly easy to implement systems for recycling and reusing water on your own property, thereby decreasing the demands on shared supplies and reducing your water bills.
Water Collection & Reuse
Green design has come up with two main ways to reduce the use of drinkable water for non-consumption purposes: collecting rainwater and reusing indoor wash water. You can install cisterns above or below ground that will collect and store run-off from rooftops and other impervious surfaces.
These cisterns can also gather waste water from laundry machines, dishwashers, bathtubs, and sinks. The latter is classified as greywater, meaning that it does not include human waste or sewage. This makes it safe to reuse for things like flushing your toilet.
The irrigation of lawns and gardens consumes up to 50% of the potable water we bring onto our property, and much of that just ends up as runoff, rather than being absorbed by the plants being watered. This means that quite a lot of your money is literally leaking away.
Installing smart, programmable sprinkler systems and moisture sensors will allow you to measure the amount of water your yard needs at any given time, and control irrigation from a central shut-off valve. If you combine this system with your rain and wastewater collection, then your outdoor watering will require little to no fresh city water at all.
Indoor Water Use
The primary means of reducing indoor water use has to do with the fixtures you choose. Selecting low-flow sink and bathtub faucets, showerheads, and toilets can reduce indoor water use by 30-40%. That amounts to as much as a $22 monthly savings on the average local water bill, or $264 annually.
The green building philosophy isn’t just concerned with the health of the environment. It prioritizes your health too. A green design will have careful selection of building materials that have healthy chemical properties.
For example, some finishes, wood composites, and other materials emit toxic chemicals into the air. This can compromise your indoor air quality and pose serious health risks for you and your family. Poor indoor air quality is linked with all kinds of unpleasant symptoms, including respiratory trouble, fatigue, headaches, and sore throat. Homes that contain materials with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may also be exposing their inhabitants to higher risk of cancer and other diseases.
The improved natural and mechanical ventilation systems of green design can keep your home’s air fresh and healthy too. Maintaining a good inflow of fresh, clean air will reduce the amount of bacteria and pollutants hovering in your home’s interior, preventing you from catching so many colds.
Higher Return on Investment (ROI) for Construction Costs
Compared to traditional structures, green buildings used to cost more to construct. But the cost of building a high-performance home has actually reached the same level as a traditional house. When you factor in value increase and utility savings, an investment in green becomes even more attractive.
The ROI on green homes is generally higher than the ROI on conventional homes. Building value can increase by nearly 11% with green design, and structures with green certifications of some type can see a 30% increase in their value. The fact that today’s homebuyers (8 out of 10) are actively seeking houses with sustainable design makes it so that such properties can sell quickly and demand higher asking prices.
The premiums can grow depending on the big-ticket green features that are present. A 2019 study by Zillow showed that in the New York City area, green homes with solar panels sell for 5.4% more than comparable non-green homes. The national average is 4.1%, which comes out to a price boost of nearly $9275.
Finally, having a green home may help you secure more favorable insurance and loan rates. This is usually applicable when your home has certain green features or specific certifications. More and more insurance companies are offering discounts on policies covering green homes or rebuilding a damaged home to green standards. Likewise, homebuyers purchasing green homes may be eligible for discounted loan rates from their mortgage company.
Enjoy Green Benefits in Your Design Project
Designing green doesn’t have to be all or nothing, it can fall anywhere between changing out your lights for LEDs to getting your project certified. Even the smallest moves can make an impact on your expenses.
The good news is that even if you don’t come to us with a green directive, we are always thinking about how we can implement these things in all our projects. Therefore, you’ll be able to reap the benefits regardless. No extra effort needed.