Green living is about the whole enchilada. It’s about doing a lot of little things, and maybe even a few big ones, that improve our lives, the environment and our economy. Our homes play a crucial role in the equation. New-home buyers are finding an increasing number of communities built in varying shades of green, and that’s a great trend. But what about the rest of us living in our existing, not-quite-so-green homes?
Most people want a greener home. Who wouldn’t want to reduce their power bill, be more comfortable and provide a healthier place for their family? Home remodeling is a $200 billion-a-year industry and is expected to double during the next five years as our housing stock ages. Every remodel, repair or upgrade represents an opportunity to go green.
What options do we have and just how do we go about deciding what to do first?
Green building programs and guidelines have traditionally focused on new construction, not remodeling. The American Society of Interior Designers Foundation and the U.S. Green Building Council recently launched the nation’s first green residential remodeling guidelines. This excellent resource is available online at www.greenhomeguide.org.
Organized into the 10 most common remodeling projects, the Regreen Residential Guidelines are designed to provide professionals and homeowners with resources and tools to green existing homes. The guidelines can be applied to a variety of projects, from remodeling a kitchen to executing a full-scale renovation.
Even if you aren’t thinking of greening your home at the moment, browsing through the Regreen Residential Guidelines will undoubtedly result in some light bulb moments and flashes of inspiration. The well-illustrated 182-page document is chock-full of examples and case studies. It is not a technical how-to manual but strikes a good balance between detail and readability.
The Regreen Residential Guidelines will provide useful information to contractors, homeowners, elected officials and other policy-makers. As we tackle the issues of our time, such as climate change, growth, energy and economics, having the right tools is essential. This one should be in everyone’s toolbox. It’s a compendium of best practice guidelines and educational resources for sustainable residential improvement projects.
The thing about tools is that even the best of them serve no purpose if they are not used wisely. We now have a resource that can quite literally help us transform our community, but we must use it. Don’t wait for the other guy — it’s about you and me. We have a job to do, so let’s get to work!
Regardless of your budget or your home’s age, size or condition, there is something in the Regreen Residential Guidelines that makes sense for your situation. The cool thing about greening an existing home is that you can do it in small, incremental steps. Each improvement can build on previous ones and they are often complementary.
For example, adding extra insulation might be a good initial investment to make a home more energy efficient. Getting ductwork tested and properly sealed can eliminate costly leaks, a common problem. Changing out some windows might also lower energy costs. If the time comes to install a new air-conditioning unit, perhaps it can be downsized due to the home’s improved efficiency, a result of the previous improvements. At this point, adding a solar electric system would be much more cost-effective due to the home’s reduced electrical needs.
Putting some thought into the process is much better than implementing haphazard projects with no plan. Taking a holistic, integrated approach is the best way to go and the Regreen Residential Guidelines do a good job explaining how.