You've decided to take the plunge, bubbles be damned: you want to buy a house. But you also want it to be as green and sustainable as possible -- perhaps you count yourself among the "cultural creatives," or perhaps you're a big fan of home-makeover television shows. Or, just maybe, you recognize that a high-efficiency, low-consumption dwelling can be comfortable and stylish, as well as very much an investment in sustainable living. So how do you find a green home?
Green Moves is a website dedicated to advertising homes for sale that are more energy efficient than conventional homes. These homes could also be called environmentally friendly homes or green homes.
Green Moves is an ethical business initiative that has the support of two environmental charities: the Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development and the WWF (One Million Sustainable Homes Campaign). Green Moves also reinvests some of its income in tree planting to help offset the carbon emissions from housing.
Green Moves encompasses a wide range of environmentally-friendly building practices, from rainwater harvesting to solar photovoltaic generation to "green roofs." Homes advertised on the site are checked and accredited prior to listing. Unsurprisingly, there aren't huge numbers of homes listed, but the site has only been in operation for a short time. As more people find the site -- and as more builders/remodelers recognize the value of improving efficiency and design -- the listings will undoubtedly grow. And, as we noted a couple of months ago, the UK also has a mortgage lender focusing specifically on green properties, the Ecology Building Society.
Green homes certainly exist in the United States, too (and are popping up around the world), but I couldn't find equivalent home finding services in other locations. Where are they? If you're not interested in building your own green home, and don't live near an existing green development, what can you do?
Do any of you know of green home locator services in the US or elsewhere?
Back in the '80's, the University of Winnipeg came up with the R-2000 concept of building. Now, most new houses in Canada are either R-2000 houses, or as less reputable builders say, "just like R-2000". All windows are double or triple glazed, all walls are heavily insulated, plastic bags are installed around the switch and light boxes, and red vapor barrier tape is used with great abandon. An R-2000 house is so energy efficient that normally the lights must be on timers to shut them off because all you need are the lights to heat the place. And this is in the middle of a Canadian winter! And this is without super expensive solar systems, just good solid not very sexy building practices.
Any discussion of "green" living spaces MUST involve the Canadian R-2000 designs or they are just bogus, and possibly self serving as well.
I built a metalworking shop which requires almost no heater. The upstairs gas fireplace is never used because it makes the place too hot in the winter! The downstairs is, well, a shop, and it warms up pretty quickly once the machines start humming. My gas bill for this shop is traditionally less than 20 dollars a year. Hello!!!!! Canadian Winter here!!!!!
The real difficulty is in convincing the local building inspectors to demand quality in the building trades....these standards don't just happen by themselves. They require educated consumers Am I educating you? Let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more commentary on how to reduce the ecological footprint.
Green Home Locator Services:
Check out Bill Christensen's long-running Sustainable Sources. They've got a listing of green builing professionals, a green real estate locator, and are well-connected to the green building community in Austin / Central Texas (which established the first American municipal program in green building)
There are a couple really good resources in the US for what you are looking for. The first, is EcoBroker.com. EcoBroker is an education and market performance program designed exclusively for real estate professionals and industry affiliates who care about the environment. Not only will you find realtors on their site who know how to properly sell green properties, but they have the ability to list those types of properties on their site for prospective buyers.
The EcoBroker designation is fairly new, and I've been involved in promoting it for the last two months. My justification in doing so, is that I believe that when more realtors understand the benefits of a "green" home, the better the market can grow. I also believe that if realtors can properly talk about the benefits of such homes for prospective buyers, it assists in the sale of these homes to the average consumer who may have not been introduced to the concept of a green home.
The other point that I'd like to mention here is in regards to a mortgage program for green properties. Most of you have probably never heard of an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM). That's ok. 99% of lenders in the US do not know how to do them. Indigo Financial Group is one such company in Michigan that offers this unique mortgage to most of the US.
The mortgage itself is a program that was created by Fannie Mae in 1979. It promotes the design, construction, renovation and purchase of more efficient homes. The simple premise is that a homeowner who buys a home that is more efficient, can afford a slightly higher mortgage payment because the overall cost to operate the home on a monthly basis is lower. For existing homes it is an extremely powerful tool that gives prospective or current homeowners the ability to borrow up to 15% of the home's appraised value to retrofit the home and make it more efficient.
The Energy Efficient Mortgage program is severely underutilized in the US. The reason is really quite simple and it's because most consumers just don't know it exists. I hope this helps!