GREEN BUILDING 101: How to Choose the Best Spot for Your Dream Green Home
We’ve already touched upon ways to keep cool (and warm!) via insulation and home orientation, but what about your home’s location itself? Where would you like to live? Naturally, aspects such as water conservation, sustainable building materials and how to save energy are great, but let’s take a step back and consider steps needed for making an environmentally conscious choice on where to live. We’ll share a few tips below on “Location and Linkages”; a term defined by LEED as a method of sustainable site selection and development. Hopefully these guidelines can help to reduce energy consumed by Americans in pursuit of cheap land and more closet space across the (seemingly) infinite supply of pasture and native habitats.
Where Do You Want To Live?
When it comes to choosing the place where you’d like to live, there are many different criteria to keep in mind, not least of which includes the regional climate, weather patterns, and local ecosystems. Are you aiming to walk or bike to work? Do you prefer the bustle of a vibrant urban community, or the serenity of a more wooded area? Here are 6 ways to ensure your home is sustainably located:
Choose a Responsible Location
Great blue heron, via Shutterstock
Avoid naturally sensitive areas such as wetlands, floodplains, and quality farmland; it’s a slippery slope from soil erosion to water pollution to habitat destruction, so give careful consideration to the ecosystem you’re moving into. As common sense tells most of us, avoid looking at developments that are a significant distance from the places you need to be. What’s the point in having a nice place if you have to give up two hours a day to your commute?
Seek out lots (or even buildings) that were formerly industrial or inhabited, but have become voids in the urban fabric. Most likely, they’ll come equipped with utilities and infrastructure, and they are likely to be near established public transportation. Reinhabiting these voids brings dormant areas back to life and offers a vibrant alternative to sprawl.
Ditch Your Car
This is by far the most applicable to those of you living in more urban settings. Live close to where you work, live close to where you shop, live close to where you party, and live close to the public transportation that can get you everywhere else cheaply, easily, and without firing up that SUV. This one choice is hugely beneficial for curbing global warming and decreasing air pollution. Its better for your health too.
The More, The Merrier!
Look for developments that are compact and naturally form close-knit communities where amenities are within walking distance. This isn’t a new idea; many of the Mayberry-esque neighborhoods we love across America have densities of 8 homes per acre or greater. Density fosters safety, good physical health and a higher quality of life.
(There are numerous studies linking suburban sprawl to obesity, but one surefire way to stay in shape is to move to a city like New York, where you have to walk everywhere to get around.)
Join a LEED-Rated Neighborhood:
In the near future, entire neighborhoods, not just buildings, will be able to attain a LEED rating. Anyone purchasing a home or business in these developments will have already achieved the previous criteria, further ensuring the broad reach of sustainable development.
And now a point that is not on the LEED L&L checklist, but that we think is important:
Consider Local Climate
This may sound like a no-brainer, but if it’s so obvious, why do so many houses from California to Connecticut look exactly the same? The vast monocrops of McMansions indicate that housing developers aren’t considering climate. There is a reason that houses in hot, humid climates are traditionally raised on platforms, and houses in the hot and dry southwest are made of adobe. Building traditions developed over time to adapt to their conditions: investigate what works best in your region with regard to weather, heating, cooling, insulation and energy.
Now, some of you may be thinking that this is all well and good; you’ve just built your house with all the bells and whistles, so green it would make Al Gore squeal like a schoolgirl. The problem is that you’re in a subdivision which requires a 10-minute drive just to get a cup of coffee, and your nearest neighbor is a quarter mile away, since you couldn’t get away with a full roof of solar panels and a rain water collection tank in the city.
Well, if it’s LEED certification you had your heart set on, don’t sweat it. LEED has criteria for existing homes as well as new construction projects, so take a look at their checklists to see what changes you can make to attain certification! Stay tuned for more noninvasive tips for saving water and energy as we continue this Green 101 series.
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