Where do you want to live?
Today kicks off Inhabitat’s summer series, Green Building 101, our weekly column covering the fundamentals of green building. This series will be structured around the U.S. Green Building Council‘s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, specifically the new LEED for Homes for residential building, which establishes seven criteria for creating healthier, greener, more efficient homes.
LEED is not the only system for determining whether or not a project is sustainable – and debatably, it may not be the best. However, it is the most commonly accepted benchmark and an excellent starting point for those wanting to get their feet……green, so here we go!
LOCATION AND LINKAGES
We’re beginning our series this week with “Location & Linkages” (L&L.) This somewhat vague term has been defined by LEED-H (currently in pilot) as a methodology for sustainable site selection and development. The USGBC has implemented L&L in hopes that it will help reduce energy consumed by Americans in pursuit of cheap land and more closet space across the (seemingly) infinite supply of pasture and native habitats.
We know you are anxious for tips on water conservation, cool materials, and saving energy, however we’re going to begin with some general, large scale steps for making an environmentally conscious choice on where to live. First things first!
Here are 6 ways to insure your home is sustainably located:
1) Locate your Piece of Heaven responsibly: 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 – consider the ecosystem you’re moving into. And as common sense tells most of us, avoid looking at developments that are a long way 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?
2) Infill: 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.
3) The car isn’t your only option: 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.
4) 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.
(We’re sure you’ve all heard about the studies linking suburban sprawl to obesity. One surefire way to get in shape is to move to a city like New York, where you have to walk everywhere to get around.)
5) Coming soon to a community near you: the LEED-ND 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:
6). Consider local climate: This may sound like a no-brainer, but if it’s so obvious, then 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 made of adobe. Building traditions developed over time to adapt to their conditions. Investigate the vernacular and learn about what works best in your region for weather, heating, cooling, insulation and energy.
Now, some of you may be thinking: 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 school girl. But the problem is, you’re in a subdivision that 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. Once LEED gets standards for new construction hammered out, they are likely to follow up with criteria for existing homes as well. For the rest of you who just want a few noninvasive tips for saving water and energy – hang in there; we’ve got more to come next Wednesday!
(This is probably not going to win a LEED-ND certification…)