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Why build a green home?

There are many reasons to build a green home. Perhaps you want to provide a safe, healthy place for your children to grow up, or maybe you’re concerned about rising energy costs. Your priority might be comfort, or durability—knowing that the house will last a long time with minimal maintenance. For a growing number of us, building a green home is about doing our part to protect the environment, helping to make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. A green home is all of this, and often much more.

– Alex Wilson, author of Your Green Home and executive editor of Environmental Building News,


What is green building?

The term green building is used to describe design and construction of buildings with some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Buildings that have minimal adverse impacts on local, regional, and even global ecosystems
  • Buildings that reduce reliance on automobiles
  • Buildings that are energy-efficient in their operation
  • Buildings and grounds that conserve water
  • Buildings that are built in an environmentally responsible manner from low-environmental-impact materials
  • Buildings that are durable and can be maintained with minimal environmental impact
  • Buildings that help their occupants practice environmentalism—e.g., by recycling waste
  • Buildings that are comfortable, safe, and healthy for their occupants

Quite often, when people think of green building, what comes to mind is the use of recycled-content building materials—insulation made from recycled newspaper, floor tiles made out of ground-up light bulbs, and so forth. Materials are indeed an important component of green construction, but this way of building goes much further.

Green building addresses the relationship between a building and the land on which it sits; how the structure might help to foster a sense of community or reduce the need for automobile use by its occupants; how to minimize energy use in the building (energy consumption being one of the largest environmental impacts of any building); and how to create the healthiest possible living space. These priorities, from a broad environmental standpoint, are usually far more important than whether or not the floor tiles in the entry hall are made out of recycled glass.

– Alex Wilson, author of Your Green Home and executive editor of Environmental Building News,


Do green buildings cost more than conventional buildings?

Green buildings are sometimes perceived as costing more, but studies have shown the costs to be from nothing to only nominal.

A study, “The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings: A Report to California’s Sustainable Building Task Force,” in 2003 of 33 green buildings in California found that the average cost of building green over traditional methods was about 2 percent($3-5/ ft2) per square foot. The average energy reduction from the 33 buildings was 30 percent. This alone provides savings sufficient to pay back the initial 2 percent premium in less than 9 years. The same study found that, over a 20-year period, the overall net savings for a green building is between $48.87 - $67.31 per square foot, depending on the LEED rating of the building.

Additionally, in the Sustainable Building Technical Manual, David Gottfried points out, "Viewed over a 30-year period, initial building costs account for approximately just 2% of the total, while operations and maintenance costs equal 6%, and personnel costs equal 92%."

The majority of the increased cost is due to designing and planning of integrating the sustainable building practices, so generally, the earlier the green design concepts are incorporated into the design process, the lower the cost.

Life cycle analysis can help to evaluate the real costs over time. Some items, such as solar panels, may cost more in the short run but may generate huge energy savings over a number of years.

In addition, green buildings provide financial benefits that conventional buildings do not. With more natural light and better air quality, green buildings typically contribute to improved employee and student health, comfort, and productivity.


What is a home energy rating?

HERS (Home Energy Rating Systems) provide a standardized evaluation of a home's energy efficiency and expected energy costs.  A home energy rating can qualify a home owner or home buyer for an energy-efficient mortgage (EEM) or an energy-improvement mortgage (EIM).  An energy rating can maximize the value of the largest single investment most home owners are likely to make in their entire lifetime. In addition, knowing a home’s energy performance is a critical when selecting or upgrading a home.


How do I find an Energy Rater?

Search the EnergyGauge database for an Energy Rater near you.


How can I reduce my energy costs in my home?

Whether you-re designing a new home or retrofitting an existing home there are several things you can do to save money. Look at Florida Solar Energy Center's list of priorities for more details.


What is a radiant barrier? Should I have one in my home?

Radiant barriers are installed in homes—most commonly in attics—to keep them cooler and reduce cooling costs. In hot climates, the benefits of a radiant barrier include both dollar savings and increased comfort. The barrier consists of a highly reflective material that reflects radiant heat, rather than absorbing it.

Without a radiant barrier, your roof radiates solar-generated heat to the insulation below it. The insulation absorbs the heat and gradually transfers it to the material it touches, principally the ceiling. This makes your air conditioner run longer and consume more electricity.

For more information about radiant barriers, take a look at the video listed below. Although the video was created in the 80s, the technology is still applicable.

Note: The video is provided in multiple sizes to accommodate different connection speeds. Quick Time 7 is required for viewing but can be downloaded for free by clicking the button below.

Radiant Barriers:
How they work and
how to install them

Running time: 18 minutes

QuickTime 7 Required button

<Small> <Medium> <Large>

Photo: Close-up of man stapling radiant barrier to underside of roof decking

What is a "green" roof?

The term “green” roof may refer to an actual green vegetative roof or it may refer to a roof that utilizes “green” technology, such as a photovoltaic (solar electricity) system.

A green vegetative roof is one that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil, or a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. Additional layers, such as root barrier or drainage and irrigation systems may also be included. Green roof systems have been shown to reduce heat transfer through the roof, decrease stormwater pollutants, and cut down on stormwater volume by naturally evaporating the runoff through the plant respiration process.

In Florida, the University of Central Florida's Stormwater Management Academy installed the university's first green roof on the Student Union. The roof is covered with plants ranging from dune sunflowers to bougainvillea, and three-fourths of the vegetation is native to Florida. It requires little maintenance and it is designed to absorb much of the rainwater. What isn’t absorbed is captured into cisterns and used later to irrigate the roof.

For more information about "green" roofs, visit