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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

What Makes a Home "Green"?

Green is the new black, so to speak. Everybody is talking about going green and even building green. So what does it really mean to build green?

Defining green has been a challenge, even for those who are as green as you can get. To sum up green, the question would be – what type of environmental impact does the materials you are using have?

Assessing impact can mean on the front end or the back end. For example, in some instances, the product you use in building your home might not be green to build, but the results of that product can be beneficial. A good example would be if a window is installed in a way that maximizes the collection of low winter sunlight and blocks the summer sun, this saves energy and is green.

Because defining green is difficult, standards are starting to be organized and listed in the GreenSpec directory. This directory bases decisions about products on categories such as energy-consuming appliances and VOC-emitting paints, specific thresholds can be established relatively easily. But for many criteria, the lines are much fuzzier and judgment calls are required.

It is important also to note that multiple criteria often apply—in other words, a product may be considered green for more than one reason. Take recycled plastic lumber, for example: it’s made from recycled waste, it’s highly durable, and it can obviate the need for pesticide treatments. Straw particleboard products are made from agricultural waste materials, and they are free from formaldehyde off-gassing. A product with multiple benefits could qualify for GreenSpec on the basis of its overall environmental performance, even if it doesn’t meet a threshold in any one category alone. Conversely, a product with one or more green attributes might not qualify if it also carries significant environmental burdens. For example, wood treated with toxic preservatives has advantages in terms of durability, but it would not be listed in GreenSpec due the health and environmental hazards it represents.

The primary intent with any green building products directory is to simplify the product selection process.

Another way to build green is to conform to what is called LEED Standards. LEED or ‘The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ is a Green Building Rating System™ that encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.

There are many resources available for consumers so that they can adapt their building materials and design to LEED standards. Building this way is probably the simplest way to go and there are many resources available to assist you.

So should you build green because it is popular? Not necessarily. You should build green because it is what will ultimately provide a ‘green’ future and not a black one.

Greg Sullivan is the President of, a leading provider of home appraisals offering a nationwide personalized instant home appraisal service. For more information, please visit

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