Q: What steps can Los Altos homeowners take to green their homes?
A: The green building movement is alive and well. New homes, offices, schools, retail stores and every other type of building can be designed and built to green standards. A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources. Greener homes are healthier places for us to live compared to standard homes.
But what about existing homes in Los Altos? Green renovations or remodels can happen all at once or as a gradual process.
According to information from "This Old House" and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), there are simple steps to green our homes and our lifestyles. Save $30-$40 per year in heating costs by washing clothes in cold water; use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's online emissions calculator to measure the quantity of greenhouse-gas emissions your household produces; install motion sensors, photocell controls or timers to control outdoor lighting needs; and obtain a home energy audit to assess home-energy usage and prioritize actions to make it more efficient and comfortable. To get started, try Energy Star's Home Energy Yardstick at www.energystar.gov. For further ideas, visit www.thegreenhomeguide.org.
For remodeling, the American Society of Interior Designers' Foundation and the USGBC have partnered to develop guidelines and resources for sustainable residential remodels. The goal is to increase awareness and understanding of sustainable home renovation. The Web site at www.regreenprogram.org has project checklists and answers to questions. This should be the first stop for homeowners and their contractors when considering a remodel.
Why consider a green remodel? What are the benefits? According to numbers from the U.S. Green Building Council, the benefits are huge. In an average-performance rating of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) homes, LEED-certified homes used 30 percent less energy, 20 percent less water and diverted 40 percent of waste from landfills.
The benefits are greatest for a LEED-platinum-certified home, the agency's top rating. These homes reduce energy usage 60 percent, water usage 50 percent and divert 70 percent of the waste from landfills.
The numbers make a case. Green home construction is expected to make up 10 percent of new homes by 2010, according to the 2006 McGraw-Hill Construction Residential Green Building SmartMarket Report.
Owning a green home is great for your wallet, your family's health and the environment.