There is no denying that society is becoming increasingly aware of the impact humans have on the environment. While partisan debates can rage in D.C. regarding precisely what that means for legislation and how politicians’ core constituencies feel about it, regular citizens all over the United States are beginning to take steps to ensure that they are not wrecking the world for future generations.
For this very reason, over the last few years, green construction has become a critically important factor in erecting residential buildings.
The rise in popularity of ENERGY STAR – a U.S. EPA- backed voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the climate through superior energy efficiency – for instance, is just one indication of how times are changing. In 2012 alone, there were more than 101,000 homes which earned the ENERGY STAR. Officials equate this with eliminating the emissions from more than 36,000 vehicles each year, preserving more than 150 million pounds of coal each year, planting and growing nearly 4.5 million coniferous trees for 10 years, and saving homeowners more than $32 million annually on their utility bills.
For obvious reasons, ENERGY STAR is most popular in large cities with massive environmental footprints. So far in 2014, for example, the cities with the most ENERGY STAR buildings have been Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago – in that order.
Popular green enhancements range from “cool roofs” – which deflect sun rays and prevent hot or cold air from escaping – to insulation made out of old blue jeans and newspapers. Builders are also starting to think ahead and make the homes out of biodegradable materials such as special paint and hemp. Other builders are thinking backwards and embracing the rammed-earth brick method, much like what was used in the building of the Great Wall of China.
And then, of course, there are the basics that environmentally-conscious people take into account, such as solar power and smart appliances, both of which have become very popular in the last few years.
Opposing Views recently reached out to Brookfield Homes, a national residential home developer, in hopes of understanding what exactly has spurned on this ‘green movement’ that has become increasingly popular over the past few years.
“Sustainability issues are a major concern for our society,” a company spokesperson said. “It’s important just for our very way of life. It also matters to homebuyers. More and more, our clients request the latest green techniques and energy efficient methods.”
The spokesman also offered examples of the green construction methods that Brookfield Homes reviews and utilizes.
“Energy efficiency is a big part of what we do. We offer our clients the latest in energy efficient technology throughout the construction of their homes. Every new house we build is filled with high-energy efficiency features, and each home goes through an independent HERS inspection," explained the spokesperson. "At Brookfield Homes, we utilize efficient appliances, high quality insulation, and efficient lighting solutions. We also use green materials wherever possible.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), buildings accounted for 38.9 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2005. Residential buildings, specifically, accounted for more than half of that total. Buildings also accounted for 72 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2006, and this number will rise to 75% by 2025. Homes account for 12 percent of the total water consumption, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, and 38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions.
These statistics make it clear why energy-efficient housing is so important. As noted by the EPA, it not only helps the planet, but your wallet and overall quality of life as well. Green construction “creates, expands, and shapes markets for green product and services,” “improves occupant productivity,” and “optimizes life-cycle economic performance.”
People understand the importance and benefits of being environmentally-conscious, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Here’s to hoping our politicians catch up at some point in the near future.