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Center for Carolina Living Fluffing your nest.   Every time you make green updates to your own home or lifestyle, you're looking out for the little guy's place, too, like this Red-bellied Woodpecker in his hollowed-out home near Mt. Pleasant, SC. Doesn't it feel good to be green?
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Center for Carolina Living I spy ... with my little eye, a shiny red rain barrel! At the Flint Hill Vineyards in East Bend, NC, their barrels are not just for the wine. This beauty is the perfect accessory to the restored farmhouse, and it keeps things lush and green. Now that's a statement piece.
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Green Home Benefits

• Reduced Environmental Impact

• Lower Utility & Water Bills

• Heightened Comfort
& More Consistent Room Temperatures

• Healthier Home with Improved Air Quality, Less Mold & Fewer VOC Toxins

• Heightened Durability & Reduced Maintenance

• Design Flexibility

• Increased Home Value & ROI

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Going Green! In the Carolinas:
High Performance, Healthy Green Homes and Sustainable Communities

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Living green … it’s a moving target.

There are few who would object to a healthier, more comfortable home that’s good for the environment and less costly to maintain … in other words, a green home.

The challenge to homeowners is that rapidly advancing technologies and a vast range and scale of what is considered “green” makes a green home or green lifestyle a moving target to obtain, and buyers can be overwhelmed by all the options before them.

That’s certainly something that we have learned in five years of covering this industry for our readers. Just when you think you have one component figured out, it changes.

There’s suddenly a new, improved product on the market, or a better method to follow, and the costs are changing, too.

So is a green home and lifestyle worth the extra effort? Is it worth the added research and upfront costs that’s needed to find one’s way through the green maze?

Fortunately, we nearly always hear a resounding “yes” from happy and enthusiastic green homeowners, and that’s because the benefits are as vast as the options. To name a few:

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Reduced Environmental Impact: Green homes have a smaller carbon footprint through lower energy consumption and they conserve more resources and raw materials than traditional homes.

Lower Utility & Water Bills: Lower bills reward green homeowners each and every month, and help to recoup the upfront costs on higher efficiency systems.

Healthier Home: Breathe deep with improved air quality, less exposure to mold and fewer VOC toxins.

Heightened Durability & Reduced Maintenance: High-performance homes are built to last and require less upkeep and fewer repairs, saving both money and precious family time.

Heightened Comfort: More consistent room temperatures and humidity levels, coupled with fewer drafts keep families cozy and comfortable all through the seasons.

Increased Home Value & ROI: Going green is an investment. These high-performance homes will hold their value as green building increasingly becomes the industry standard.

Fortunately, in the case of building or renovating, much of the extra research required to learn about a green home can be alleviated by hiring an experienced architect and builder to guide you through the process. These skilled professionals can help you make the best decisions for your home and family. (Be sure to check out our growing directories of experienced green architects and builders.)

Green Building certification programs provide further roadmaps to creating a truly top-of-the-line green home. Such programs outline criteria against which potential green homes can be checked (typically through a non-partial third-party). Everything from tree preservation to building products to the home's performance on a variety of tests is taken into consideration, and points are awarded for each component that is met. Within each program, there are often several levels of certification that further define how green a home truly is.
 

The Big Question: What Does It Cost?

One of the first questions to grace the lips of aspiring homeowners is “how much will it cost?”  It’s understandable, of course, today more than ever before.  At a time when Americans are learning to cut back and do without, opting for “premium features” of a green home can seem counterintuitive.
Not so fast.

When considering a home (green or otherwise) it’s vital to look beyond the sticker price and consider the total cost of ownership of owning that home. When going green, learning to view higher upfront costs as an investment is key. Additional expenses will pay for themselves in the form of lower energy and water bills, tax and insurance credits, and reduced maintenance and repair needs, compared to a “regular” home. Moreover, as green building becomes more mainstream, so does the price, and as a result, the “race to zero” incremental costs for green building is off and running.  There is still a long way to go, and more complicated technologies carry a higher price tag, but in general you can have a very energy efficient, high-performing, healthy home for a nominal extra fee.  More importantly, the savings you will experience over the lifespan of your home are truly inspiring, and help to offset the upfront costs you incur.

In 1983, after years of vacationing in South Carolina, Mrs. Judith Rigg and her husband, Emil, decided to trade their green home in Bethesda, Maryland, for a new one in Hilton Head, SC. “We planned to live in our new home for only five years,” says Mrs. Rigg, “but that turned out to be 15.” The Riggs, who embraced green building years before it became an industry hot topic, are now a wonderful testament to the benefits of living in a green home. At that time, their 2,700 square foot green home in Hilton Head cost them an average of $50 a month in electricity bills – the same as their 750 square foot, non-green guest house on the same property. Their solar batch water heater, which utilizes solar panels to heat the water, cost them only about $20 a year to run. “Whereas a normal house our size would require a seven-ton heater, we only needed a half-ton heater,” Mrs. Rigg explains. The superior energy efficiency of a green home reminds us that it’s truly a high-performance home. Attention to detail and durable, sustainable materials makes a green home far superior to the average home on the market. “My green homes are the most comfortable homes that I have ever lived in,” says Mrs. Rigg, attributing much of her satisfaction to the abundant natural light. “It feels more like we are living outside than indoors.”

A little farther north, Oak Terrace Preserve is helping to revitalize the 3,000-acre historic center of North Charleston, which was formerly the site of a naval base, through sustainable development. In February 2007, J.R. Kramer, his wife, Holly, and their then-infant son became the very first family to move into a home in the neighborhood. Like all of the homes in the community, the Kramers’ is EarthCraft certified, and the happy homeowners are extremely thankful for their home’s careful and thoughtful construction. This scrupulous process is paying off, literally. In their previous home in West Ashley, a suburb of Charleston, the Kramers’ utility bills were regularly between $180 and $250. Now, in their larger (approximately 1,600 square-feet) EarthCraft home, their utility bills have been under $100 nearly every month, despite the fact that both Mr. and Mrs. Kramer work from home and Mrs. Kramer is a stay-at-home mom. “There is always someone in the house using electricity, running the dishwasher, or washing baby clothes in the washing machine,” says Mr. Kramer.

The home’s durability is another great feature. In particular, the home is protected by Hardiboard siding and a metal roof, which came with a 40-year warranty. “It was painted a natural aluminum color to reflect heat, whereas a shingled roof would absorb heat,” explains Mr. Kramer. Their deck is also sustainable – rather than traditional decking, theirs is stain and rot resistant. As the advantages of green homes become more desirable (and necessary) green elements will likely become standard on homes. Therefore, homes without green attributes may actually lose value moving forward. Going green today is a valuable way to protect your investment in your home, regardless of whether you think you will ever put it back on the market.

Mr. Kramer thinks that the industry will eventually evolve to the point that sustainable communities and green building will become the norm. “It makes too much sense – environmentally, economically – not to.”
 

To continue reading this article, please click here:
Learn more about 12 Easy Steps to Go Green at Home.
 

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About the Author

Kristen F. Anthony
has worked in magazines, newspapers, marketing and corporate communications. She has contributed to a variety of projects, from an award-winning newspaper special section on veterans to the 2006 Southern Living-Progressive Farmer Idea House. Kristen earned her BA in Communications Studies from Furman University in Greenville, SC, and now calls the Upstate home.
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