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Finding A Green Home, Part 2
Jamais Cascio, 20 Jun 05

When last we addressed the question of how one could find a green home, we found that there were resources for finding environmentally sustainable dwellings in the UK, but couldn't find any for the US. They do exist, of course -- we just needed to chum the water a bit to find them.

But first, just to underscore why someone might want to consider a green home, a new report from the University of Toronto's Department of Civil Engineering lays out the financial benefit of building green. Professor Kim Pressnail compared the costs of building a home meeting bare minimum standards to that of one meeting the high-efficiency Canadian "R2000" standard:

They found that the cost of upgrading a $160,000 home to the R2000 standard was $5,560--an increase of just 3.5 per cent. The upgrade translated into energy savings of $818 a year. If a homeowner paid for R2000 upgrades by increasing mortgage payments, she could generate $423 a year in annual cash flow on energy savings.
"For the standard home upgraded to R2000, the internal rate of return was calculated to be over 14 per cent–greater than that achieved by other low risk options, such as bonds," says Pressnail, who adds that the returns are even greater if fuel escalation costs are considered. "Since houses built today have a 100-year lifespan and since energy prices will surely rise, the economic and environmental case to build better houses now is even more compelling."

Choosing a high-efficiency home over a minimum standards home can pay for itself in less than seven years, and has the added benefit of reducing noise (with double-pane windows) and reducing the hassle of having to deal with "minimum standard" construction.

Sustainablog points us to GreenHomesForSale.com, a website showcasing homes that are described as "green" (energy-efficient), "healthy" (non-toxic building materials, high-efficiency air filtration), and/or "natural" (homes made from adobe, rammed earth, etc.). They have listings for many states in the US as well as a handful of homes in other countries. The overall number of homes listed is relatively small, and the vast majority are homes out in the countryside -- so while the construction may be green, they're still contributing to sprawl. Nonetheless, the listings are a good reminder that environmentally sustainable home building does not have to mean quirky design.

ECOBROKER is a bit more informative than the GreenHomesForSale site, albeit less convenient for people looking for homes. Although it has a search feature, there's no way that I could find to just browse listings. Most of the information seems directed towards brokers looking to start listing homes on the site and buyers looking to find an agent who understands the green home market. More useful were the discussions of different green building topics, from building materials to mold mitigation to passive solar vs. photovoltaic. They also discuss the so-called "Energy Efficient Mortgage" program.

The Energy-Efficient Mortgage is a US program backed by Fannie Mae, the FHA and the VA, providing an amount of up to 15% of the home's appraised value (at the same interest rate as the rest of the mortgage) for building or retrofitting with energy-efficient improvements. The underlying logic is that the monthly mortgage payment can be slightly higher than it would otherwise be because the monthly energy expenses will be significantly lower. The program therefore allows energy-efficient projects to be paid for over an extended period at a rate far lower than a typical credit card or bank "home improvement" loan.

It's not quite the same as the UK "Ecomortgage," which supports the purchase of already-built sustainable homes, but is certainly a welcome program for homeowners considering upgrading to greater environmental standards.

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Comments

Check out www.greenhomeguide.com, and you guys should get in touch with Willem Maas the founder. He and his team are doing a stellar job, and he would be a great resource for you for directories and green home building advice...

Best,
Lara


Posted by: Lara Abrams on 24 Jun 05

Jamais,

I'm glad the response I posted on your last article helped you! If you ever need some good contacts to do future followup stories in relation to either the energy mortgages, energy star housing, building technologies or even building science look me up. I know a lot of the right people. Please don't hesitate to ask!

Best Regards,

Joel Wiese
Indigo Financial Group
www.EnergyStarLoans.com


Posted by: Joel Wiese on 26 Jun 05



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