I’ll bet if I asked 50 people to define a “green” home I would be 50 different answers. That is why I am particularly excited that our Charlotte Multiple Listing Service not just added a number of “Green” search and data fields for listings of single family homes including Green Certifications, HERS Index ratings and a list 27 “Green Building Features” but also added definitions which helps both home buyers and Realtors better understand what is considered a “green” feature. While it will take time, more and more Realtors, builders and home sellers are going to take advantage of these fields making it easier for Lake Norman area home buyers to find them. Here is the list directly from our CMLS. If you aren’t looking immediately, you might want to bookmark this list for the future! Continue reading
Like it or not, most homeowners and home buyers, whether in Lake Norman or elsewhere in the U.S. think of a house as an investment, not just a home. In the short term, I counsel prospective sellers to make their properties move-in ready since most buyers these days are not willing to do much in the way of remodeling or even painting of their new home.
There is no doubt, however, that the future of housing construction, once it is back in full force, will focus on energy efficiency, sustainable resources and other “green” components of a home. Other cities in the country, from Portland Oregon to Austin Texas to Asheville NC, are way ahead of Lake Norman in their focus and incorporation of energy efficiency and construction of “high performance” homes. It only stands to reason that the Lake Norman real estate market and Lake Norman home builders will be greatly impacted in the future by these growing global housing trends.
So why not get yourself one step ahead of the game as we wait for the economy to improve? Here are some great thoughts and statistics from a recent article on the Green Building Advisor website:
- Investing in energy efficiency upgrades in your home should be included in your investment portfolio and future planning
- The average annual increase in energy prices (of all kinds) has been 6.33%
- The Consumer Price Index has only risen at an annual rate of 1.54% (Used to determine annual Social Security increases)
- Energy prices increase faster than Social Security payouts
- Drastically reducing energy demand can be an important hedge
“Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices.”
Lake Norman Real Estatehas been participating in Blog Action Day since it’s initial launch on October 15, 2007. According to their most recent email, 7108 blogs are participating in over 136 countries with an expectation of 11,214,552 readers today, Oct. 15th!
Climate Change + Lake Norman “Green” Homes
While climate change may conjur up images of melting icebergs, floods and droughts, if we focus on reducing emissions and renewable energy it is quite important and proper to write about “green” homes and the exciting trends in “high performance” homes that are cropping up in and around our Lake Norman communities.
As a Certified Green Professional, EcoBroker and Green Realtor I have been a member of the Lake Norman Home Builders Association’s Green Building Council for over a year and I am witnessing on a weekly basis the growth and emphasis on using eco-friendly building materials and environmentally-conscious techniques in home building. With over 50 members, our Lake Norman Green Building Council is comprised of builders, contractors, energy auditors, and suppliers of green building products and services ranging from insulation to formaldehyde-free cabinetry and flooring to environmentally friendly landscaping.
In an article in the Lake Norman Business Magazine: “Green Goes Mainstream” Gail Minter made a great statement: “Green building – using eco-friendly building materials and environmentally-conscious techniques–has moved from being an oddity into the mainstream.” I am convinced that once our recession is over and home-builders begin building again, there will be a significant change in the design and components of new homes in Lake Norman just as there will be around the country. We will see an increased emphasis on green technology, sustainability and factors that affect a home from the planning stages through completion including:
- Site selection (placement on lot to take advantage of passive solar energy, minimize storm water run off, maximize use of natural light, protection/minimal disruption of the natural habitat)
- Use of recycled or re-used material include old wood, bricks and glass
- Use of sustainable-harvested or rapidly renewable wood products
- Use of materials and products that are made locally or as close as possible to minimize energy use related to shipping/the carbon footprint
- Recycling of on-sight construction waste or minimizing waste through more efficient building practices
- Use of insulation, design and fixtures and appliances to minimize heat loss and maximize energy efficiency
- Increased use of alternative materials like cement, low-VOC paints, stains and glues to reduce chemical emissions
If you are interested in finding out more about green homes, There is a great new book out: Green From The Ground Up by David Johnston and Scott Gibson.
Or, go to Mother Nature Network to get their list of the 15 best carbon calculators for individuals or households.
Finally, Fine Home Building has a great Payback Estimator for different types of insulation.
Honestly, this has been a bit of a rambling article. The subject of “green” housing has become so broad and encompasses a large and diverse range of topics that I have just tried to wet your appetite and hope you will return to this blog for ongoing articles about Lake Norman’s green housing market. It’s going to be exciting!
Imagine what it would be like to have to breath through a straw. That is how one of my clients’ daughters, who has severe asthma, describes how she feels when she is exposed to even the slightest bit of toxins in the air…including the ingredients in popular air fresheners and scented candles. While I was recently showing her family some Lake Norman waterfront homes, she had two serious asthma attacks triggered by just that. Each time it took her over a day to recover from just seconds of exposure to an air freshener or lingering cigarette smoke.
I must admit, despite my avid focus on “green” or “high performance” housing in Lake Norman I don’t think I totally grasped the seriousness of indoor air quality until I met this family. It is one thing to learn about the latest low or no VOC (Volatile Organic compounds) paint products and the amount of organic gases like Formaldehyde that are emitted from such solid and liquids as hardwood floors, cabinets, sealers, paints, pressed wood products…the list goes on and on. It is quite another to watch this young woman gasping for air.
The good news is that indoor air quality is an important part of the “green” housing movement nationally and right here in Lake Norman. So much so, that the US Environmental Protection Agency recently created Indoor airPLUS which is designed to work in partnership with their more well known ENERGY STAR program. Just as ENERGY STAR is an accreditation program for energy efficiency, Indoor airPLUS is a program designed to encourage home builders to “employ a variety of construction practices and technologies in their new homes to help address” such air quality issues as:
- Moisture Control
- Radon Control
- Pest Management
- Ventilation and Filtration
- Combustion Venting
- Building Materials
At the Indoor airPLUS’s first outreach webinar they explained that 19% of US households have a member with Asthma, 40% of households have a member with a respiratory problem and that they have found that typical indoor air chemical pollution levels may be 2-5 times higher than what is considered “safe” levels.
Including these pollutants and sources of indoor air pollution:
- Biological Pollutants
- Carbon Monoxide
- Formaldehyde/Pressed Wood Products
- Household Cleaning and Maintenance, Personal Care, or Hobbies
- Nitrogen Dioxide
- Respirable Particles
- Secondhand Smoke/Environmental Tobacco Smoke
- Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces, and Chimneys
So, how does a home in our Lake Norman area earn the Indoor AirPlus label? “A home must first be designed to earn the ENERGY STAR label, the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. By adding up to 30 additional home design and construction features, an Indoor airPLUS qualified home helps protects residents…” from indoor air pollution. During the Lake Norman home-building process testers or “HERS” raters will visit the build site and verify the required construction specifications. The Indoor airPLUS label will be placed on the electrical panel along with the ENERGY STAR label when it has passed the certification process.
Knowledgeable Lake Norman “green” home builders view ENERGY STAR ratings as the lowest/less stringent when compared to such “green” rating systems as North Carolina’s Healthy Built Homes, the National Association of Home Builders Green Home Building Guidelines and the very toughest LEED certified homes. However, while ENERGY STAR and Indoor airPLUS may not be as comprehensive as these, I am excited to be an early Lake Norman supporter or “ally” of the new Indoor airPLUS program in hopes that it will lead to an increased focus on indoor air quality throughout the building industry and by consumers both here in the Lake Norman area and throughout the country. For more information “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality”.
The more I study about “green”, energy efficiency and “high performance homes” the more ways I have discovered for making serious upgrades to existing homes. While you may not be able to attain a LEED rating for your Lake Norman home, you can make significant improvements today!
Evaluating the Existing Structure
The very first thing a homeowner should do is hire a professional to evaluate your home in the following four areas:
- The Thermal Envelope
- The Moisture Barrier
- Mechanical Systems
- Structural Defects
The Thermal Envelope
Basically, this assessment involves testing the drywall, ceilings and floors for leaks using such methods as the blower door test which depressurizes your house and calculates how much air leakage there is and where. Common solutions include sealing cracks and gaps and leaks in the air barrier by caulking or adding spray foam insulation. Leaks in the thermal envelope allow conditioned air to leak out and allow excess humidity to leak in or out depending on the time of year.
One consideration, especially if you are remodeling, would be to essentially relocate you thermal envelope by sealing the crawlspace and the attic.
The Moisture Barrier
The moisture barrier includes everything that keeps water from getting into your home. The tester will check roofing, flashing, gutters, downspouts, siding, windows, doors and the foundation/crawlspace.
Testers will evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing mechanical systems to make sure that the existing systems adequately condition your home. HVAC sytsems will be checked to make sure they were installed correctly and operating properly. A duct blaster test can be done to check for leakage in ducting which is a significant cause of ineffective heating and cooling of homes.
The most common cause of structural defects is water which can be the cause of rot, settling, mold and damage to the interior.
Home Audits, Ratings and Evaluations
There are various levels of evaluations you can have done to your home from having a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating, an energy audit or a comprehensive evaluation including all four categories above.
To find a certified North Carolina (HERS) home energy rater: North Carolina Energy Star Homes Website
If you are building a home or planning efficiency upgrades, Southern Energy Management is one of a growing number of companies t0 “Energy efficiency design, consulting and verification for buildings of all types and sizes.” They also do Energy Star evaluations and offer “customized efficiency plans/programs for builders and developers”. They are available for the greater Lake Norman area.
Want to have a little fun? You can go to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website and use their Household Emissions Calculator to get a “rough… estimate of your personal or family’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
Finally, the National Association of Home Builders provides a “Green Scoring Tool” on their website to help educate homeowners and give them ideas on how to work with their builder to improve their green score.
Whether you are building a new home in our Lake Norman area, remodeling your existing home or merely looking to learn more about how to make your current home more energy efficient, now is a great time to learn more about “green” housing!
Did you know that there is curbside recycling in the greater Mooresville/Lake Norman area? Not the City of Mooresville’s test program but a privately owned and operated service that covers the entire Brawley School peninsula including such housing communities as far out as The Point and Tuskarora, as far south as Davidson Lake and Langtree, out east to Faith Road and Cherry Grove and north to Perth and Cornelius Roads? Continue reading
For those of you who dont know, today is Blog Action Day, a day when bloggers throughout the world are writing for the purpose of getting “people thinking, discussing, questioning and talking about the environment…” I am just one of over 12,000 bloggers participating so this should be quite a day on the Internet!
I dont know about you, but sometimes all of the talk about the environment and “going green” seems like something too big for us as individuals to even begin to make a difference. I have been building a file of environment related articles and during this process realized how every much I still have to learn. But I also understand that even one small change we make in our daily lives can and will make a difference.
First, lets look at Lake Norman. Clearly, right now our water levels are frighteningly low. But what about long term problems and solutions? According to a Charlotte Observer article on May 4, 2006, lakeside buffers are not only extremely beneficial but are now required for all new waterfront construction. Those of you who live on the lake might find ways to improve your buffer.
What is a lake buffer? It is a buffer of trees and other natural vegetation 50′ or more deep on the land closest to the shoreline.
Why are lakeside buffers important?
- ·They filter runoff: Tree canopies slow down the speed at which rain/water hits the ground thereby allowing it time to soak into the spongy mulch and act as a filter to keep sediment, nutrients and other pollutants out of the water
- ·They halt erosion: Tree roots hold the soil on banks
- ·They capture nutrients: such as nitrogen and phosphorus that shouldnt go in the water
- ·They serve secondary roles: allowing water to seep into the soil thereby recharging ground water, providing shade, food and habitat for wildlife
The bottom line is the more trees the better. You can add from an approved list of native plants but not subtract trees. Ground covers, leaf litter and pine needles must be left to filter sediment and pollutants.
Unfortunately, our county does not provide pick-up for recycling however it is not hard to do it on your own.My husband and I have large plastic trash cans designated for paper, aluminum cans, plastic and an area to keep all flattened cardboard boxes…from large UPS boxes to cereal boxes. We take these to the Iredell County Solid Waste Transfer Station on Hwy 150 at the ramp to the 21 going south whenever they are full. This transfer station has separate containers to put plastic, aluminum cans, flattened cardboard and paper as well as other trash. They will ask for verification of your residence in Iredell County. Once a year they send out a sticker for you car/truck as well.
What else can we do?
- Stop Smoking: This one is easy for us because we dont smoke. Did you know that it takes 10 years for a butt to degrade?
- Cut down on miles driven: Telecommuting, carpooling and use our school buses! (This will help our traffic as well. )
- Get a tune-up: Keep tires inflated properly, avoid heavy breaking, lighten the load…every little bit helps!
- Garden: Use soaker hoses or drip systems whenever possible. Mulch around plants to prevent erosion and conserve moisture
- Plastic or Paper? Neither! Bring your own. I must admit I have yet to be willing to do this but we do recycle the plastic bags
- No more plastic bottles for water and beverages: This is another one we are finding hard to do after years of drinking bottled water but its on my list.
- Turn off lights when not needed
- Save a tree: Go digital or email whenever possible
- Energy efficiency: Program thermostats, caulking and weather-stripping and proper insulation all cut down on heating and AC.
Truly, green is now the color of the decade. I frankly didn’t even make a dent on my file of information on going green because the list of how we can help our environment is so long. I will write more in the future.
I know all of this can be terribly overwhelming so I just concentrate on baby steps, knowing that if we all join in we can make a difference!
Island Keepers (Join the effort to keep Lake Norman Clean!)