The Benefits of Energy Efficiency and Green Building – A Homeowner’s Guide

By: Don Hannig

Green Building – what is it really? A catch phrase coined in the late 1980’s, green building once was a term that conjured visions of wind turbines, solar panels, and ultra-expensive cutting edge architectural design. Recent technological advances, education, and a national system of standards has brought this concept home to all of us—remodelers and new home builders alike.

Today’s concept of green building has come to mean obtainable and sustained energy efficiency, reduced maintenance costs, and an increased value of building portfolios. Not only does it save fuel, electricity, and other natural resources, it reduces the environmental impact of building in a real and measurable way. The benefits are clear. But what does it really mean?

What Makes A Home Green?

Let’s look a little deeper into what design parameters green building incorporates, and how today’s homes arrive at this special designation. Believe it or not, there is now a nationally-recognizable standard definition of green building. For residential buildings there are four threshold levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald, as designated by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). To reach the emerald level – the highest rating – a home must incorporate an overall energy savings of 60% or more.

National Green Building Standard

Green building means incorporating both energy efficiency and natural resource management into every step of the planning and building process. The National Green Building Standard™ is the first and only residential green building rating system to undergo the full consensus process and receive approval from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). In order to attain a higher level of green certification by the NAHB, a home must accrue successively higher levels of minimum points in each of these categories:

Energy Efficiency.

This is the major reason why homeowners decide to go green – there are significant savings to be had in utility costs. Such improvements as optimum levels of insulation, highly efficient HVAC systems, high-performance windows, and Energy Star certified efficient appliances and lighting are utilized.

Indoor Environmental Quality.

Scoring in this category deals with the efficiency of installed HVAC systems, the use of formaldehyde-free finishes, low-allergen materials, and the incorporation of materials with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Water Conservation.

This category involves the use of efficient water heaters, toilets, faucets, filtration systems, and drought-tolerant landscaping.

Responsible Lot and Site Development.

This factor ensures the home is positioned to take advantage of heat and light from the sun. Natural site features are taken into consideration, and protected from alteration whenever possible. Planned Residential Developments (PRDs) incorporate this category on a larger scale.

Resource Efficiency.

In this category, materials are selected for durability, origin, recycled content, and the waste-management strategies – all of which reduce the environmental impact of a new home’s construction.

Operation, Maintenance, and Building Owner Education.

Just because you purchase a green home does not mean you automatically know how to maintain one. This aspect focuses on homeowner education and is essential element in the entire green building process.

Live Green

Green building is no longer a consideration for the elite – it is here to stay and it is here for a reason – for all of us. Energy efficiency through green building is truly beneficial: to the environment, to your family’s health, and to you own pocketbook. The competent and professional building companies of today are already on it – be sure to inquire about their certification standards – through concise and thoughtful planning from start to finish. Simply put, green building means smart building. So let’s go live it.

To find out more about the benefits of energy efficiency and green building please call Keswick Point, the region’s newest PRD, at 570-646-4646, email us at or visit our website at

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