But the irony is, that’s perhaps why I like the term “green home.” It doesn’t mandate a prescriptive approach, but offers performance-based choices to achieve a sustainable goal. And while different people prefer different techniques and ideologies, the most effective approach always depends on your climate zone.
Simply said, a green home goes beyond energy efficiency, to be designed and built with energy and environmental features which deliver benefits to save money, energy and water, in order to preserve our comfort, health, and safety, as well as planet Earth.
And there are those who include a few, cool features, then fly a “green” banner to be appear greener than they really are, also known as greenwashing. Oxford Dictionaries define green-washing as: “Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” Still confused?
Greenwashingindex.com further explains, “It’s greenwashing when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush.”
So, how do you know who, and what, to believe?
Check if the builder undergoes independent, 3rd-party certification. That means an outside organization rates the home to render a score based upon its features and attributes. If not, it doesn’t necessarily mean its green features couldn’t measure up, but how else can you know for sure? There are many energy and environmental programs. It can be daunting. It helps to understand whether a certifying program is public--Federal, State, or municipally administered, a utility program, or is administered from the private sector, such as a professional industry, materials manufacturer, or non-profit organization.
Some voluntary certification programs are focused on energy efficiency, as in EPA’s ENERGY STAR® or Masco’s Environments For Living®, or water conservation, as in EPA’s WaterSense program, which is integrated into Florida’s Water Star program. Green building programs most often measure a combination of elements, including energy, water, site and landscape management, resources, including waste management, in addition to community features like walkability, access to mass transit, or safety features.
From the builder’s perspective, undergoing national programs, like NAHB’s Green Building Program or LEED, can be frustrating, as national programs offers ideologies, technologies, or materials geared toward other climates, not always suitable to Florida.
In 2000, the Department of Energy’s Building America program developed its Building Science-based Climate maps, and then authored climate-specific building best practices to maximize efficiency for each climate zone.
For example, northern-rated windows allow heat transfer through glass, but aren’t effective in a hot, humid climate, where we ideally try to shield against heat transfer through glass, as well as prevent solar heat gain from Florida’s sun. That is one example of a hot, humid approach to building science. If your windows aren’t rated <.4 for U-Value and solar heat gain coefficient, your comfort, furnishings, and energy efficiency are potentially at risk.
Like many markets, Florida experiences scarcity and diminishing quality of drinking water. And as always, moisture is the enemy, whether in the devastating effects of flood or storm water, or in moisture intrusion through failing roofs or penetrations in the thermal envelope. So, water conservation and effective rainwater harvesting and storm water capture are increasingly more important to Floridians.
Florida Green Building Coalition
In 2001, the Florida Green Building Coalition was formed through a public/private partnership, including University stakeholders, Florida Builders Association, and building-related industries, to develop voluntary green building programs using a hot, humid approach to building science. Their Green Home Designation has eight categories: energy, water, lot choice, site, health, materials, and disaster mitigation. In addition, FGBC was the first green building organization in the nation to make the connection between disaster and termite mitigation and durability, as well as promoting universal design to facilitate aging-in-place for seniors.
To me, programs like this recognize exemplary efforts of builders committed to their craft, and who deliver the highest benefits to their customers. Understanding these differences help consumers decipher the myriad of program certifications to quantify green building value. And that, not only makes good sense today, but even better sense for the future.
Building Science-based Climate Maps: http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/building_america/4_3a_ba_innov_buildingscienceclimatemaps_011713.pdf
Oxford Dictionaries: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/fr/definition/anglais/greenwash?q=greenwashing#greenwash__4