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At the highest level of green building, the finished home recycles water and uses little or no outside energy. It may include geothermal heating/cooling, solar hot water, a wind turbine and/or photovoltaics.


Production and transportation of materials used in building a home account for only 6% of its lifetime energy use. Reducing and recycling waste on the job is an important but relatively small player in a home’s long-term ecological footprint.


Durability is a green characteristic. On the roof, opt for metal, clay tile, recycled rubber, or extended life (recyclable) asphalt roofing. Side with fiber cement, cedar, brick veneer, or other long-lived products. Build outdoors with recycled plastic composites or long-lasting wood species. Indoors, specify durable countertops and floors made from renewable or recycled materials.


Lawn irrigation accounts for almost half of all residential water usage. No lawns are good lawns. Specify native plants and use recycled water when possible for landscape watering.


If you don’t understand basic green principles, you’re likely to make decisions you later regret. Consider a course at Green Builder College (www.greenbuildercollege.com) or hit the books on your own.


Doubling a home’s size triples its annual energy use for the life of the home. Think small and clever, not big and boxy.

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