I want to build a green home

My wife and I have lived in our town-home for over 3 years now.  I don't want to brag or anything, but I just got elected to the HOA board (it was a grueling race for 5 spots; there were 7 candidates so the odds were in my favor.  My main goal is to build a dog park for the HOA).  While I love the area we live in - minus the fact we don't have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's close to us - we want to upgrade in a few years so we actually have a back yard and more livable space.

The challenge in building a high performance energy efficient home is making sure you can add as many energy efficient features as possible without going over budget.  While we all know that energy efficiency pays in the long run, and possibly even offers better returns than the stock market, there are real ceilings when it comes to qualifying for loan amounts.  Also, different loan amounts require increasing levels of down payments (I think the FHA comes into this somewhere), and as my wife and I are both relatively young in our careers, we prefer to finance as much as possible (due to our lower savings level and to take advantage of incredibly low interest rates). It will be a balancing act to add as many energy features as possible while staying under budget.

Over the years we've had a few posts on green home building.  We featured an article Lorraine Horbaly wrote in her family's efforts to build a LEED home. While I think having a LEED certified home may make sense for some, I don't think we'll pursue LEED certification for our home.  I will make sure we incorporate any LEED points that we can.

I would love to have a zero net energy home, but again, the budget isn't going to allow this.  What I will try and do is make sure the roof is south facing so I can add solar pv in the future.  Residential turbines don't make sense in Georgia, and solar pv is almost always the better bang for your buck anyway.  There are very few spots in the U.S. where a residential wind turbine will out perform a solar PV system.  Speaking of zero energy and solar, I would love to build a Lumenhaus (similar to Passive House) some day.

Finally, I'll make sure to follow the excellent tips that USA Today's Wendy Koch outlined in her efforts to build a green home.   One of her tips is to buy a flat, sunny lot in a walkable neighborhood.  I'm currently checking out a lot that would allow us to walk to a state nature park where we can hike with the dog or I can ride my mountain bike.  Being close to outdoor activities is a must!

I'm also going to read about the ultimate green homes and review the lessons learned by a Popular Science writer in his quest to build a green home.

What else do I need to consider or what have you learned in your home building efforts?

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Oh that's right, you already knew about that :) Still, worth mentioning in this post! :) If you go that route, it'll be great to hear how well it works for you.
But you don't have to be below net zero to make it "pay for itself" right? All of your avoided cost is helping to pay off the PV system at some rate - although if you installed 6 years ago, I imagine you had significant out of pocket costs?
One other place to look for some useful info is the DOE Solar Decathlon website. start here These homes tend to be smallish mostly because the homes are modular in nature - assembled on the national mall. A friend of mine designed his own Zero Energy home. One thing to consider is than even with tight construction, you need to still have ventilation.
In my experience the thermal envelope is the most important part of your construction. (Well insulated walls, thermal efficient windows, etc.) There is a manufacturer that's been in VA since 2004 for a product called Builderscrete. ( It's a cementatious cellulose product for single skin building that has amazing attributes. The company is very environmentally friendly using recycled waste in their manufacturing and a low carbon footprint. Once your walls are installed, they're finished internally and externally, with no maintenance, and can achieve up to R-40 assuming the benefits of high mass. This product can be drilled screwed, and sawed just like wood and creates a healthy living environment.(A healthy home) They also make some amazing landscape products. Check them out at The other great thing about them is that you can contact the manufacturer directly for information specific to your project/interests.


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