What makes a home green? Part 1 of a series | RenewaBlue

What makes a home green? Part 1 of a series

About this blog series:

As a Realtor I spend a lot of time meeting with folks interested in buying or selling real estate in Northern Colorado. In this process one of the top questions I am asked is, “So what exactly is a green home?”


After working in real estate and green building for over a decade this question is a can of worms. The following thoughts on green homes race through my mind. Is this person asking me because of my marketing materials they’ve read?  Are they just making small talk? Or are they genuinely interested in learning about reducing their environmental impact? Do they want the 30,000 foot view or is this an energy geek looking to dig deep into some building science?


There are myriad groups working to promote acceptance of green homes to address environmental sustainability in the built environment. For instance, the design parameters of the US. Green Building Council’s LEED program are the most well known certification program in the world for best practices for the design and construction of buildings. You can look to the components of the Living Building Challenge,  the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. Passive House Institute US, Inc.  is committed to making high-performance passive building the mainstream market standard. These resources  are incredibly valuable to the industry but for most consumers it still requires a fair bit of building science education. Our goal to keep things simple for you, this series will provide clarity on green home ownership.


In my experience the simplest explanation of the concept of green or sustainable building is with the phrase, “Long life, Loose fit, Low impact” a twist of on a phase coined by British architect Sir Alex Gordon. I’ve found that Renewablue clients aren’t looking for a lecture in architectural design and building science.  So this will be the first in a series of blogs aiming to help buyers and sellers to understand what makes a green home. Along with an FAQ on how any home can become environmentally sustainable. It is our goal at Renewablue to help clients reduce utility bills and reduce their environmental impact. I hope this blog series helps to get you started on a path to a healthier and more energy efficient home.


1.0 Long life

When looking to evaluate if a home is green  we love the opportunity to work with the newest cutting edge sustainable design. While also acknowledging that one of the greenest homes is that which is already built.  The environmental impacts of new construction are vast from waste, urban sprawl, embodied energy in the manufacturing process and consumption of raw materials just to name a few. Keeping these to a minimum is key to green home design.

Durability in design and construction is also paramount to green building so sustainably built homes should strive to last  60-100 years. Multiple renovations can take place but by using the same building shell and site homeowners can prevent farmland or open space from being turned into track housing. This also reduces waste while also keeping raw building materials to a minimum. During the renovation process homeowners can opt for sustainably sourced materials made from from recycled, reclaimed or responsibly harvested sources to further reduce their environmental impact.

Durability extends beyond the home itself as the selection of HVAC and other mechanical systems should not only prioritize energy efficiency but also take the expected life of a system into consideration. Manufacturing appliances uses an enormous amount of energy.  Taking a life cycle analysis into account quickly demonstrates the importance of selecting systems with life spans measured in decades and not a year. This will save you money while reducing the impact on our planet.

Finally long live is directly linked to adaptability. The more ability that a home has to adapt to changing trends and uses, the greater chance it has at lasting another several decades thus preventing the need for new land or raw materials.  Adaptability is also linked to Loose Fit which will be covered in the next installment of this series.

When looking at the purchase of your next home take time to consider whether this is a building that you can see being useful to yourself regardless of the changes life throws at you. Will it still be in a condition that the next owner will find useful for years to come? Life changing events happen all the time necessitating moves across town for more space or across the country for new opportunity. A well built green home will fill the needs of the current residents, the next occupants and possibly even a future owner who hasn’t been born yet.


Energy Efficiency, Green Education, Homeownership, News, Real Estate