According to Alex Wilson, founder of BuildingGreen.com, the top ten priorities in green building are:
- Reduce energy use
- Reduce water use
- Ensure a healthy indoor environment
- Reduce the need for driving
- Build smaller and optimize materials use
- Ensure durability and reuse existing buildings
- Protect and restore the site
- Use green materials
- Create resilient, climate-adapted buildings
- Make it easy for homeowners to be green
Given the fact that fossil fuels are a major contributor to global warming, that world demand for those fossil fuels will eventually exceed easily-obtained supplies and that we are dependent on foreign countries for much of the energy we use, the most important thing we can do to make our buildings more sustainable is to design, build and operate them to use less energy.
Sustainable design requires a systems approach from the beginning of the design process - considering how the different parts of a building work together. It is not a feature or two that are tacked on after the design is complete. The heart of an energy efficient home is a tight, well-insulated building envelope with high quality windows and doors, and efficient heating equipment, appliances and lighting. These measures require more care during construction and may add some small additional cost during construction but will save money over time in reduced energy bills.
If a homeowner is truly interested in sustainable building, it is important to work with a builder who has experience in building energy efficient homes or is willing to learn. And finally, even the “greenest” home will waste energy if its occupants are not using it in a thoughtful way to save energy.