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How to buy a Green Home – A Guide

18 May

 

U.S. Green Building Council

Image via Wikipedia

Mankind as a race has prospered because it has always been able to find solution against impossible odds, right from the era of cave men to the present city dwellers living in sky-scrapers. While there has been spectacular progress with the rise of each civilisation, a  great stress on the natural resources of this planet has taken its toll. So much so, that nations have come together to take action in every sphere of activity we as a modern society are engaged in, for saving this only Living Planet and to keep it Sustainable for the future generations to come.

As more and more people understand the devastating results of climate change which global warming could bring; they are willing both in their personal & professional life to give back to Nature its due. It is in this backdrop, “Green” Building as Energy Efficient & Sustainable Buildings are popularly known, is slowly making inroads into every day life. In the following paragraphs we will discuss the processes of buying the right Green Building.

To the common man let me first put you at ease by saying that almost always, the house in which your Grandfather or Grandmother was born, in your native village would if rated today under LEED, achieve the GOLD or even the PLATINUM standard Green Building Certificate. So if you still live in it, you need not worry too much [ unless you have completely modified it ]. Even if you do not live in it but visit it once a while you have hope. All you need to do is follow the basic design of that house and make or modify the one you live in. But if you live in a flat in some high-rise building then I suggest you read this article and any similar to it with great attention.

By now nearly every home buyer in the most Metro are aware of the term ” Green Building”. Nearly all Builder/ Developer claim that their building is a Green Building. This is relevant both in the US and India where the popularity of LEED Certification is growing by the day. Now, how much is “Green” & how much is “Green-wash” ? How should the humble buyer who is unschooled in the jargon used by the builders as is, now get to understand high-end technology that goes into designing and construction of Green Buildings?

The process of choosing a Green Building must begin with one surfing the net and learning as much as one can, from the official website of the rating system. Most Green building rating organisations have a definition posted in their site. The next most important information you will find in the site would be a list of already completed projects. This is your most important page. From this list you will get the details like names of builder / developers who have already completed a green building project. Next you should look at what is the rating it has achieved. In LEED the rating starts from CERTIFIED – for projects which have been able to muster the basic minimum requirements, SILVER – for projects which have attempted and achieved more than the basic minimum, GOLD – a fairly good position to be and finally PLATINUM –  building which has achieved all that is required to be a true green building.

Now you would also notice a column which says “Pre certified”. This one must read with care. A “pre-certified ” rating would usually be given to projects which are registered with the governing body like the USGBC ( United States Green Building Council ) or if you’re in India its the IGBC. It is not necessary that a pre-certified SILVER building would be inferior to say a pre-certified GOLD. It just states the intent of the builder as to what his engineering & architect team think it would be possible to achieve through design & construction. This decision is taken at the initial planing stage when all the facts and factors may not be at hand. It is only when the project is complete and verification done by the Council that the true rating of the building can be derived.

Now if this leaves you in confusion as to which project to choose from while buying yourself a Green Home, cross check the Pre-certified list with the completed and Certified list. There you must identify the builder who is most consistent in achieving a rating and then choose that builder /developers project from the pre-certified list. Next you should try to visit some of the actual Green Homes in your area and speak with the occupants to understand their experience. This will give you a fair idea of what you should expect in your dream Green Home.

But before you negate those who are first timers in the pre-certified list you must also pay attention to the brand name of the builder/developer. I personally have experienced many a good builder/developer who had chosen not to register their buildings for Green Certification. Although they had accumulated a lot of Goodwill over the years with quality projects and have in fact built edifices which even now if rated easily get SILVER; did not agree to hire me as a Green Building consultant. They said they did not need someone else to tell them whether or not they build quality homes. Their architects, very senior and experienced echoed the same sentiments. Today they have begun registering their projects as the market demands and awareness makes Green Homes certification popular.

What you must be careful of, are the fly by night or hobby builders. These are a lot who essentially are investors with some spare cash and usually mushroom during a boom in the business. Their only interest is to do a single or if  successful with the first, a few projects and sell it for maximum profit. They usually have very limited understanding about the discipline of building industry and would normally resort to all available means of advertisement to highlight their project. Pre-Certification as Green Homes is a prestigious announcement and the best advertisement a builder can get. Sadly people try to exploit it. Therefore a project which during launch may have a pre-certified tag of GOLD may end up with just CERTIFIED.

But this does not happen often as most Green Council have an inbuilt check & balance system to weed out the unscrupulous.

 

 

 

 

 

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