Green homes - what you need to know

(Article by Dion L)

The term “green building” refers to environmentally-sensitive construction and requires compromises on design, lifestyle and price.

Green or eco homes are a 21st century concept and have become a growing global trend. This type of home is rapidly becoming more desirable amongst South Africans with our ever increasing awareness of impacts on the environment.

The benefits of building a green home are diverse with the most recognized being environmental. These homes contribute toward the slowing of global warming and conserving our dwindling natural resources. Though the price of building a green home is higher than that of building a standard home, it will decrease as the concept becomes more main stream in South African society. The upfront costs of building such a home should be viewed as an investment as this does pay for itself over the long-term. The ways in which these costs cover themselves are:

- Reduced material consumption
- Lower electricity and water bills
- Less maintenance costs due to durability
- Increased home value
- Potentially lower insurance costs
- Potential tax credits and incentives

What makes a green home “green”

These are high performance homes and also come with health benefits making them superior to the average home. A green home has drastically improved air quality with reduced exposure to mold, mildew and toxins. These homes also maintain consistent temperature and humidity levels.

Most green homes are sited facing true south, the northern winter sun contributes toward keeping the house warm and this is especially important if you have solar panels installed. Solar panels are very expensive but if done properly with the right panels will significantly drop your monthly light bill. The insulation and sealing of the home is an important factor here. 

Proper landscaping does a lot to make your home greener. Planting indigenous and drought resistant varieties of plant as well as minimizing lawn areas reduces irrigation needs saving money and conserving water. Tree and shrub selection and placement can also save on power by protecting the home from sunlight and wind. Storm water runoff can also be incorporated into maintaining the garden, this can be funneled into underground storage tanks where it is filtered and gradually absorbed into the ground. This greatly reduces the need for sprinklers systems saving extra expense and maintenance. Green homes are typically built upwards rather than outwards so that more of the property is left free.

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