A green home minimizes its impact on the environment through careful design, material choices and construction practices. It needs to be long-lasting, efficient in providing utilities, nontoxic, and a place where the owner wants to live a long time. For those who want to build their own green home, the beginning steps are different from those who need to hire a builder.
The self-builder should first Google the Internet for green building and read as much as possible about the various types of buildings that can be used for the main structure. This includes cob, straw bale, earthship, cordwood, living roofs, modified stick-frame, rammed earth, adobe and others. There will be pros and cons for each type and some will be less appropriate for certain regions of the country.
There are plenty of great books written on each type by the experts. Some examples are Clarke Snell & Tim Callahan’s Building Green, Good Green Homes by Jennifer Roberts and The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture by Alanna Stang and Christopher Hawthorne.
Visiting the different types in person is next if at all possible. Andrew Hickman and Rosemary Kimble, builders of an earth home near Athens, Georgia, schedule tours a couple times a year. The earth home is similar to an earthship home but cannot be called that because theirs was not built by Michael Reynolds. View their Facebook page Northeast Georgia Earth Home for pictures and contact information. Learn from others’ experiences as much as possible.
Some green intentional communities not only allow scheduled visitations but offer classes on particular building types. Good examples of these communities are Earthaven Ecovillage in Black Mountain, North Carolina 28711, phone 828.669.3937 and Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, 1 Dancing Rabbit Ln, Rutledge Missouri 63563, phone 660. 883.5511. View the Fellowship for Intentional Community website for information on goals and contact details and links in their list of Intentional Communities. There are ten listed in South Carolina and sixty-two in North Carolina, but not all of them do green building.
There are over seventy green building programs in the United States. Research the following types of green certification and find out what builders are available in the region to build for which program:
- U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
- National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) new green home building program
- government-sponsored Energy Star program
- local state and city jurisdictions green guidelines and requirements.
Choose a design based on the home size needed, lot orientation and requirements, native landscaping to be saved, what will be happening in the home, and the owner’s personal dream and budget. Take into account local, state and federal tax incentives which will help cut the building cost, and the savings in monthly utility bills in an energy efficient home.