Viva La’ Revolution! Investing in Green Real Estate


The Green revolution has arrived, and it wants you! In todays modern construction world, many builders are investing in Green construction and finding a whole new Market of eager buyers, and the cost depends on just how green you want to get. As for how much it costs, and how much it saves, well, that just depends on who you asks. The exact cost of going green is still being debated; most estimates come in at around 10% above traditional construction practices. Others feel the extra cost’s are offset by the money saved through energy efficient construction and reduced waste.

There are also loan programs designed for consumers through Fannie Mae that offer incentives to build green. Fannie Mae is the congressionally chartered private company that works with lenders to back mortgages for low, and moderate income Americans; they are the prime mover of Green mortgages throught their EEM program. To qualify for the program, homeowners must either buy a new energy efficient home, or commit to upgrading an existing building as recommended by an inspector certified through the Home Energy Rating System (HERS). While HERS inspections cost as much as $400, the projected savings from energy efficiency are considered part of the borrowers income, and can help them qualify for larger mortgages.

What is GREEN?

In building a house or office building, a great many materials and products will be used. Even in the greenest of projects it is likely that many products will be used that are not themselves green, but they are used in a manner that helps reduce the overall environmental impacts of the building. Take recycled plastic lumber, for example: it’s made from recycled waste, it’s highly durable, and it can preclude the need for pesticide treatments. Straw particleboard products are made from agricultural waste materials, and they are free from formaldehyde off-gassing.

Products Made with Salvaged, Recycled, or Agricultural Waste Content

The materials used to construct a building (and where those materials came from) are key to determining the greenness of a project. In certain situations, from a life-cycle perspective, recycling has downsides. For example, energy consumption or pollution may be a concern with some collection programs or recycling processes. Pre-consumer recycling refers to the use of industrial by-products, as distinguished from material that has been in consumer use. Iron-ore slag used to make mineral wool insulation, fly ash used to make concrete, and PVC scrap from pipe manufacture used to make shingles are examples of post-industrial recycled materials.

A number of products are derived from agricultural waste products. Most of these are made from straw, the stems left after harvesting cereal grains. Citrus oil, a waste product from orange and lemon juice extraction is also used in some green products. Aside from salvaged or recycled content, there are a number of other ways that products can contribute to the conservation of natural resources. These include products that serve a function using less material than the standard solution, products that are especially durable and therefore won’t need replacement as often, products made from FSC-certified wood, and products made from rapidly renewable resources.

Some of these products may not be distinctly green on their own but have resource efficiency benefits that they make it possible. For example, drywall clips allow the elimination of corner studs, engineered stair stringers reduce lumber waste, pier foundation systems minimize concrete use, and concrete pigments can turn concrete slabs into attractive finished floors, eliminating the need for conventional finish flooring. Certified wood products Third-party forest certification, based on standards developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), is the best way to ensure that wood products come from well-managed forests. Wood products must go through a chain-of-custody certification process to carry an FSC stamp.

A few manufactured wood products, including engineered lumber and particleboard or MDF, can be included if they have other environmental advantages, such as absence of formaldehyde binders. Rapidly renewable materials are distinguished from wood by the shorter harvest rotation—typically 10 years or less. They are biodegradable, often (but not always) low in VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions, and generally produced from agricultural crops.

Products That Avoid Toxic or Other Emissions

Many of the adhesives on the market contain a high content of chlorinated solvents. These solvents smell bad, are unhealthy to breath, and create air pollution. Some building products are considered green because they have low manufacturing impacts, because they are alternatives to conventional products made from chemicals considered problematic, or because they facilitate a reduction in polluting emissions from building maintenance. Most of the products satisfying this criterion are in categories that are dominated by the more harmful products, such as foam insulation categories in which most products contain HCFCs.

Certain materials and products are green because they prevent the generation or introduction of pollutants (especially biological contaminants) into occupied space. Duct mastic, for example, can block the entry of mold-laden air or insulation fibers into a duct system. Track-off systems for entryways help to remove pollutants from the shoes of people entering. Coated duct board, compared with standard rigid fiberglass duct board prevents fiber shedding and helps control mold growth. Many of the conventional products used for repair and improvement projects around the house contain high levels of toxins. However, such chemicals can have many adverse affects on the health of you and your family. Children are particularly vulnerable to environmental toxins, thus it’s important to surround them with items made of non-toxic, natural, organic materials.

Although we can’t very well tear our homes down and rebuild them to be Green, there are many uncomplicated low cost changes we can make such as:

Solar Attic Fans, which are a simple and environmentally sensible solution that can save you money! Powered completely by free solar energy, with no electrical wiring, no expensive electrician and city permits. Place them wherever you need improved circulation; attics, lofts, workshops, storage sheds, garages, even barns.

Tunnel Sun Lights are a complete roof-to-ceiling skylight system that channels sunlight around attic obstructions to bring sunlight to hard-to-reach areas of your home.

Water Aerators help reduce the huge quantity of water which is wasted on a daily basis in the average home. For example, a normal sink’s faucet flow is 3 to 5 gallons of water per minute. There are other frequently ignored wastes as well, such as the fact that the average American uses over 100 rolls of toilet paper each year! Installing an after market bidet will reduce this consumption.

Fiberglass insulation contains glass fibers and some varieties are treated with formaldehyde. Cellulose insulation is an effective and safe alternative; it is made from recycled newspapers and some pre-consumer waste. Even when it comes to flooring there are many alternatives to synthetic flooring such as natural cork for a number of reasons, such as: 1) Its sustainable 2) Its beautiful3) Its lasting4) Its quiet5) Its helps allergy sufferers. Also, hardly any other product combines such extremely high comfort with natural properties.


The U.S Building Council has created a ranking system for scoring the greenness of a project known as LEED®. It is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. It gives building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance. It also promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: * Sustainable site development * Water savings* Energy efficiency* Materials selection * Indoor environmental quality.

Who Uses LEED®?

Architects, real estate professionals, facility managers, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, construction managers, lenders and government officials all use LEED to help transform the built environment to sustainability. State and local governments across the country are adopting LEED for public-owned and public-funded buildings; there are LEED initiatives in federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Energy, and State; and LEED projects are in progress in 41 different countries, including Canada, Brazil, Mexico and India.

So as you can see, Green is here to stay, and in time it will likely become “The Way” to build homes and buildings. For many builders and realty investors, it will take time to adapt, and adopt the mindset of the revolution; but as with all revolutions, change is inevitable. So to those of you that are embracing the Green movement, I say, Viva La’ Revolution!

Anyone interested in learning more about building green can purchase a copy of GreenSpec, a builder’s guide to going green. GreenSpec Directory, Fourth Edition (Paperback) by Editors of Environmental Building News (Author)

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  1. Going green with our real estate is a great idea but almost every player in the industry has marked their “green” products up so stunningly high that their margins are often times over 4000% ! Consumers are, of course, oblivious to this and the cost of the investment cannot possible equal the “green” output factor unless the homeowner were to maintain their green product for over 100 years.

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