By Shandra Hill Smith
When it comes to one of your most major investments, going green in your home also means saving some of that green in your wallet – in the long run. That proves one of the biggest advantages to greening, according to green experts who are involved from a position of educating to building to selling. Other outgrowths are a healthier home and the overall impact on the environment.
“Our definition of a green home is a healthy home – healthy for the people and for the planet,” says Dennis Creech, executive director of Southface (southface.org), a nonprofit education and research group in Atlanta.
Going green can mean anything from smaller improvements such as changing out incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent alternatives to sealing air leaks in your attic to replacing an old furnace or air conditioning unit. In the end, it all adds up to savings on your utility bills, professionals say.
Additionally, homeowners who green find a higher resale value on the home as a result and help play a part in impacting the environment.
How do you get started with greening – and what exactly should you tackle first? Begin with an energy audit on your home, professionals suggest – as a way to identify those issues you need to address such as insulation and sealing.
“If you want to do something to save energy or reduce energy costs, this is going to give you the roadmap to do that – a roadmap based on how much [changes are] going to cost, and how much of an impact they’re going to have,” says Carson Matthews, an associate broker and certified EcoBroker with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty in Buckhead. Matthews, who has worked in real estate for 10 years, had an audit done of his home in August 2011. He equips his clients with greening suggestions both one on one and via his blog, Green to the Scene (greentothescene.com).
Custom builder Robert J. Soens Jr. recommends a number of green steps homeowners may take, including using rain barrels for collecting water during landscaping and installing solar hot water systems and Energy Star appliances and changing out countertops from darker to lighter.
“It brightens up the kitchen and helps reflect light throughout the kitchen, so you actually need to use less artificial lighting,” says Soens, owner of Pinnacle Custom Builders, Inc. in Decatur (pinnaclecustombuilders.com). “It cuts down on energy use, particularly with halogen lighting that a lot of people put in the kitchen. You use all that light over a dark countertop – it really heats up the kitchen.”
Soens builds EarthCraft certified homes in metropolitan Atlanta areas such as Buckhead, Midtown, Morningside and Decatur. The homes include high-efficiency heating and air systems and water heaters and other features. Soens built the noted RainShine House, which has been widely noted for its eco-friendly design.
Another green example includes The Brookwood (thebrookwood.net), one of the first LEED certified residential buildings in Atlanta. Features of the condominium community – the new home of Watershed restaurant as of May 2012 – include use of low VOC paint and carpeting systems that reduce indoor air contaminants; hardwood floors of ash finished with oil instead of polyurethane; pressurized hallways; Energy Star appliances and water-source heat pumps and a recycling chute.
Recycling and compost are two environmental considerations when thinking of going green, according to Creech who also suggests testing homes for Radon, controlling moisture in the home to keep mold from forming and replacing older heating and cooling units before you have to, among other things. Sealing holes, he believes, is a good start to a cost-effective way of greening. “The biggest holes are usually around the bathtub or up in the attic,” explains Creech.
“Seal the big holes first; don’t worry about the smaller holes inside your windows until you’ve done all the big and medium-sized ones first.”
These and other tips can be found on the Southface website.
“We’re all in this together,” says Soens. “We all occupy this planet, we all occupy this city. The more that we can do to help each other create a really healthy environment, the better off we are. We all have to play a role in helping create a healthy city for us all to live in.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

6 replies on “Greening Your Home: Builders have solutions”

  1. There are so many ways to green a home! In addition to the ways listed above, I’d like to add the following:

    *Opt for furnishings and textiles that do not contain fire-retardant, water-repellant, or wrinkle-resistant chemical coatings.
    *When possible, choose real wood furniture not consisting of formaldehyde-emitting particleboard/plywood/pressed wood.
    *Eliminate the use of PVC plastic and pthalate-containing materials (e.g. vinyl shower curtains)…usually your nose can sniff these major offenders.
    *Look for ways to upcycle by searching Craigslist or neighborhood yard sales for furniture before going to a major retailer. Chances are, you can score a deal and reduce your carbon footprint.
    *Pick electronics from companies that have decided to make greener choices for their materials. For example, Apple has taken steps to remove toxic substances from its products, such as arsenic, mercury, brominated flame retardants (BFRs), mercury, phthalates, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), elemental bromine, and chlorine.

    Did you know that many household products, like televisions and remote controls, contain these toxic chemicals? Makes you think twice before letting your little one teeth on them…

    We are truly all in this together. Thank you for posting this article.

  2. There are so many ways to green a home! In addition to the ways listed above, I’d like to add the following:
    *Opt for furnishings and textiles that do not contain fire-retardant, water-repellant, or wrinkle-resistant chemical coatings.
    *When possible, choose real wood furniture not consisting of formaldehyde-emitting particleboard/plywood/pressed wood.
    *Eliminate the use of PVC plastic and pthalate-containing materials (e.g. vinyl shower curtains)…usually your nose can sniff these major offenders.
    *Look for ways to upcycle by searching Craigslist or neighborhood yard sales for furniture before going to a major retailer. Chances are, you can score a deal and reduce your carbon footprint.
    *Pick electronics from companies that have decided to make greener choices for their materials. For example, Apple has taken steps to remove toxic substances from its products, such as arsenic, mercury, brominated flame retardants (BFRs), mercury, phthalates, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), elemental bromine, and chlorine.
    Did you know that many household products, like televisions and remote controls, contain these toxic chemicals? Makes you think twice before letting your little one teeth on them…
    We are truly all in this together. Thank you for posting this article.

Comments are closed.