Green Building Tips for Your Home


By Patience Lewis, Realtor

Building green helps reduce negative impacts on the environment and preserve the Earth’s resources for future generations. Building green doesn’t necessarily mean your home has to be more expensive or that you need to use alternative materials and methods. In fact, when you build green you can often reduce your overall expenses by using traditional materials in efficient and environmentally friendly ways.


When selecting a site to build upon, choose one that is the best for both you and the environment.

Avoid building in environmentally sensitive locations, such as wetlands, flood zones, hurricane-prone areas and endangered wildlife habitats.

• Check on the proximity to public transportation, community resources and bike trails to reduce the need to drive.

• Consider developing an infill or greyfield site–a site where a house was previously built and where water, phone and sewer lines may already be in place–instead of clearing undeveloped lands, known asGreenfieldsites. You could minimize the amount of excavation needed by reusing an existing foundation.


The orientation of your house on the site can affect the amount of energy it consumes.

• Position the house on the site to best capture sunlight in the winter, and reduce heat gain in the summer where trees provide shade. Orienting the house on an east-west axis is usually best.

• Be realistic about how much space you need. A smaller house will require less material to build, as well as less energy to heat and cool over the entire life of the structure.

• Build up instead of out. A multi-story house has less roof and foundation area than a one-story house of the same square footage, is more efficient to heat, and has ceiling framing that doubles as floor framing for the floor above.


Whether you prefer a traditional or modern look, design your home with materials that are friendly to the environment.

• Use materials that are easily recyclable, reusable, renewable, durable, affordable and low maintenance.

• Maximize insulation, weather strip door openings and seal ducts.

• Install high-performance windows and energy-efficient appliances, and consider solar effects when locating windows.

• Choose high-efficiency (90 percent and higher) heating and cooling equipment with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of 14 or higher. Put in programmable thermostats to minimize energy use, especially when nobody is home.


• Utilize high-performance building materials that reduce energy loss caused by transmission of extreme temperatures (walls, windows, skylights, roof/ceilings).

• Set aside space for renewable energy sources to reduce reliance on the use of fossil fuels (wind, solar, hydro-electric, geothermal).

• Select Energy Star homes, equipment and appliances.

• Pay attention to duct sealing details and avoid costly wastage.

• Always use approved water heater insulation blankets and heat traps.

• Insulate your hot water lines.

• Install high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment.

• Use energy efficient luminaries (compact fluorescent & LED).

• Make use of natural ventilation in structures when possible.

• Install ceiling fans – an economic alternative to air conditioners that can reduce your costs by 40% in summer. During winter they also effectively circulate warm air and can lead to savings up to 10% on heating bills.

Contact Mark Lewis for more information on building in Tahoe.

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