Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Saving Green by Going Green: Operational Green Building Strategies for Existing Homes

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Saving Green by Going Green: Operational Green Building Strategies for Existing Homes

Article excerpt

According to a 2017 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) survey, about one-third of average Americans have difficulty making financial ends meet and one out of five sometimes struggle with paying for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care (CFPB, 2017). Statistics also indicate that the largest amount of the average American budget, 32.9%, goes toward housing (Schroeder-Gardner, 2018). Financial strain on existing home owners can be reduced by exploring green building strategies. The United Stated Green Building Council (U.S. GBC) defines green building as a holistic model focused on lessening the negative effects of buildings on the natural environment and the people who inhabit them throughout the life cycle of a building (U.S. GBC, 2017a). The building life cycle includes design, construction, and operation of a building. All building life cycle phases can have a financial impact on families, however design and construction are out of financial reach for many. Hence, the focus of this paper is to identify the key areas of impact regarding operational performance of an existing home, and to provide green strategies for family and consumer sciences educators (FCS) who can create meaningful change in the economic concerns of homeowners.

Key Areas of Performance Impact

The U.S. GBC's international Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification program is the globally recognized standard of green building. Although the LEED for Homes program is focused on the construction of new homes or major existing home renovations that go down to the studs, homeowners can look to the program's four key areas of performance impact-energy, water, materials, and waste-and health and human experience for guidance regarding financial savings (U.S. GBC, 2017b). These areas represent the segments of a building that can be easily monitored by homeowners.

Energy

Energy sources are classified as nonrenewable and renewable. Nonrenewable sources such as coal, gas, and oil are not replaced, or they are replaced very slowly. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind replenish naturally in a short period of time. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (U.S. EIA), nonrenewable natural gas and electricity are the most consumed energy sources in U.S. homes, followed by heating oil and propane (U.S. EIA, 2017a). In fact, the U.S. EIA estimated that the average U.S. household consumed 897 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month in 2016 at a cost of $112.59 per month (U.S. EIA, 2017b). A 2016 breakdown of U.S. home electricity consumption assessed that space heating and cooling accounts for 25% of total energy used, followed by about 18% for appliances, 9% for water heating, 9% for lighting, 6% for televisions and related equipment, 2% for computers and related equipment, and 31% for other items such as small electronic devices, outdoor grills, spa heaters, and back-up generators (U.S. EIA, 2017c). This breakdown stands as an excellent point of departure for the exploration of green strategies that can help the financial security of families.

Although many of the energy strategies to be explored require only small changes and investments, others necessitate more significant capital that should be examined on a case by case basis against life cycle savings. Most homeowners will find long-term financial benefits that create meaningful change in the lives of their families (Nania, 2015).

Energy Audit

The first strategy for homeowners should be a home energy audit that assesses how much energy a home consumes and gauges areas where energy efficiency can be improved. Professionals may be hired to complete the energy audit, but homeowners should check with their local utility company because many offer free or discounted audits to customers. Once the audit is completed, a list of recommendations will be compiled that can be implemented to enhance a home's energy efficiency, increase comfort, and lower utility bills. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.