Green Gains Ground for Recent Homebuyers

As the American housing market continues to recover, more buyers are interested in the green features a home offers. According to the most recent NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 6% of home buyers in 2010 cited green/environmentally friendly community features as one of the reasons they chose to purchase a home in the neighborhood they did. This was most commonly cited by buyers in urban areas and married couples, and is an increase from 5% in 2009. Although it’s a modest increase, it is an important one, one that may reflect increased knowledge of green solutions for the home or one that indicates a generational shift in priorities.

Or perhaps it shows recognition by homebuyers that long-term costs associated with green alternatives saves the other kind of green as well. The top three green features of importance include heating and cooling costs, energy efficient appliances and energy efficient lighting. While landscaping for energy conservation and eco-friendly community features were deemed “not important,” this may change in the future as energy costs increase. Buyers in the South were more likely to say that the top three green features were important, which may be surprising to some, until you realize that the costs associated with air conditioning—a necessity for many during the hot, sticky summer months—can drive up the monthly electric bill to several hundred dollars. That’s a huge bill to face each month.

While an energy efficient oven or clothes washer/dryer may have higher costs upfront, they have been shown to save the owner money over time…and decrease that hard-to-swallow electric bill. Similarly, conducting an energy audit, adding insulation, installing awnings or whole house fans, or upgrading to low-E windows may cause some homeowners to balk at the initial costs, the potential savings are huge and can make those high electric bills a distant bad memory.

For an overview of energy consumption in the home, and to find ways to reduce your footprint, go tohttp://www.energysavers.gov/pdfs/energy_savers.pdf

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Finally, A Town for Bikers!

I’m a very lucky bike commuter—my little California beach town is full of 3-foot bike lanes on all of the major roads. The only hairy part of my commute is merging with traffic when the bike lane ends before the freeway on-ramp. Most bike commuters aren’t so lucky and have to deal with narrow streets, rude drivers and random idiocy.

 

Artist rendering of Bicycle City

However, a town in South Carolina is looking to change things and become a bike-only community (although cars are allowed to park on the outskirts of town). Bicycle City LLC has selected Gaston, South Carolina as the first car-free community. In addition to encouraging cycling and walking, all homes will be build in compliance with LEED standards and rely on clean energy. The community is located near the Three Rivers Greenway, an existing bike trail, and is close to Columbia, an established bicycle-friendly city. Situated between the mountains and the ocean, this Bicycle City boasts a myriad of amenities to its future residents.

 

Artist rendering of Bicycle City

Green features:

  • Multi-surface trails for walking, hiking and biking (oh my!)
  • Green homes
  • Recreational opportunities around the local lake
  • Access to a local organic market

 

Currently, only trail work is underway, but interested parties can reserve a home site in the community.

A Hobbit House in Wales

 

Throw in a hobbit house, like the sustainable one built in Wales, and consider me sold. Built by Simon Dale, the house was built with the environment in mind, touting straw bales for insulation, reclaimed and locally-sourced materials, natural ventilation, solar panels, gravity-fed water, compost toilet and a rainwater catchment system. Plus it took 1000-1500 man hours and £3,000 (about US$4,650). According to his website, Dale built the home for his family in order to live the life they wanted to lead, without the burdens of a mortgage payment or rent. He also did it to meet the challenges of sustainable land use issues and energy consumption. Armed with tools, motivation and a little help from his friends, he completed the home in four months. Since this project was a success, he’s in the process of building a home within an eco-village in Wales that is part of the Lammas Project.

Rendering of the Hobbit House

 

Rendering of Hobbit House

Fasten Your Helmets: London’s Velodrome Receives Green Honors for Sustainable Features

The Velodrome

As London gets ready to host the Olympics this summer, one of its newest buildings is receiving accolades for its green features. The Velodrome, which will host track cycling events, was recognized by RIBA, received the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award and listed on CNN’s list of The Greenest Buildings of 2011. Designed by Hopkins Architects, the 6,000 seat Velodrome is one of the most sustainable buildings in the Olympic Park, and will be open for the local cycling community to enjoy once the Games are over. Not only is it the greenest, but it’s one of the few venues constructed that was completed to budget.

Rendering of the inside of the Velodrome

 

Sustainable features include:

  • Siberian pine track and cladding from Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood
  • Natural ventilation reduces need for air conditioning, while keeping the track level of the facility comfortable for competitors
  • Maximized use of natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting

Oh, plus it’s touted as one of the fastest tracks in the world. Green and speedy—not too shabby.

The Velodrome is designed with cyclists in mind and intended to position London the cycling capital of the world, featuring a one mile road cycle circuit , BMX track and a mountain bike course (Now if only they could make navigation around the country a bit easier, says the American). VeloPark, as it will be known, will provide a safe place for cyclists of all types to train, improve their skills and have fun. In addition to a sustainable cycling facility, London also touts a innovative bike rental program with nearly 6,000 bikes available for hire.

Although Mayor Boris Johnson has tried to incite a cycling revolution over the last few years, change takes time. Like many cities, traffic in London is hell and owning a car in the UK is expensive. The Mayor seeks to dramatically increase the number of people who commute in London by bicycle. While the jury is out on the program’s success so far, we can agree on the physical, psychological and time benefits of cycling–in short, it keeps you thin, sane and will get you most places quicker than that 2000 pound depreciating hunk of plastic and metal you’re driving around.

Where's your helmet, Boris?

As a cyclist, I’m stoked that the Velodrome is green and a bitchen place to bike. Perhaps I’ll schlep my Giant over to the UK on my next visit and give the one mile road cycle circuit a whirl…assuming I’ve mastered clipless pedals by then, but that’s another story.