The Green Homes of Austin

By: Jim Olenbush

Though concern for the environment might be why more people are buying green homes today, Austin buyers are definitely falling for the way they save them money on overall operating costs and maintenance.

In 2007 there were more green homes built, bought and sold in the US than ever before. And why wouldn't there be? Green building techniques and standards have improved dramatically over the past decade, making environmentally friendly houses an attractive alternative. Consumers and builders are learning that a green home doesn't have to be a geodesic dome or pit house, it just has to meet certain standards and be kind to the environment. Similarly priced and designed, today's green homes also promise significant savings on utility bills, lowered maintenance costs, a healthier indoor environment and increased peace of mind. Naturally, all these benefits are also translating into a higher resale value when it comes time to move on.

Austin's Green Home Building program is the oldest in the country and has a lot to do with the predominance of green buildings in this part of Texas. Launched in 1991 and now under the wing of Austin Energy, the program supports builders and homeowners to make Austin homes more energy efficient by allowing them to tap into information, rebates, loans and free upgrades.

This New Austin House

This past year, Austin's green homes were in the spotlight again when "This Old House" featured a green renovation to one of Austin's drafty old character homes. Taking an old fangled little bungalow and adding eco-friendliness with features like photo voltaic cells on the roof, rainwater collection for irrigation, spray-foam insulation, recycled-glass tile and counter tops, and formaldehyde-free wood managed to garner Austin Energy's coveted five-star rating for the finished project. For the house's owners this added efficiency translates into $720 less in utility bills every year and a $10,000 rebate from Austin Energy's Solar Rebate Program. For the city or the world for that matter, it means 3 tones less carbon dioxide, 14 pounds less nitrogen oxide and 20 pounds less sulfur dioxide.

Buyers interested in purchasing a new green home can expect to see more of them on the market in years to come. Early in 2008, the National Association of Home Builders will release the National Green Building Standard, an ANSI standard for green home building based on guidelines the NAHB released in 2005. The soon to be released standards cover a range of green factors including lot prep and design, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water conservation, comfort and indoor environment.

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