Mar 10, 2013 / 7:00 am
I've been a GREEN thinker for as long as I can remember and over the years have become more and more intrigued in how to make our real estate greener either through renovations or by a new build. Although cost has been a stumbling block for many years, we're now able to find real solutions at real prices that fit every budget.
This blog is dedicated to the basics by answering the following questions:
- Where can I get more information?
- How much is it going to cost me?
- Are there grants or funding available?
- How will this affect the value of my real estate?
We built our home in the Kelowna neighbourhood of Wilden just over 4 years ago. At that time there wasn't a lot of info or affordable options for us to be able to consider realistically. We ended up setting a budget of $25,000 within our building budget to be used towards anything GREEN. It worked beautifully in that we were able to accomplish a number of important and affordable environmentally friendly goals within our home. In doing that we also learned about a number of grants and incentives that we were eligible for. Some of the inclusions we made in our home that I felt would have the most bang for our real estate buck are:
- Geothermal heating and cooling system
- Cork Flooring
- Corian Countertops
- 4 Bay Recycling Station
- Low Flush Toilets
About half of the energy from the sun is absorbed by the ground and water. Because of this the ground remains at a fairly constant temperature about 6 feet below the surface year round. A geothermal system basically takes energy from one place and moves it to another in the form of heating and cooling. To install a geothermal system is more expensive but with rebates that were in the thousands, we were able to add this cost to our budget successfully.
In a perfect GREEN world all our building materials would come from sustainable sources. Cork flooring is a perfect example starting with harvesting, production, use and finally disposal. Cork comes from the bark of cork trees. The trees regenerate bark after it's harvested, which gives cork serious green cred because these trees can live between one and two centuries! Some of the other bonuses of cork are that it contains a substance that naturally fends off mold, mildew, rot, and pests... fantastic for any allergy sufferers. It's springy which means dents made from dropped items will fill back out in a short time. It also holds warmth and is great for sound absorption. Best of all is cost. The Cork we used was a higher quality and still came in under our hard flooring budget. My favorite thing is that because of it's naturally spotted look, cork shows very little dirt.
There are more choices today than ever before for eco friendly hard surfaces. Corian offers 3 levels of recycled content, has low off-gas levels, and is easily and seamlessly re-used - all of which can contribute to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points. Our Corian counters came in right on budget for kitchen and baths.
Recycling is easier today at the municipal level than it's ever been. To have specific bins right in your kitchen that allow for easy sorting is a no-brainer when building or renovating your kitchen.
Low Flow Fixtures
Between 30-40% of household water is used by toilets! In 2011 the Province of BC amended the BC Building Code requiring high efficiency toilets to be installed in new residential buildings or where renovations involving plumbing fixtures are involved. They're efficient, reliable, AND you can save over 30,000 litres of water a year. Certainly substantial particularly if you're water is metered! Low flow fixtures are easy to find and are affordable.
How much will it cost me and where do I find info on grants and rebates?
There's no doubt we have a long way to go in making green building practices easy and affordable for people building or renovating their homes. One of the biggest hurdles in Kelowna is actually figuring out how to save money coupled with finding the right materials. Done once, the second time is always easier. Take for instance the daycare center at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. This building, meeting the criteria for the Living Building Challenge was successfully built for about 15% less than building a conventional structure and was completed in 2012 within the budget that was set in 2006. Very impressive.
There are many rebates, grants, and incentives available. Checking often when you're building or renovating is a good idea as new rebates can come and go. Fortis BC and BC Hydro are a great sources of rebate info. The government of BC also offers rebates and incentives for those looking to become more environmentally friendly.
Will my house be worth more?
Over the years people ask me what the best return on their dollar is for home renovations. Kitchen's and baths are almost always at the top of the list! We now know it is possible, with a little extra effort, to build or reno a GREEN kitchen/bath for the same amount of money as a non-sustainable kitchen/bath. If you had to choose between a gorgeous new GREEN kitchen or a gorgeous non environmentally friendly kitchen; which would you choose?
Let's look at a geothermal heating/cooling system. Geothermal generally will generally cost more than a conventional HVAC system. How much more depends on available rebates. It will also depend on how long you plan on living in your home. Will you get more money for your home when you sell because it has geothermal? The short answer is no, but there's a very high probability that you'll beat your competition due to the benefit of savings the buyer will see on their energy bills. Much along the same lines as you won't see more money because you have a new roof, but rather the buyer sees that as a benefit to them over a home with an old roof.
More and more people are becoming interested in preserving our environment and one of the best ways we can be more eco-friendly and enjoy the benefits of this, is at home! Don't you agree it's time we all make more of an effort to think with sustainability in mind?
Watch for these columns where you'll find more information about the green building movement and how it can benefit you!
Talk to you soon...
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