It may be a stretch, but perhaps there is a silver (or “Green”) lining to the housing and economic crisis. Those considering a new or second home are fast learning the value in smaller homes that have been popular in all countries for centuries, but often overlooked in the rush for “bigger is better”. Suddenly there is a growing awareness of the charm, practicality and cost effectiveness of smaller, sustainable houses proving that less is more.
In addition we are learning of the benefit to the world (and our finances) of “Green” building. Many “Green” solutions are a result of common sense and cost little to achieve. Higher energy prices, global warming and tight lending policies have provided incentives for us to seek something better in a lifestyle. All this translates into affordable construction, quality design and sustainability.
This added to the fact that the “Baby Boomers” will be downsizing their empty nests and wanting to improve their health and quality of life at the same time. You’d be surprised how functional, efficient and livable a 1,600 to 2,600 square foot house can be. In addition you will have fun selecting or designing a new, efficient plan that suits your lifestyle. These plans come in all styles and often have surprizing open areas with vaulted spaces that lend themselves to entertaining and comfortable living. Consider the possibilities with English Cottages, Arts & Crafts Bungalows, French Country houses, and Mountain cabins!
Here are a few good books on cottage living:
“Not so Big House, A Blueprint for The Way We live” by Sarah Susanka and published by The Taunton Press tackles the question of why we are drawn to smaller, more personal spaces. “The Not So Big House proposes clear workable guidelines for creating homes that serve both our spiritual needs and our material requirements, whether for a couple, with noi children, a family, empty nesters, or one person alone”.
“The New Cottage Home” by Jim Tolpin and published by The Taunton Press explores 30 cottage designs from the East coast to the West coast. If you want to find inspiration for a simpler, scaled down lifestyle in a cottage home, this book may prove interesting.
” Cottages By the Sea” by Linda Leigh Paul and published by Universe Publishing explores the handmade homes of Carmel, America’s first artist community. This area is home to some of America’s most charming but rarely seen cottages. 270 color photographs document the private world of 34 homes.
“Cottages on the Coast, Fair Harbors and Secret Shores” by Linda Leigh Paul and published by Universe visits private cottages on the coasts of the United States to inspire you to live the cottage life. Beautiful color photos of these private homes display their interiors and exteriors and each is accompanied by the story that makes them special.
Here is a short list of easy to achieve Green building suggestions to help you be more “green” (and therefore more healthy and save money) when you build your new home:
- Low “E” and argon gas filled windows
- High performance foam insulation such as “Icynene”
- Tankless water heaters
- Southern orientation (light and heat)
- High Albedo roof coatings
- Advanced heating and cooling systems
- Non vented (conditioned) attic space
- Conditioned and sealed crawl space
- Fresh air intakes
- Low or no VOC finishes
- Radon prevention and venting systems
- Advanced indoor air filters
- Rain water collection and filtration
- Dual flush toilets
- Native, drought resistant plants
- Reclaimed hardwood flooring
- Local stone
- Local, sustainable wood
- Recycled drywall
- Certified lumber from a sustainable hardwood source
- Light sensors
- Minimize waste to landfill (have your contractor recycle what is not used)
- Concrete with fly ash
- Mulch timber cut on site for use on property.
“Green” construction standards established by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) http://www.usgbc.org/ provide guidelines for sustainability for builders to follow that will result in health and economic benefits for home owners. Take a look at their “Green Home Guide” In addition, the forthcoming National Green Building Standard proposes even higher standards for sustainable construction for builders to achieve certification on a voluntary basis. It is expected to be approved by the American Standards Institute (ANSI) by 2010. These standards will help builders realize efficiencies in water, energy, building materials and air quality. The goal is to help builders construct homes that perform better and cost less.
For Green renovation ideas, check out this site from the USGBC: http://www.greenhomeguide.org/guide_for_green_renovation/index.html
Another helpful web site for “Green” home solutions is: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=about.ab_index Energy Star is a joint program between the US Department of Energy and The US Environmental Protection Agency.
- Now may be the best time to build a custom home and build in energy savings!
At least in some parts of the nation, the economic crisis is actually improving some segments of the housing market! Check out this article on the custom home market: http://www.thestate.com/business/story/587965.html
……………..Here’s some of what it says:
“The buyers sinking their money into upper-end homes now “see real estate as a good investment,” McLeod said. “They know what they’re doing when they invest their money.”
Lumber prices are on track to drop to a 10-year low, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, partly because demand for homes is declining. Builders in the Columbia area have taken out 35 percent fewer building permits in the first 10 months of the year than they did during the same period in 2007, and home sales in the Midlands are down 17 percent for the year.
Oil-based products, such as carpeting and shingles, are still high, builders say, but should see a drop soon, too, as the price of oil falls.
Labor costs also have dropped, Dunbar said, because so many subcontractors are scrambling to find work as home buying has slowed amid a credit squeeze and financial turmoil sweeping the nation.
“People with money are taking advantage of the diminished economic climate that we’re in,” said home builder Steve Baudo, owner of Baudo & Associates in Lexington. “People with the financial ability to do it, not only are (investing) in stocks, but are also doing it in real estate.”
Baudo said people already are reserving slots with him for next year to build homes in the near-$1 million price range. One customer even gave him a check for $10,000 to hold a March time slot and he doesn’t even have an architectural plan yet.
“I’m busier now than I’ve ever been,” Baudo said.
Local builders said some people who took money out of the stock market are investing it in real estate instead.
“They know it’s going to go back up soon,” Zeigler said. “It’s safer than the stock market.”
Look for other “Green” building ideas by visiting our New South Classics’ web site!
Bruce Eason, AIA