Greener Homes Built and Under Construction

After the recent meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Harper it became apparent that the environment is now a high priority for the governments of both Canada and the United States. This probably means that suddenly everyone has to start thinking ‘green’ both at the office and in their homes. Energy conservation, renewable energy, recycling and many other environmental issues will be front and center in the very near future.

However, for the past decade one company in Calgary—Kanas Corporation—has been developing energy efficient and smart technology for Green Buildings and at the same time providing affordable housing. Their experiences to date, plus their research into new technology, ensures that we have a leader for the greening of our lifestyles right here in our own backyard.

Kanas Corporation began in 1997 with the concept of developing buildings with Insulated Concrete Form Construction (ICFC) and locally produced recycled steel joists and interior wall studs to create a superior building envelope to which smart technology could easily be incorporated. “We had a passion to develop a better building with a green emphasis but to really focus on efficiency with affordability,” says Robert Sipka, President of Kanas Corporation. “Our pilot project, now completed, was Parkhill Manor with nine rental apartments and currently under construction is our prototype Lomond apartment building with fifteen rental units. This fall we will break-ground and commence construction on our major performance project the Lumino with 318 units in the Manchester community.”

Defining a green project encompasses the building construction, the energy efficiency of the structure, the use of smart technology for energy conservation plus the surrounding neighborhood in terms of close proximity to public transit and amenities to include a reduction in the resident’s carbon footprint. A typical Kanas building meets R-2000 criteria and a Platinum Rating by Enervision’s Built Green program that evaluates “green” construction techniques which reduce the environmental impact of buildings. These prestigious ratings are achieved by Kanas through the ICFC construction method, the use of recycled steel, the acrylic stucco exterior, hot water solar panel heating systems, triple-glazed Low-E windows, low-VOC paints, concrete counter tops, low-flow fixtures and toilets, plus smart technology applications.

“Our buildings are greater than 50% more efficient relative to traditional construction methods. Plus the triple-glazed windows ensure no cold drafts or heat loss in winter and year-round noise reduction for a noticeably improved comfort level for the residents,” says Sipka.

The new Lomond development is located at Centre Street and 32nd Avenue N.W. with two bedroom apartments anticipated to be ready for occupancy late this year or early in 2010. Lomond is located close to public transit routes, giving residents a practical alternative to driving which results in financial savings and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. These homes will encompass some of the latest smart technologies recently discovered and tested by Kanas. Wherever possible Kanas chooses Canadian made products and materials to reduce shipping costs, lower transportation greenhouse gas emissions and support the Canadian economy.

Kanas has worked in conjunction with Alberta Government grants for affordable housing and the Lumino development is in partnership with the City of Calgary affordable housing program. This is an important part of the company’s philosophy to provide an environmentally friendly hand-up but not a hand-out.

” Our buildings are affordable by design and efficiency but the core is a really good building envelope to start with,” says Sipka. ” Although the cost savings may not be realized until several years after the tenants first move in, as the landlord we can afford to wait for these cost efficiencies to be realized.”

With Kanas Corporation as both the building developer and eventual landlord it would seem to indicate that they are fully prepared to stand behind both their construction materials and methods for a truly superior building with a focus on environmental efficiency.

Future Homes and Neighborhoods Will Likely Be Compact, Greener, and Friendlier

American home and neighborhood designs change constantly. If you put yourself randomly in a 20th century neighborhood, chances are that you could tell the decade it was built, even after the avocado-green siding is replaced. We may be in for an even bigger than normal shift in the next decade. How will a 2015 neighborhood be different than a 2007 subdivision? Here are some recent trends:

Movement to smaller, greener and more livable homes

New homes are undoubtedly getting smaller. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of a house under construction fell 7.3 percent in the July-September quarter of 2008. A January 2009 survey of builders reported that 90 percent are building smaller homes.

Until recently, homebuilders focused on grand houses that maximize square footage and feature high-end upgrades. Today, builders are more likely to highlight how their homes save money and energy. “As people value operating costs more, they start thinking more about these things,” said Roger Voisinet, noted EcoBroker and President of Cvilleproperties.com. “People are choosing solar and more energy-efficient heating and cooling.”

More attention is being paid to the quality of space rather than the quantity of space. “Time after time people leave the basement unfinished and put their money into good trim and quality elsewhere in the house.” said Voisinet. “People are also getting more creative with spaces.” He cited Belmont Lofts, which are popular condos in downtown Charlottesville where moveable, Shoji screen walls allow smaller rooms to be transformed into larger living spaces.

Economic fears are impacting design, suggests author and architectural psychologist Sally Fretwell. “People are now more simplistic in design and in building material. People are probably less showy,” said Fretwell, who also owns a paint store in Richmond, Virginia. Cost is more of a factor but by being more thoughtful, home purchasers focus on the details. “People are looking at things differently.” Said Fretwell, “They are a lot more creative. That’s wonderful”.

Migration to new urban centers with common greens and ready-built community

Besides moving into smaller homes, Americans are moving to communities with denser housing and “village” aspects that evoke neighborhoods of our great-grandparents.

Arthur C. Nelson, a leading housing expert who has studied housing trends for 20 years, expects that migration to denser living will bring sweeping changes to American society. According to Nelson, “Surveys indicate a growing preference for urban living. Roughly half of all households want the opportunity to live in neighborhoods and communities with higher density housing, a mix of housing types and household income levels, sidewalks, proximity to stores and restaurants, accessibility to transit options and other “smart growth” features associated with well-designed urban areas.”

Nelson predicts that there will be a surplus of between 3 million and 22 million homes on large lots (built on one-sixth of an acre or more) by 2025. He and other experts foresee these big homes in the exurbs eroding in value, with many of them being subdivided into multiple units.

Lifestyle has influenced people as much as economics in the growing taste for clustered, walkable neighborhoods. In an October 10, 2008 New York Times article, Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology at New York University describes the sense of well-being from being able to walk around and recognize your neighbors or even shopkeepers. Gerson said this sense of well-being is second only to being able to provide food and shelter for the family. “We know from studies that in close-knit urban communities, where private space is not as plentiful, public space becomes more central,” she said. Indeed, many families said they did not spend a lot of time at home. “There are always trade-offs in these choices. Families are resilient and find ways to adapt to whatever their circumstances.”

The community-oriented changes in where people choose to live coincides with new research on psychological studies of happiness. According to the Handbook of Psychology, by Irving Weiner and Donald Freedheim, “the strongest predictor of happiness [is] social connectedness. People who are relatively alone in the world are much less happy than people who have close connections with others. All other objective predictors of happiness, including money, education, health, and place of residence, are only weakly correlated with happiness.”

What might a neighborhood of 2015 look like?

A recent Chicago Tribune article summarizes the eight great real estate trends of 2009:

  1. Smaller Houses
  2. More apartments
  3. Increase in attached housing
  4. More rental units
  5. New urban centers with homes close to shops and restaurants
  6. Common green spaces for outdoor enjoyment of homeowners.
  7. Creating Community – where the developer provides social features beyond land, bricks and mortar.
  8. Online marketing of homes

(see http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2008/dec/26/realestate/chi-real-estate-trends_chomes_12dec26)

So, what might a Year 2015 neighborhood look like? There will probably be many variations of neighborhoods that adopt the above trends.

Cohousing as a Case Study

One kind of modern neighborhood is cohousing, which is mostly unknown in the U.S. but which constitutes 25% of new development in Denmark. Cohousing is a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood where single family and attached homes surround a common green. Homes are smaller and closer together than the typical 2007 house, but space is efficiently used and homeowners enjoy a large clubhouse, shared gardens, a large playground, and other common amenities. Often a cohousing neighborhood is located near an urban center – further promoting walkability and neighborliness. Marketing of the homes is typically online or through word-of-mouth. Private spaces and backyards are a standard feature of cohousing. Solar, geothermal and other green features are also very common. But markedly different than typical housing developments, there are social aspects built-in. Neighbors have the option of taking part in potlucks and common meals and also working together on common tasks (such as landscaping and decision-making). In summary, cohousing is one example of where people buy houses not so much based on raw home size but more based on improving their social and private lifestyle as well as reducing their carbon footprint. Proponents of cohousing refer to it as “yesterday’s neighborhood today,” as a shorthand for describing a community where neighbors know one another and have fun together.

More to Life Than Square Footage

The weaker economy and worries over energy costs may have spurred homebuilders to make smaller, clustered and more energy-efficient homes; however, a broader national mood towards simplicity, and a richer lifestyle is likely to drive further change. As they further realize there is more to life than square footage, people will change their tastes. Clustered housing around green spaces will not only alter the landscape but will foster neighborliness and improve the way people live and relate to one another.

Where You Can Find the World’s Greenest Homes

If you’re looking for a place in this world that has lush green grass, tall trees, and clean air; you might want to visit some of these natural green cities. These won’t be cities in the middle of nowhere. The places we’ll give to you are mostly popular or maybe a site to see. These are the world’s top five greenest cities.

Starting off with a place you might never heard before, Malmo, Sweden. This city uses green electricity, hydropower, which reduces carbon footprints. They’ve used this system for a decade; reducing the carbon dioxide by 5%. They recently raised that bar to 25% making it one of the cleanest air cities.

This next city has been reported to be one of the greenest cities in South America, Bogota, Colombia. The city is a nice tourist attraction having a wonderful green forest and beautiful view of the city. To keep the city green doesn’t take much. They use more buses than cars and have more bike paths to keep carbon dioxide levels low.

A city that most Americans wouldn’t know is a green city, Minneapolis, Minnesota. You may ask how this city is green with the mass amounts of buildings and lack of Agriculture. They have created a new green program called GreenStep. This program was a statewide program trying to make an eco-friendly impression. The city has 130 miles of bicycle paths; 46 running through major roads and 84 running through parks and green spaces.

Our next city is in Germany, home of sauerkraut and beer. But Freiburg wanted to put a different vision in people’s minds. The people of Freiburg have taken extreme measures and now reduce energy use in homes. Germany is known for its very cold winters. But the people of Freiburg only use 40 gallons of oil for heat. Unlike the usual use in Germany which is 1,600 gallons; this being less carbon dioxide in the air for the Freiburg people. So if you enjoy cuddling up with your loved ones in the cold to help the environment, then this city has your name written all over it.

The last city has to be one of the most future green cities in the world, Vancouver, BC, Canada. The city of Vancouver is trying the impossible, Carbon-neutral. Meaning less fossil fuels and more solar, wind, and water powered. Of course this isn’t a quick procedure but they plan on making this happen in the year 2107. Vancouver is already a green city with devices like dual-flushing toilets, light sensors, and geothermal heating. By this rate Vancouver will be the cleanest city in the world and one of my top locations for tourism.

Well that sums up some of the greenest cities in the world but there’s more out there. It takes the whole city as a team to make an eco-friendly place. This world has enough climate, pollution, and power problems as it is. But to see cities around the world doing something better gives us a future for living green.

Focus on Green Homes – Landscaping to Save Energy

Landscaping a home in green manner is an important part of planning and building your green home. Landscaping consumes a lot of water and maintaining your yard can produce a large amount of carbon monoxide. Green landscaping means selecting plants that reduce the amount of water used to keep them alive.

For the lawn, plant grass that grows very slowly and requires very little water to survive. By planting this type of grass, your lawn would not need to be mowed every week, but maybe only a few times a summer, reducing the amount of exhaust from your mowing activities. Also since water bills are usually calculated by consumption, the less water the yard requires, the lower the water bill.

For the plants and bushes around the home, select hardy plants. Hardy plants are less susceptible to diseases and damaging pests, allowing you to forego or eliminate pesticides and fertilizers. The less of these chemicals that are used the better it is for the environment, reducing the amount of chemicals that run-off of plants during a rainstorm and soak into the ground. This type of run-off of pesticides and fertilizers has the potential to contaminate ground water and drinking water.

Another major consideration with green landscaping is the heat island effect. The heat island effect is heat from the home, from man-made surfaces around the home, and from the lack of appropriate landscaping. The combined heat from these sources can increase the temperature in a community noticeably. Heat islands can cause increased use of air conditioning, increased air pollution and greenhouse gas production, and lower water quality.

For your green home, this effect can make your heating and cooling systems less effective. The right types of landscaping can help prevent the heat island effect. For example, planting our hardy trees, shrubs and plants at least 24 inches away from the house can break up the heat transfer mechanism. In addition, planting deciduous trees on the west side of your green home or along driveways and walkways can be very effective for cooling the house and yard. Plan ahead, though. Trees and bushes growth over time can interfere with the effectiveness of any solar panels that are installed.

When planning your landscaping, plan to install a rain barrel as well. Why not store some of the run-off rainwater for eco-friendly, free water for watering the lawn, plants, scrubs, and trees? In addition to a rain barrel, the ground can be shaped to direct water coming from the roof and the ground during a rainstorm to collect around the plants, shrubs, and trees in the yard. This allows the earth to do your work for you. As the water from the storm drains into the ground, the last part of the ground to dry out is the part of the lawn that received the most water, reducing the amount of tap water needed.

By taking the extra time to address these issues during the design of your green home, you can achieve a beautiful, very low maintenance and environmental-friendly landscaped yard.

Green Homes for Sale

If you were looking at real estate ads and saw one that stated “green homes for sale”, you may at first wonder why anyone would a listing stating the color of their home. This is not what this type of ad means. It is just stating that the homes for sale are earth friendly and energy efficient. Green homes for sale are being built in an effort to less the carbon footprints we leave behind.

When you purchase a green home they will contains all or some of the following features that are earth friendly.

• Fiber cement siding

• Alternative power system like wind and solar

• Recycled building insulation

• No VOC stains and paints, which stands for volatile organic compound. It is any compound that is carbon-based and will vaporize at standard room temperatures. Some of the more prevalent ones are formaldehyde, acetone, and methane.

• Solar powered hot water heating

Even if you do not live in a green home, there are things that you can do to increase your energy conservation. It will even help contribute to saving our environment. Making your home a green home can help to reduce global warning and save the homeowner money. It will significantly better the environment and require little effort for the homeowner.

Making a green home

• Instead of using the standard incandescent light bulbs start to use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). When you switch to the CFL’s you can save per year over a hundred dollars. You can find these lights in the same aisle as your regular bulbs but they are little more expensive. In the United States, if every house switches the type of light bulbs they were using to CFL’s there would be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of one trillion pounds.

• Install a thermostat that is programmable-with this type of thermostat the homeowner can program the thermostat so that the air conditioner or heater is off when homeowners are not at home. The programmable thermostat can be programmed so that it will cool or heat your home shortly before the homeowner arrives home. This change could save the homeowner ten percent or more on cooling and heating costs

• Plug air leaks-this will help the homeowner save money and practice conservation. You can do this by installing weather stripping, keep the temperature in your home from rapidly fluctuating, and caulk windows correctly to stop air drafts.

• Energy StarĀ® rated appliances-these reduce the amount of electricity that is needed to operate them so they have less of an impact on the environment. They will also save on your energy bill.

If you are buying a home, choose energy efficient green homes for sale.