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Opportunities to Make a Home “Green” Exist on a Spectrum

When thinking about “green” homes, consumers often think first about new home construction and the opportunity to build a fully sustainable home from the ground up. However, there are also vast unrealized opportunities to increase the resource efficiency of existing homes. In the recent major revision of coursework for the National Association of Realtor’s Green Designation, the content was revised to amplify the focus on existing homes.

The opportunities to increase a home’s efficiency occur on a spectrum, from energy surveys – a systematic review of how energy is used within your house – to major remodeling and retrofitting, and finally to new home construction. We will discuss each of these opportunities here briefly, but urge all interested readers to obtain additional education on the topic with Green Designation coursework through NAR, either in the classroom or online.

In each of these phases, smart home devices and technology may be installed as needed or desired. Smart home installations have applications across the entire spectrum.

Energy Survey

The simplest and quickest approach to increasing your home’s efficiency is to do a walk-through energy survey of your house. An energy survey is sometimes called a clipboard audit, simple assessment, screening or preliminary audit. The walk-through survey usually doesn’t include any diagnostic testing, but it might. The evaluator may look for symptoms that indicate a problem, or concentrate on a particular problem like comfort or health issues. A home energy survey takes about an hour to complete. After the survey, you can implement suggested improvements immediately, or over time.

Resource Efficiency

After performing your energy survey, the opportunity is to increase a home’s resource-efficiency as part of routine or major maintenance projects. These can include replacement of major appliances, heating/cooling systems, windows, entryways, security systems, ventilation, plumbing, and so on. Upgrade projects like these enhance or maintain a home’s value when compared with new and upgraded homes in the market area.

A quick and easy fix is replacing your old incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs with more energy efficient LED light bulbs. Not only do these LED bulbs save energy, which in turn saves you money, they last longer than traditional bulbs, sometimes lasting years depending on how often you use them. And as the technology has improved, the price of LED bulbs has dropped dramatically over the years, making their use a no-brainer.

Also use surge protectors for entertainment systems or other high-energy drawing electronics. Make the surge protector easily accessible, so that at night or when not in use, you can turn everything off with the flick of one switch. This helps prevent “ghosting”, or the draining of electricity by electronics even when they are turned off.

Further, consider installing new fixtures like water-saving faucet aerators in the bathroom or kitchen. Pipe wraps around your pipes will also help save energy.

Renovations

Opportunities for resource-efficiency retrofitting are enormous during major renovations. Deep energy retrofits are on the extreme end of cost and effort when it comes to making homes more energy-efficient, but can achieve dramatic energy savings.

The process typically involves resealing the building envelope, super-insulating, upgrading systems including HVAC, and installing energy generation capacity like solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. If a homeowner plans to do major renovations such as replacing a roof or siding, it may be an opportunity for a whole-house deep energy retrofit. The first step is a thorough, professional energy assessment to determine which actions will produce the most benefit.

New Home

Finally, a new home, especially a custom home, provides the opportunity to make a myriad of choices to achieve all the benefits of a resource-efficient home. From high-efficiency systems to innovative materials, and more, the opportunities for upgrades are vast. The real estate professional can play a valuable role in guiding a client to authoritative sources of information and helping put together the design-and-build team who will transform the client’s vision of a new, resource-efficient home into a reality.

Some real estate professionals who have made sustainability a major focus of their businesses find that clients and customers turn to them as a source of information about greening homes. Expanding your network to include green vendors, energy assessors, builders, designers, and other service providers benefits your clients and customers and enhances your reputation, credibility, and appeal.

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Square Footage: It’s Not the Size That Counts, But How You Use It

By Matt Metcalf

One of the first focuses for most people looking for a home is square feet. How many square feet are there? How does it compare to the rest of the neighborhood and area? Does size really matter?

Size, of course, does have an impact. More square footage provides the opportunity to have more flexibility with design, room arrangements and features, but experience tells me it is not the most important factor for homebuyers. Square footage is a fallback and easy measure for real estate because it is one of the few easily defined, measurable and comparable characteristics in describing a home. Features like views, finishes, layout and general feeling are harder to assign an absolute value, so we tend to look to square footage first.

If people really pay attention they will see that within a neighborhood or area, there are always some homes that sell faster than average and often at a higher price. Many factors can impact this, such as view and location, but in this case we are talking about the floor plan itself. Many large builders experience an overwhelming demand for just one or two models even when they have six or more available because the feel and use of the space is so important. Many people cannot even explain why they like one floor plan more; they just like the “feel.”

Ergonomics at Home Please
Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so that they fit the people who use them. People look to find comfort and enjoyment in their lives and their environment, work or home, and that can have both a positive and negative impact on their wellbeing. For most of us, our home is the place we will spend the majority of our time, so having spaces that fit us and make us more comfortable is extremely important. Applying ergonomic practices to home design can and does have a positive impact on our lives.

Give the People What They Want
Across the country you will find many new construction homes built in the “modern” style, which is an update from the mid-century modern designs of the 20th century. In many of the western U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Denver, this style of home is in great demand. It is not only found in luxury real estate. Denver real estate has seen a large increase in the demand and construction of modern luxury homes, but also modern row homes and smaller homes that fit onto older, more limited lot sizes. Many older Denver neighborhoods have experienced high demand for beautiful homes with modern spaces that are not large, but offer a luxurious feel in design.

What Is “Modern” Anyway?
Many architects are students and fans of the mid-century designs that emphasize simplicity, open spaces, clean sharp lines and integration with the world around you. You will find a large emphasis on building homes that take advantage of the lot for views, integration with outdoor spaces, and multiple use rooms. Large glass windows for natural light and flat roof lines are also common features of the style, and when incorporated with a good design, can make the home feel great inside and look stunning on the outside. For many modern architects, each design is a challenge to incorporate clean lines, usable spaces and natural flow of the home to make the experience of living there enjoyable.

“Modern design is meant to be functional first—to integrate function as a part of our lives and space, to simplify and declutter our physical environment—and to accomplish this in an aesthetically pleasing form. Great modern design makes our living spaces easier to use and occupy while simultaneously stimulating our senses positively,” says Jesse Walden, architect and builder with Lucid Studio in Denver.

After many years helping people find homes that fit their personalities and lifestyles, I have noticed that it is almost always the use of the space that has a greater impact than the sheer volume of square footage. This comes in two forms: use of square footage in layout and flow, and, of course, interior design. Having a great floor plan, visually pleasing design and good flow to a home will make it a desirable and more valuable home now and in the future.

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Find Your Shiplap Style

By: Julia Marchand

A shiplap obsession is currently sweeping through homes of all styles thanks to its charm and subtle texture. It can be finished to show character marks, like knots and nail holes, or to be sleek and unblemished. It can hang on walls and ceilings, be used as wainscoting, be featured outside or inside or become a design accent like a headboard or a floating entertainment center. With plenty of versatility, this charming material can accent any home style: It can meld with modern decor, complement a farmhouse feel or accent a breezy beach house.

If you’re looking to use shiplap to transform your home from basic to beautiful, the first consideration to find your perfect fit is to identify the mood already given off by the rest of your decor. Since shiplap could cover every inch of wall space in a room, it has great potential to shift the mood in a new direction or take your current style to the next level. Get some inspiration for personalizing your home, then look around and decide: Do your furnishings feel formal? Feminine? Are they quirky or even chaotic? Do you want to piggyback on that mood or play it down?

Here are some distinct shiplap flavors and the details that will allow you to pull them off.

Edgy Urban – Mixed with brick, cement or metal accents, the organic characteristics of shiplap will warm and soften an urban aesthetic. Stick with raw wood to embrace its rich tones or choose a weathered paint for a super-rustic look that blends well with that gritty New York loft feel. The seams of the boards chop up the lines to keep an edgy look, so try this style if you want to complement downtown decor.

Relaxed Cottage – Vary board widths with a greater reveal between the planks both on the horizontal and vertical ends, and skip the trim for a less formal look. Show knots, nail holes and character for a farmhouse feel, or magnify charm with the quaint quality of wainscoting. Keep in mind that while a natural patina exaggerates the rustic mood, it can sometimes feel masculine, so go with a whitewashed finish if you want it to feel soft and summery.

For a nautical twist, take these tips up a notch with inconsistent gap widths and different levels of distress. A variety of cool hues painted on shiplap within a coordinating color scheme—like cream, gray, white or pale blue—can give off a beachy feel and perfectly match a laid-back bungalow.

Moody Modern – Sleek, uniform chestnut planks embrace the warm tones that are a mainstay in wood for modern design. Of course, other hues, especially those that are brown or on the grayscale, would fit this mood, too, as long as the boards are evenly spaced and sized with a smooth finish. Fill the seams at the short end of each plank for a streamlined style that emphasizes length. Install flat shiplap with no rounded edge at the groove for a look that matches the polished precision of modern decor.

Blissfully Luxurious – Paired with marble, a chandelier, plush accents and reflective fixtures, shiplap can even appear lavish! Brush a fresh coat of glossy white paint on the smooth, straight planks of this airy accent for clean detail that brings interest. This approach to shiplap is positively dreamy in an upscale master bed or bath.

Formal Sophistication – With less reveal between boards and a fancy detailed trim, even shiplap can fit a stately setting. Try a mahogany tone as the backdrop for traditional decor to cash in on the shiplap trend without compromising your formal feel. Want something a little more contemporary? Go for a medium charcoal paint with even distribution or a dark, high gloss stain to give this often-casual wall-treatment a more serious tone.

 

Should you choose planks that appear to be well-worn with a rich patina? Or is your taste more suited toward a crisp, smooth finish? Taking your lifestyle and the rest of your design choices into consideration, what’s your perfect shiplap style?

 

 

Julia Marchand is a mom, blogger and avid DIYer who writes for The Home Depot. She loves to do projects that improve the aesthetic of her own and other people’s homes. Visit The Home Depot for all of your decor needs.

 

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