What the Consumer Needs to Understand

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Continuing further, consider these facts:

In the U.S., the impact of buildings on resources reveals the following statistics: 40% energy use, 72% electrical consumption, 13.6% potable water use and a 39% contribution to carbon dioxide emissions. Unabated, the quality of our indoor air can be up to 100 times more contaminated than the quality of the air outside – and Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. There are approximately 120 million homes in the U.S. and about 2 million new homes are constructed each year. The residential sector alone accounts for 22% of the total energy consumed in the U.S., 7% of the water usage while also contributing 21% of the carbon dioxide being emitted.

According to a recent survey, consumer motivation for a green lifestyle had revealed 21% were interested in protecting their children’s future, 19% were concerned about increasing energy prices, 16% concerned about our reliance on foreign oil, while 14% were in the Global Warming camp. Yet another survey of 38,000 consumers revealed an astonishing 76% were interested in saving costs while only 24% placed the environment as their prime reason for being motivated toward green living. There is no denying that cost is an issue, as well it should be. This is why it is important to understand that responsible sustainability need not break anyone’s bank. Every little bit is singularly important to the environment, somewhere.

Some consumers express disappointment with the performance of their green home. For those who have new homes that were or are being built to conform to some level of sustainability, they need to understand that only the vehicle is being provided to them. The owner of a new car must not only learn how to operate their new car, but also understand the importance of scheduled routine maintenance to the continued performance of their vehicle. As an example, take two families living next door to each other. One, the Jane family includes the mother, father and two teenage girls. Next door lives the John family with mother, father and two teenage boys. Each family buys an automobile. Identical automobiles – same make, model, power train and accessories. The Jane family drives responsibly, managing their daily trips and usage miles, obeying speed limits and having scheduled maintenance performed as recommended. On the other hand, there is John and his two teenage boys. Jumping in the car at every whim, total disregard for speed limits and changes the oil and spark plugs only when the car fails to start. Guess which family achieves the performance and reliability they expected when they purchased their brand new automobile? This same analogy applies to a sustainable building – that sustainable building is as well constructed and finely tuned as an automobile.

A sustainable home is greater than the sum of its pieces. While each of the individual pieces have meaning on their own, it’s when taken together – working in unison – where the meaning changes. High performance buildings depend on these pieces being coordinated as a whole. For example, your sustainable home may use energy conservation measures designed to meet a certain performance level to save energy based on agreed to material and color selections. Change the colors from light to dark and flooring from carpet to ceramic and you’ve changed the original parameters. And, occasionally, these seemingly innocent changes are made too late, as the equipment had been installed. Now the dark colors reflect less light and absorb more of the sun’s energy and the ceramic tile acts as a heat sink. More artificial lighting is required, possibly additional cooling needed and certainly more electricity. A sustainable design and construction team are aware of the design and parts that must be applied before they begin the project. However, given the fact that not only was the new home designed and built to specific parameters, the home will begin to degrade the day the keys are turned over. The homeowner needs to be aware of their responsibilities to ensure continued high performance. And this requires an education about their home and its design and construction parameters (e.g., energy and water conservation measures, indoor air quality equipment and operation). A green lifestyle may require a change in lifestyle. Learning the importance of how to use water and energy to maintaining the sustainable products and equipment are all fundamentally important.

For those who do not have a new green home, a multitude of free or low cost options are readily available for them to do their part in protecting the environment and at the same time save money in operational and maintenance expenses by living green lifestyles.

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