Gardeners around the world are embracing the “green house” movement as an economic solution to the ever-increasing number of homes that need to be retrofitted to meet climate change regulations.
The concept is a green way to make homes more eco-friendly by removing the use of fossil fuels and increasing energy efficiency.
However, this green approach doesn’t work if you don’t have enough space.
In fact, the more homes are retrofitted, the less green they become.
According to the United Nations, one in four homes worldwide is retrofitted with a single or double-use item, like a fridge, which can emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that causes global warming.
In the United States, about 4.6 million homes have two or more items that emit carbon.
“Green homes are a big thing, but you can’t just retrofit homes to look like the green house you want to build,” says Jennifer Phelan, director of the Urban Green Homes program at the Center for Urban Research at the University of Minnesota.
“You have to design them to be green.”
Phelen and her colleagues looked at a number of options to build green homes and determined that only two options worked: retrofitting with a new roof and insulation.
“When you’re looking at the whole house, you’re not looking at a single unit,” Phelans says.
“So, retrofitting a single house is not a viable option.”
The best way to retrofit a single home to meet environmental requirements is to get a team together to develop a project plan.
“There’s no such thing as an ‘end of the road’ project,” Phamill says.
Retrofitting a home to fit the criteria of a green house would be like retrofitting the roof of a luxury apartment building with a solar panel to meet the energy needs of a building with fewer than 50 units.
“I think that’s a mistake because it makes you forget what you’ve built,” Pherill says, “because if you retrofit it with a bunch of windows and a lot of solar panels, then the roof’s going to be gone in a year.”
To find a home that meets the criteria for a green home, Phels says, you need to take a deep dive into the design, size, and functionality of the home.
You can do this by comparing the home’s environmental profile with a standard home and the average cost of retrofitting, such as $15,000 to $40,000.
You could also look at the homes you’ve retrofitted and compare them to other homes in the same area.
Phelins recommends that people retrofit their homes to the minimum requirement of carbon-free materials, like recycled wood or plastic.
“It’s not just about the price, it’s about the quality of the wood, the quality, and the design,” Phellan says.
Phernans also recommends finding a home where the owners have been involved in the building process, such a as contractors or home builders.
“This is not just an aesthetic thing, it could also be about making sure the home is environmentally friendly,” Phegan says.
If a homeowner does not have any previous experience with building homes, Phellans says, she would start by asking the homeowners if they have ever built a home in their lifetime.
If the homeowners are not able to answer, then you should consult with a professional.
“If you’re going to do it yourself, you have to be able to design it,” Phesnan says.
The goal is to build a home for the people that will live there, Phensan says, and you can make that happen with a little bit of hard work and an eye toward environmental sustainability.
“The biggest thing is getting the right people in the room,” Phersnan says, adding that this could mean that the homeowners need to know what they are doing, and how they can improve their home.
“Once you do that, the homeowners will be in the habit of doing it.”
To learn more about how to retrofill a home, check out our guide on how to get your home retrofitted.
Photo credit: flickr user jen_jennie