During my over forty year career in the construction and real estate development business I have witnessed a dramatic change in the standards and practices that guide how we do things. In no area have these changes been more profound than in green building and development.
In retrospect we used a lot of “green” techniques back in the day. For the most part we used those techniques because they made sense, not because they were green. There are a lot of other things we’ve all had to relearn here in Las Cruces, New Mexico and around the country when it comes to living green, building green, and green homes.
Here are six lessons I’ve learned when it comes to green living:
Today there are so many resources and tools to help us live a greener life. I’ve spent the last ten years studying the topic and feel I have only scratched the surface. One thing I have learned is that when your looking at new homes in New Mexico living green starts from the ground up.
Preserving natural landscape, for instance, protects the natural environment and saves resources. Natural landscape on new homes in New Mexico saves both upfront landscape cost and conserves water for the long term.
We now understand that there is a crypto biotic crust, a living organism, that covers the desert surface. This crust minimizes erosion, improves water absorption and retains natural plant seeds. Left undisturbed, the natural plant life and eco-balance will continue to be self-preserving. Once destroyed, it takes many years, if ever to be restored. This is where you see tumbleweeds and non-native plant life take root as well as dust blowing off disturbed surfaces.
Another simple strategy we’ve learned is to build retaining walls and yard walls around a new home before building construction begins. This allows for the delivery of rock, sand and concrete on the building pad area rather than destroying natural landscape around the perimeter of the pad.
Some things last as long a long time without having to be replaced often, or their maintenance has a very low impact on the environment. Materials like concrete, marble, tile, exterior stone facades, stainless steel sinks, etc. are things you only have to buy once and they can last as long as the home. That makes them great options for building green!
Once I began to understand the basics for building green, I learned that much of the process is common sense. It is common sense that more durable materials last longer and therefore don’t end up in a landfill. Durable products may not necessarily be “green” on their own, but can be a contributing factor to giving a home a green designation.
Materials are considered renewable if they are replenished at a rate that is equal to or faster than its consumption by humans. Since bamboo grows so quickly, anything made from it can be considered green.
Using energy sources like the sun and wind are considered green as there is no danger of exhausting their availability. The use of solar energy systems to power homes has become increasingly available and affordable, especially in Las Cruces, New Mexico where homeowners enjoy 350 days of sunshine each year.
Materials that have the ability to break down safely into raw materials and disappear into the environment are considered biodegradable. Many plastics and other petroleum based products never breakdown in landfills. Make sure to check labels!! Using biodegradable products in your new home whenever possible is a big step in building green.
Doing more with less definitely green. Conservation of our natural resources including water and energy is an integral part of building green. Use of efficient, reduced water use plumbing fixtures, reclaimed building materials, native landscape, gray water systems are ways to conserve our natural resources for future generations. Energy Star appliances and high efficiency heating and cooling systems also great products to conserve energy especially in new homes in New Mexico where it is so warm in the summer.
There are labeling programs, design guides, books, web sites, and endless opinions for going green, but there’s no universal law or definition of a “green” home. So where should you start? Education is the key to building green and becoming sustainable. I have learned many simple, practical ways to integrate green principles into my everyday living as well as my construction and development business.
The National Association of Home Builders has a great web site to begin or add to your “green” education. Build Green New Mexico, US Build Green Council, El Paso Electric Company, and countless other resources about green and sustainable living are available on the internet.
A green home incorporates smart design, technology, construction and maintenance elements to significantly lessen the negative impact of the home on the environment, improve the health of the people who live inside, and save the homeowner money.
Picacho Mountain is Southern New Mexico’s only Build Green New Mexico certified community, featuring the most innovated new homes New Mexico has to offer.