Green Options for Homebuyers

It’s exciting to see the transformation taking place in the home building market. Perhaps the best example is the new Villa Trieste development by Pulte Homes. Located in Summerlin, this community of 185 homes is leading the way when it comes to responsible building in Southern Nevada.

The community has gotten some good coverage recently but I noticed the focus is mostly on energy savings and the electrical solar panels that come with each home. As someone who lives in a net-zero energy home (also built by Pulte by the way), I can attest to the significance of low energy bills. The homes in Villa Trieste will use approximately 65% less energy than average, a wonderful accomplishment that also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

But there is more to the story than energy efficiency and solar power. This is the first development in our community to be certified under the stringent LEED for Homes green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. And while energy use is a very important part of LEED for Homes, it is by no means the only one. Green buildings have lots of other benefits.

First, it’s important to know that there are four levels that can be achieved in LEED. First is the basic certification. Beyond that, a builder may choose to go “greener” to obtain the progressively higher ratings of Silver, Gold or Platinum certification. Each home in Villa Trieste is designed to achieve the coveted Platinum rating.

Besides lower energy bills, what does this mean to a family who chooses to live in such a home?

Many community resources are within a half mile of the development, reducing the need to hop in the car for every little thing. Water use is reduced with efficient irrigation systems, drought tolerant plants, the use of low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets.

Surface water is managed with vegetative landscapes and permeable paving that allows rain water to percolate directly into the ground rather than run off too quickly. Though infrequent, our desert storms can be severe. These strategies minimize storm water run off, protecting other property in the neighborhood and helping to recharge the aquifer.

Summer heat is more intense in an urban environment, thus trees are strategically planted to provide shading to reduce the urban heat-island effect. Non-toxic pest control techniques are employed to reduce the need for chemicals.

Indoor air quality is an important part of green building. Construction dust can be a problem in new homes, making its way into the duct work of the heating and cooling systems. As the homes in Villa Trieste are built, the ducts are sealed during construction, keeping them clean until they are ready to use. Mechanical systems include active ventilation systems that provide appropriate amounts of fresh air. The systems also incorporate very high quality air filters.

Low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint is utilized and all carpeting carries the Green Label Plus rating. This translates into better air quality for occupants. In addition, a pre-occupancy air flush is conducted for 48 hours to clear the air after construction is complete.

Most of us have seen the large dumpsters that are typically found on construction sites. The average home generates thousands of pounds of construction “waste” that ends up in our landfill. At Villa Trieste, at least 75% of the waste is diverted and recycled. This saves resources and reduces pollution.

There are many details that go into the creation of a high quality, LEED Platinum-rated green home. I’ve outlined a few of the non-energy related items since they are often overlooked.

Most of these features seem like plain common sense, but it’s amazing how many are never implemented in typical new home construction. Some day, all homes will be built to these and better standards. For now, we can thank builders like Pulte Homes for taking the lead and pushing the envelope by offering healthy, efficient homes with lower operating costs and reduced environmental footprints. It is what green living is all about.

Green Living column for Thursday, February 12, 2009, published in the Las Vegas Review Journal: “Going green earns homes platinum rating”

Additional Resources:

LEED for Homes Certification


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