Over the years of touring homes new and old, my focus has evolved from noticing the cosmetic appeal, a functional layout or dazzling finishes to now also paying attention to building practices, efficiency in design or working systems and environmentally responsible products. With my extensive background in construction, I'm well versed in the standard building practices and codes. These traditional methods haven't changed very much in decades and they all add up to a lot of waste, unhealthy materials and extremely inefficient homes.
In the Pacific Northwest, residential homes—single and multi-family—use about 20 percent of all energy consumed. Simply reducing energy consumption is one of the easiest ways to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. By using current technology and adopting new practices, we could reduce home energy usage by 65 percent by the year 2030. It is due time to make the shift toward implementing a higher standard of practice into new homebuilding, and there are organizations out there making this easier to achieve and more understandable for builders and homeowners.
Earth Advantage is a Portland-based nonprofit organization that supports and educates homeowners, architects and contractors during the building and certification process. They provide guidance, documentation, verification and communication with the United States Green Building Council, also referred to as USGBC, in order to ensure a project completes certification. Levels of certification vary from simply Earth Advantage, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and the ultimate goal: Net Zero. Since its start in 2005, Earth Advantage has certified over 17,000 single family homes and 19,000 multi-family units. Its goal is to get every builder in the Northwest building to zero energy-ready standards by 2030.
In our local communities we are commonly seeing more Earth Advantage-Certified homes with a few builders who have embraced this higher standard of home production. Besides lessening our carbon footprint and reducing emissions, these green building methods have numerous benefits.
These homes require less energy to operate by using highly efficient equipment and increased insulation. They're healthy to live in and contain fewer products that off-gas harmful chemicals and also incorporate a ventilation and filtration system to reduce airborne contaminants, which means a decline in allergies, asthma attacks and other more serious health issues. Development guidelines protect the trees and land as well as curb the negative impact on and around the building site. Homes sites are centrally and conveniently located to reduce the need for undue transportation.
The materials used are manufactured locally, environmentally responsible and durable. With water shortages a major concern in the 21st century, these homes use water-wise technologies to address water conservation needs. Overall, these homes offer a lower cost of ownership from the day you move in, saving people money on everything from monthly utility bills to long-term maintenance costs. An Earth Advantage-certified home is simply more comfortable and healthy for you, substantially better for the all-around environment and an affordable and financially wise investment.