Green Home Energy Ottawa

Are 'green' homes what we really want?

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At a time when going green would seem to be an easy sell, there still aren't a lot of clients who waltz into a real­estate office or new home sales centre announcing that they're looking for an environmentally friendly home. In my experience, if the subject comes up, home buyers generally express positive attitudes toward the idea. It just doesn't come up all that often.

Some of this apparent lack of interest can be chalked up to marketing fatigue. These days, with so many builders touting themselves as green, they can begin to blur together in the eyes of buyers. When a builder markets his homes as environmentally friendly because they feature water-saving toilets and high-efficiency gas furnaces, that's a problem: You'd be hard-pressed to find a new home without these features.

Christopher Straka of Vert DesignSome genuinely green homes bear a label such as Energy Star, LEED or R-2000. These are meaningful designations, but you'd have to wade through a lot of technical lingo in order to understand what they actually signify. It takes time and dedication to understand how truly environmentally conscious a builder may, or may not, be. And this leads to the question: How much do we really care? Not to suggest that we're environmentally unfriendly, but where does going green actually sit on our list of priorities?

There are certainly Canadians for whom green trumps all. However, those who are wholly devoted to the cause are likely to go all the way, building a straw-bale home or retrofitting an older home with solar panels and composting toilets. The majority of us want an easier way to make a difference.

Given the choice of a home that meets minimum governmental requirements for environmental considerations and another that exceeds them, all other things being equal, most of us will choose the green home and feel good about it.

But the reality is that all other things aren't equal. If the greener home means more money at the outset, which it sometimes does, it might mean sacrificing square footage or high-end finishes. As good as our intentions are, it's a trade many of us are reluctant to make. Availability can be another obstacle. We may have heard about a wonderful green builder, but if they don't have a development in our preferred location, chances are we'll move along to someone who does.

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