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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

How did it happen that it has been a couple of years since my last post?  When they say “time flies” it truly does.  Since I reference this blog during the classes I teach and invite people to look at it, I realized I have to keep posting!  And because the goal of the blog is to provide my readers with information and education here is the next installment on Embracing a “Green” lifestyle.  This one is on landscaping.

Landscapes offer many benefits to us, our property values, the environment, and wildlife.  Properties can look fantastic while also integrating conservation techniques into their landscaping.

Here are just a few reasons to create an environmentally friendly landscape:

  • Aesthetic benefits: enjoy lovely flowers, create outdoor rooms, add color, provide visual buffers, etc.
  • Erosion control: many plants have extensive root systems which hold soil in place, preventing rains from washing soil into our waterways.
  • Temperature modification: properly placed shade trees can cool your house in the summer, saving you money! A study shows that a single mature tree gets rid of as much heat on a home site as would require removal by two residential-size central air conditioners if the site were enclosed.  Trees keep surroundings cool and cooler surroundings reduce air conditioning requirements. Temperatures under vegetated areas on sunny summer days are about 10-14 degrees F cooler than those of exposed soil and hard surfaces.
  • Water conservation: shade provided by trees may greatly reduce watering needs in the shaded areas (water will evaporate from the soil more quickly when the ground is subjected to direct, intense heat from the sun).
  • Wind control: grouping trees and plants in windbreaks or clusters slows wind down, protecting your property.
  • Air pollution reduction: 150 square meters of plants provide enough oxygen for one person.  Plants also trap particulates from the air, so we don’t have to breathe them.
  • Reduces light pollution: from street lights, neighbors, glare, etc.  Trees and shrubs can also hide unattractive buildings.
  • Water pollution control: plants trap sediments and pollutants in water, hold shorelines in place, drink excess water, and allow water to percolate back to the aquifers.

Next, techniques for successfully achieving eco-friendly landscapes and applying landscaping to improving the energy efficiency of our homes.

 

  • Use trees and tall shrubs to shade east, west, northeast, and northwest sides of the house. In North and Central Florida, use full, tall-canopied deciduous trees on the south side.
  • Use foundation plantings to shade lower wall areas, to keep the ground next to the house cool and to block re-radiation from adjacent hot surfaces.
  • Use trees to shade the air conditioner.
  • Plant trees in clusters so that you can take better advantage of watering and growing conditions.
  • Select native plants that are correct for your area.  Native plants are going to be more adapted and tolerant to our soil and water conditions and can minimize the need for pest control, water and fertilizer, and maintenance.  Some examples in Florida:

Large Trees:

Medium and small trees:

Shrubs:

  • Replace grass with other types of ground cover.  Compared with grass, ground cover uses fewer pesticides and less water and is; therefore, more eco-friendly.  First think of leaving the natural vegetation on the land.  This saves you clearing expense, will require no maintenance (including no mowing), and can be a selling point to a client.

Ground cover:

  • Consider using mulches as ground cover; placing a layer of mulch directly around shrubs, trees and flower beds helps to conserve water.
  • Also consider planting a garden or using herbs such as mint or oregano as ground cover.

Watch your watering:

  • Water only when needed; when plants show signs of stress from lack of water.
  • Reduce watering during the rainy season and during the winter.
  • Water in early morning or early evening when temperatures and wind speeds are at their lowest.
  • Do not water between 10 am and 4 pm when losses from evaporation and wind can occur.
  • Allow sprinklers to run for the length of time to apply no more than ¾” of water to an area.
  • Always water deeply and thoroughly; it is better to give your lawn one good soaking each week than watering lightly each day.
  • Use automatic watering systems with rain sensors, which by Florida law are required on all automatic systems installed after 1991.
  • Use sprinklers with timers.

 

There – now start thinking about your landscaping and what you can do to make it more environmentally friendly and save you money!

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Just what is meant by the term “Eco-friendly” and “Sustainability”?  We’ve all heard of them and in fact, have probably all seen them or even used them at one time or another.  However, what do they really mean?  Keep reading to find out.

Eco-friendly:

The term “eco-friendly” literally means earth-friendly or not harmful to the environment. This term most commonly refers to products that contribute to green living or practices that help conserve resources like water and energy. Eco-friendly products also prevent contributions to air, water and land pollution.

Making a truly eco-friendly product keeps both environmental and human safety in mind. At a minimum, the product is non-toxic. Other eco-friendly attributes include the use of sustainably grown or raised ingredients, produced in ways that do not deplete the ecosystem. Organic ingredients or materials are grown without toxic pesticides or herbicides. Products with “made from recycled materials” contain glass, wood, metal or plastic reclaimed from waste products and made into something new. Biodegradable products break down through natural decomposition, which is less taxing on landfills and the ecosystem as a whole.

Sustainability:

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.

All definitions of sustainable development require that we see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time. world in hands

When you think of the world as a system over space, you grow to understand that air pollution from North America affects air quality in Asia, and that pesticides sprayed in Argentina could harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia.

And when you think of the world as a system over time, you start to realize that the decisions our grandparents made about how to farm the land continue to affect agricultural practice today; and the economic policies we endorse today will have an impact on urban poverty when our children are adults.

Kind of gives you goose bumps when you consider it doesn’t it?  And I hope it makes you more aware of how we hold the fate of the world in our hands.

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As people become more environmentally conscious, all kinds of buzz words,start being thrown around, words like “green”, “energy efficiency”; “ecofriendly”; and sustainability. But what do they really mean? In each of the next several blogs I will take the time to clarify these concepts for you. In this blog we will start with the most obvious – “GREEN“.

Generally, when people refer to a “green” home, they are referring to the practice of increasing the efficiency with which homes and the land around them use and harvest energy, water and materials. Such homes are typically built in a way that reduces the impact on human health and the environment, with those efforts undertaken through improved site selection, design, operation, maintenance, and construction.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, a green home is healthy, durable, efficient, and sustainable and has the least impact on the environment. Being green actually requires a whole-building approach to sustainability in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, has developed a green rating system to score buildings constructed using these five areas. LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in those five areas of sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. LEED points are awarded on a 100-point scale, and credits are weighted to reflect their potential environmental impacts. Additionally, 10 bonus credits are available, four of which address regionally specific environmental issues. A project must satisfy all prerequisites and earn a minimum number of points to be certified. In addition, there are four levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. LEED has rating systems for new construction; operation and maintenance of existing buildings; commercial interiors; core and shell; schools; retail; healthcare; homes; and neighborhood development. Points are broken down like this:

LEED Rating System
Total Possible Points** 110*

Sustainable Sites 21
Water Efficiency 11
Energy & Atmosphere 37
Material & Resources 14
Indoor Environmental Quality 17

* Out of a possible 100 points + 10 bonus points
** Bronze 40+ points, Silver 50+ points, Gold 60+ points, Platinum 80+ points

Innovation in Design 6
Regional Priority 4

Let’s take a minute and clarify what each of the key evaluation areas refers to:

a. Sustainable Sites: This category discourages development on previously undeveloped land; seeks to minimize a building’s impact on ecosystems and waterways; encourages regionally appropriate landscaping; rewards smart transportation choices, controls storm water runoff; and promotes reduction of erosion, light pollution, heat island effect and construction-related pollution.

b. Water Efficiency: The goal of this category is to encourage smarter use of water, inside and out. Water reduction can be achieved through more efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings inside and water-conscious landscaping outside.

c. Energy & Atmosphere: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use 39% of the energy and 74% of the electricity produced each year in the US. The Energy and Atmosphere category encourages a wide variety of energy-wise strategies including, but not limited to: energy use monitoring; efficient design and construction; efficient appliances, systems and lighting; the use of renewable and clean sources of energy, generated on-site or off-site.

d. Materials & Resources: During construction and operations phases, buildings generate a lot of waste and use large quantities of materials and resources. This category encourages the selection of sustainably grown, harvested, produced and transported products and materials. It promotes waste reduction as well as reuse and recycling, and it particularly rewards the reduction of waste at a product’s source.

e. Indoor Environmental Quality: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans spend about 90% of their day indoors, where air quality can be significantly worse than outside. The Indoor Environmental Quality category promotes strategies that improve indoor air as well as those that provide access to natural daylight and views and improve acoustics.

Besides these five keys areas, LEED also looks at Locations and Linkages, Awareness & Education, Innovation in Design, and Regional Priority.

a. Locations & Linkages: The LEED rating system recognizes that much of a building’s impact on the environment comes from where it is located and how it fits into its community. This evaluation encourages building on previously developed or infill sites and away from environmentally sensitive areas. Credits reward homes and other buildings that are built near already-existing infrastructure, community resources and transit – in locations that promote access to open space for walking, physical activity and time outdoors.

b. Awareness and Education: A building is considered to be truly green only if the people who live in it use its green features to maximum effect. Builders and real estate professionals are encouraged to provide homeowners, tenants and building managers with education and tools they need to understand what makes their home green and how to make the most of those features.

c. Innovation in Design: Here a building gets bonus points for projects that use innovative technologies to improve a building’s performance well beyond what is required by other LEED credits.

d. Regional Priority: USGBC’s regional councils, chapters and affiliates have identified the most important environmental concerns in their areas, and six LEED Credits addressing these local priorities have been selected for each region of the country.

The overall process of certification includes:

• Contacting a LEED certified Green Rater (a trained, independent, third party person trained to evaluate homes based on LEED requirements) for the type of construction you are doing. Green Raters verify that the building or community is designed and built to the rigorous requirements of LEED within its Rating System through on-site verification. Green Raters are involved with the project from the design phase and throughout the construction process.

• Confirm with your chosen Green Rater that your project is suitable for LEED within your category.

• Upon receiving approval from a Green Rater, register your project with USGBC on their website. Your registration is complete when USGBC receives payment of the registration fee.

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Well, it has been quite some time since I posted fresh information on this blog. The reason: I was busy writing a new course to teach to Realtors in Florida!
It’s title: Making Green by Selling “Green” and its subtitle is: Educating Your Customers to Embrace a Green Lifestyle. Long and tedious but it covers a lot of ground. Specifically, in this course the attendees learn to distinguish between topics associated with being more “Green” so they can teach their customers how they can live an “eco-conscious” lifestyle within any budget. I touch on some new construction components but concentrate predominantly on remodeling and improving existing homes. This course provides “green renovation options” such as xeriscaping, Energy Star appliances, and solar products. We will go over practical things anyone can do to make their homes more energy efficient and sustainable; things that are inexpensive to implement but could result in significant savings. This course will gives suggestions on how to market and sell “eco-friendly” homes successfully and effectively. In addition, by the end of the course attendees will be able to recognize many of these home improvements and use them as marketing tools for a Seller and as selling points for a Buyer.

However, you don’t have to be a realtor or live in Florida to gain valuable information from the content of the course. The course teaches everyone how to be more energy conscious and efficient, outlining practical things that anyone can do regardless of who you are and what you do. Over the next several blogs I will share some of this information. Below is a link to my website, which contains a short video summarizing the course and the other course that I teach. http://youtu.be/Ua-2Oyet-Pg

If you are a Realtor and would like me to teach this class at your board please contact your Education Director/Professional Development Committee and request that they consider offering this course.

Stay tuned for all of the helpful, practical new information on the way. And thank you for reading my blog!

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