Navigating a green or sustainable home can be difficult. Here are some terms to help you through the process.
If you have been going through the process of buying a home and you are now wanting to look at homes that are more energy efficient or sustainable, there are some things that you may or may not know what they mean when the builder, architect or Realtor are talking to you. Construction science terms can be Greek to some people… When you are thinking about buying a home that is more energy efficient, here are some quick terms to know when you are walking through the house to get you in the know:
- Site Orientation- location in which the home has been situated on the lot itself to utilize light and shade to the optimum potential. South facing homes achieve the most light and warmth in the winter months, when you will want lower heating bills! Site orientation is important for understanding where you might be able to place a passive solar system on the home, or where you will want to plant your trees for shading in the summer.
- Building Envelope- The break between the interior and the exterior of the home that serves as the shell of the building to maintain the indoor environment. You want as few leaks in your building envelope as possible to maintain a tight building so that you are not conditioning air for the “outside!” However if a home is too “tight” you may have to introduce mechanical ventilation. You will hear an energy auditor say something like “this is a very leaky building envelope; or this is a very tight building envelope.” Depending on the situation, you will want to know what type of ventilation system is in place, if any and discuss what options you have.
- Low-e- Low emitting coating, generally referring to coatings on windows. It is a thin metallic coating that prevents harmful UV rays from penetrating your glazing. People will say, “these are low-e windows.”
- VOC- Volatile Organic Compound or a Carbon-based chemical that is released from a material, adhesive or paints at room temperature. These are compounds that are incorporated in all sorts of products from home paints, stains, adhesives and more that can be toxic to indoor air quality. You will usually hear “this is a low or no-VOC paint” or whatever product they are speaking of.
- Retro-fit- replace or upgrade the existing home’s fixtures and systems to meet the specific standard that you wish to achieve in energy efficiency. A builder or architect will tell you that a home can easily be “retrofitted by doing xy and z” to make the home more energy efficient for your needs.
I hope this gets you started… there is so much more to know and I’d love to help educate you throughout your home buying experience!