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Living in a Green Building 101
Finding and moving into a building that is certified "green" for its energy sustainability is just the first step. Living in that space requires a bit of knowledge on how the sustainable green systems impact your ingrained habits and everyday life. You can make changes even in your existing space if you know what is wise and cost-effective.
Excerpt: "Moving into a green home or adding features that make your existing space eco-friendlier shouldn't require too much of an adjustment, but it is important to know how to live with the fixtures and equipment you may be unfamiliar with.
'Owners, contractors and architects can all design and build the greenest home in the world,' green home consultant Jason LaFleur of Eco Achievers, says, 'but if the occupants of that space don't understand how to maintain and live in it there are some problems.' For example, not using the fan in a green ventilation system properly may result in pollutants and other contaminants being trapped in the house or apartment's stale air.
To curb these kinds of problems, most green home certification processes require an educational element of the renter or homeowner. LEED for Homes Illinois provides its prerequisite manual on its website, along with a host of other resources. Other sites, like lifestyle blog Green Living Bees offer maintenance tips (in this case a handy dandy list) as well. Locally, the Chicago Center for Green Technology, operated by the city's Department of Transportation, teaches seminars on topics like Low-Impact Living, as well as more technical greening subjects.
Going Even Greener
Renters or homeowners looking to up their property's environmental scorecard (studies have shown green-certified homes sell for more…green) are advised not to do anything drastic until they've had a professional take a look at places where they might benefit most from such upgrades.
'Don't shoot blindly and replace your windows because your home is drafty. Get an energy audit, much like you go to the doctor to get a health diagnosis, to find out exactly what the problems are and fix those,' LaFleur says. 'The windows themselves may be okay but the gaps around them can be sealed with a $4.00 tube of low-VOC caulk instead of replacing the window itself for $400.00.'
Weiss recommends finding such an auditor through the Building Performance Institute as they have the necessary background in building science and can point you in the direction of good contractors or builders who are experienced in similar fields.
Smaller scale projects like swapping traditional light bulbs with LEDs or replacing faucets or toilets with low-flow or dual-flow models shouldn't require the same level of scrutiny, but that doesn't mean they're not important. Every little bit helps."