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Eco-Friendly Houses Are Expensive, and 4 Other Green Home Myths You Should Stop Believing

July 30, 2020

green home myths

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Have you ever dreamed of buying a bit of land and building your very own green home on it? Maybe you’re already invested in a property, and are just looking for a way to make it a little more Earth-friendly.

Going green, and doing it well, might be a whole lot easier than you think—which is why we’re here to debunk the biggest, baddest myths about green homes. Here are the top five misconceptions about green homes that you should stop believing immediately.

1. Only new houses can be green

While you can go all out building the most eco-friendly Earthship your neighborhood has ever seen, you could also just make a few subtle changes to your existing property.

“Helping the environment doesn’t have to mean building an entirely new, expensive green home,” says Craig Ricks Jr., president of Acadian Windows and Siding.

“It’s possible to renovate an existing home to become greener, such as by altering the wiring and plumbing.”

You can also go green in your existing home by installing low-emissivity (“low E”) windows, reinsulating the house, or even just purchasing more energy-efficient appliances (like those made by Energy Star), Ricks says.

2. Green homes are too expensive

We’d bet our next stimulus check you’ve heard this one before.

“One of the biggest myths and misconceptions about green building and eco-friendly construction is that it’s too expensive to be truly scalable,” says RJ D’Angelo, owner of JWE Remodeling & Roofing. “This is untrue.”

In fact, if you want to save on your home energy costs, you can start right away, with small steps that reduce your carbon footprint, D’Angelo says, rather than building a brand-new home with the latest cutting-edge advancements in green building technology.

Among those incremental steps: Upgrade your roofing system to something with recycled metal that reflects the sun’s heat, D’Angelo suggests.

“This, coupled with a properly insulated attic and thoroughly ventilated roof structure, can reduce a home’s heating and cooling expenditure by as much as 34%,” he says.

3. Sustainable homes are ugly

There’s no rule that says sustainable homes have to look a certain way—and they definitely don’t have to be ugly.

“There are so many delightful, well-planned, and well-considered sustainable homes—from adorable and modern tiny houses to net-zero luxury homes,” says Matt Daigle, CEO and founder of Rise, a leading online authority in sustainable home improvement.

4. Going green means going off the grid

When people think about going green, they have a tendency to imagine the extremes—as in, wearing handmade clothing and living in a recycled shack with a bunch of goats. In reality? It’s a lot less intense than that.

“A sustainable home can be accomplished without going off grid,” explains Daigle.

He cites solar panels and recycled-water systems as two ways that modern homeowners can get in on the sustainable-living lifestyle—minus the farm animals.

“Sustainable homes aren’t off-grid houses that rely solely on their own power and resources,” he says. “These homeowners just enjoy lower energy and water bills as a result of their sustainable practices.”

5. It’s hard to make your home eco-friendly

As you’re probably starting to realize, going green doesn’t have to be complicated. And while more and more companies are coming out with sustainable building products and designs, there’s an even easier way to make your place green—and it starts in the garden.

“There are so many simple actions any homeowner can take to make their home more environmentally friendly,” says Cassy Aoyagi, board member of the leading L.A. chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Try replacing annual foliage with native perennials, watering less, eliminating pesticides and fertilizers, or even just reducing the size of your lawn, which tends to require extra chemicals and water consumption.

Looking for more tips on going green? We’ve got the ultimate guide to owning a more eco-friendly home.

The post Eco-Friendly Houses Are Expensive, and 4 Other Green Home Myths You Should Stop Believing appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

What Is a Hempcrete House—and Will It Get You High?

April 20, 2019

Hempcrete and Wood

iStock/Rick_Thompson

As more states legalize marijuana, cannabis has been growing in popularity in increasingly surprising ways. Want proof? Say hello to the hempcrete house.

In case you’re wondering, these buildings won’t get you stoned. But they could become the next big thing in real estate for a whole bunch of reasons. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about hempcrete homes.

What is hempcrete?

While hemp and marijuana are both varieties of cannabis plants, their similarities pretty much end there.

“Hemp and marijuana are related but are distinctively different,” says hempcrete expert Chad Knutsen of Smart Dimensions, Joint Venture.

For one, a hemp plant is huge, and can grow over 12 feet tall. It also contains very little THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes you high.

“They are typically made up of less than 0.3% THC,” Knutsen explains. Marijuana plants have THC levels ranging from 5% to 35%.

Nonetheless, hemp has many real-world uses. The fibers from a hemp plant stalk are extremely strong, and have been used for centuries to make an assortment of items, including rope, cloth, and a mudlike building material that dries and hardens into bricks. The modern-day version of this is hempcrete.

In fact, structures made from early versions of hempcrete have been built as far back as the sixth century, Knutsen says. We know this because some of those structures have been found intact after hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of years.

Production of new houses using the material, on the other hand, is still limited. There are just a handful of hempcrete homes in the United States—mostly in Southern states such as North Carolina and Florida—as the trend is just getting off the ground.

Benefits of hempcrete as a building material

Clearly, hempcrete is a material built to last, but it comes with many other benefits compared with the similarly named concrete.

Concrete is made of coarse gravel or crushed rocks that must be mined, and is in increasingly short supply. Hemp, on the other hand, grows quickly—far faster than timber, in fact—and can be harvested and used as a sustainable building material without damaging the environment.

Even better? Hemp actually cleans the air.

“Studies have reported that hemp as a crop can clean an average of 10 tons of carbon dioxide per acre during its life cycle,” notes Colleen Keahey Lanier, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association. “Compared to other crops, this figure is astoundingly positive.”

Reasons to build a hempcrete house

The benefits of hempcrete also extend to the house itself. Typically used in place of standard drywall, hempcrete creates what Keahey Lanier calls a “breathable wall system.”

“This is important because it helps support proper humidity internal to the home while also maintaining a mold-resistant quality,” she notes.

Hempcrete homes are also pest-resistant and fire-resistant—a huge benefit in drought- or termite-stricken areas.

“Even a blowtorch, shooting flame directly onto a hempcrete wall from a few inches away, will merely char the surface, not actually allowing for combustion like wood,” Knutsen says. “Also, the natural enhanced flexibility of hempcrete resists cracking and crumbling from temperature changes and even earthquakes.”

Cons of using hempcrete

The largest drawback to using hempcrete to build a house is that it’s still relatively rare and costly to procure, which can increase the building price substantially.

“It could increase the cost by up to $100,000 overall, depending on home size,” Keahey Lanier notes. “Generally, whatever the standard price is for build per square foot, add a minimum of $60 to that. So where it may cost an average of $120 per square foot on a traditional build, a hempcrete structure may cost $180 per square foot or more.”

That said, heating and cooling costs may well be lowered thanks to the thermal insulation properties of hempcrete, Knutsen notes.

“So the upfront costs can be a little higher, or the same, but over time you’ll be saving money every time the heater or AC turns on,” he says.

And the more hempcrete houses that are built, the larger the demand to create more hempcrete, which the experts say should help reduce both the issues with availability and cost down the line.

One final drawback is plain old public perception.

“Some jurisdictions may make permitting a challenge due to the politically fabricated stigmas surrounding the word ‘hemp,’” Knutsen says.

The good news? “The laws are changing for the better, and quickly,” according to Knutsen. 

In fact, the farm bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in late December specifically removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and out of the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to Keahey Lanier, this bill clearly makes hemp a legal agricultural commodity in the U.S.—which could pave the way to hemp being used in all sorts of products, including more houses.

The post What Is a Hempcrete House—and Will It Get You High? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.