What is Green Building? A Simple Guide to the Basics

The term “green” gets thrown around a lot these days. You see something labeled “green” and your mind jumps to “responsible” “clean” “eco-friendly.” Those are all good intentions, but what does green mean when it comes to home building?

Home building isn’t something you can stick a label to and call it green. “Green building” is a combination of thoughtful building practices, proper engineering for efficient energy input and output, and use of sustainable materials. It is a responsible style of construction that takes into account the environment, the homeowner, and the home’s surroundings.

Sustainable Building Practices

Green Building

Colorado Green Custom Home, Architect: HMH Architects + Interiors

Green building focuses as much on the process of building as it does the materials and systems.  

This kind of work means taking into account the home’s surroundings. For example, is the house in a sunny location? Is it in a dry or humid climate? Green builders like Cottonwood work with the natural surroundings to create homes that use less energy and have a smaller impact on the environment.

Materials and Systems

Green Building

Haystack Mountain Recreation Building, Architect: Barrett Studio Architect

Using non-toxic, natural, locally made sources and materials, building proper ventilation systems, and constructing a tight building envelope are some of the methods for building a healthier, more sustainable home. All of these practices help save on energy costs and create a healthier non-toxic environment for the homeowners. Proper insulation, installing energy efficient equipment, and even using recycled materials also contribute to a sustainable home.

Home Energy Use

Green Building

Nederland Green Home Remodel, Architect: Mark Gerwing

Think of your home as a living, functioning “thing.” It both consumes and creates energy, which means you can use the energy “gain” to your benefit. For example, a southern facing house uses the sun’s light as a heat source. This is called “passive solar,” and can help cut heating costs and reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Some Terms To Know

You may hear different terms thrown around when it comes to green building—HERS ratings, Net Zero, LEED certified. All are important factors when considering a home’s energy efficiency, but what do they mean? Here’s a quick rundown:

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED

Green Building

LEED Certification

Developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification was designed to promote design and construction practices that increase profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts of buildings and improving occupant health and well-being. At Cottonwood Custom Builders, we are trained in LEED building practices and use sustainable building techniques on each of our projects.

Home Energy Rating System or HERS

An industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. A home with a HERS Index Score of 70 is 30% more energy efficient than the International Energy Efficiency Code. A home with a HERS Index Score of 30 is 30% less energy efficient than the International Energy Efficiency Code. 

Cottonwood Custom Builders has constructed many homes with a zero HERS rating, meaning the home is 100% more energy efficient than the reference home and produces more energy than it uses.

Net Zero

Green Building

Net Zero Custom Home, Architect: HMH Architecture + Interiors

Zero net energy consumption—meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis—is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. This means the home produces as much energy as it consumes leaving a zero balance in energy consumption and production. It is highly efficient and truly saves in both energy and amount of money spent on running the home. We have completed several Net Zero homes, and it is our goal on each project to build a home that is highly energy efficient.

If you’re looking to build an energy efficient home or want to make your home a little greener, give us a call at 303-449-3076. We have decades of experience and 


2017-05-13T16:48:27+00:00 February 25th, 2016|Green Building|Comments Off on What is Green Building? A Simple Guide to the Basics