During our lifetimes, many of us will build a home. When we do, we have the opportunity to create our living space while at the same time preserving the environment in which we build. With just a little effort, we can build around the natural features on our home site. We can start by protecting the native vegetation that inhabits our site.
Our native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are a critical part of the ecosystems of the Lowcountry. These plants take the sun's energy and produce food for themselves and all other organisms, taking up carbon dioxide and producing oxygen in the bargain. They provide food, shelter and homes for our native animal species, and filter our air, reduce glare, and reduce erosion and flooding. Plants also cool our homes by providing shade and humidity, and provide recreation and improve our psychological well-being.
A well-planted yard can also add up to 20% additional value to our homes. Saving the existing vertical layers of native vegetation during construction of your home can save you money on landscaping, irrigation and pesticides (natives are drought and pest tolerant), and give you the instant gratification of mature landscaping.
The process just described is part of something referred to as "green site design". Other natural features that can be designed around (and the benefits they provide) include:
For more information on green site design, visit www.sustainablesites.org; be sure to check out the "Benefits of Sustainable Sites" brochure. For more information on green infrastructure, visit www.epa.gov/green-infrastructuree.
In addition to preserving the natural environment on our building site, we can also be sustainable by designing our house to be energy and water efficient, as well as incorporating recycled or otherwise sustainable building materials into our home. In economic terms, this is often significantly more expensive than green site design, but the benefits to both the environment and dollar savings is long-term and significant.
And don’t forget that many contractors and waste hauler services now provide recycling or reuse opportunities for unused construction materials rather than sending them to the landfill!
For further information on sustainable homes, visit the following websites:
If you would like to certify your home as sustainable, visit the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) site at www.gbci.org.