Green Industry Articles

Green Renovations: Making the Right Decision

Which home renovation project would be best? What elements are worth preserving? What are the costs and benefits of a given project?

Such are the questions homeowners, real estate practitioners, and design professionals face when deciding on green renovations or additions to existing homes.

REGREEN, a program created through a partnership between the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), aims to address such challenges.

The program, launched in 2008, was the focus of February's Webinar, which was conducted by Jennifer Owens, LEED® AP and USGBC's manager of residential education programs. The REGREEN Residential Remodeling Guidelines address the major elements of any green renovation project, including the site of the home, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere,
material and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

Owens pointed out that existing homes present a huge opportunity for green upgrades, especially since residential units in the United States consumer 22 percent of the nation's energy.

Owens walked the audience through the various sections of REGREEN, outlined ways that REALTORS® and homeowners could benefit from the program, and provided a case study illustrating how REGREEN was used to assess and develop a renovation strategy for a 1930s house.

The guidelines can be used for a range of remodeling projects as small as renovating a powder room to a full gut rehab. And REGREEN was developed so it can serve as a DIY tool for individual homeowners or as guidelines for professionals, such as contractors or designers.

REGREEN also addresses an array of basics, including performing building assessments, determining the scope of a project, creating a space plan, and figuring out how existing components of a house can be preserved and reused in a project.

Among the tools available at REGREEN's site are:

• REGREEN Strategy Generator--Enter the type, scope and goal of a retrofit project, and the strategy generator identifies appropriate green upgrades.

• REGREEN Residential Remodeling Guidelines--The PDF offers a view of 10 different types of residential retrofit projects and information on each.

• Green Product Checklist--The guide helps make choosing healthy, environmentally responsible materials and products more easy.

• Case studies--The section addresses a host of design solution, such as an office, a Tudor home, a sunroom addition, energy upgrades, and green landscaping.

"REGREEN is not a rating system," Owens pointed out. "It's a flexible resource for homeowners and designers, but no certification is attached to it."

However, Owens did recommend that homeowners create a portfolio about their renovation projects. Key components would include receipts, stickers from energy efficient windows, the specs from materials packaging, and utility bills. It's a way for homeowners to document changes and prove their effectiveness if property owners decide to sell their home.

She also pointed out that green renovations contribute to the marketability of properties and that REALTORS® play a key role in educating clients about green strategies and encouraging sustainability and green renovations.

In addition, Owens addressed the transformative role a green MLS could have in helping clients buy and sell green homes. USGBC, along with several other green industry groups, is working with the GRC to develop a Tool Kit to help MLSs across the country in greening their systems.

The greening of the MLS will be addressed during the March Webinar. The full REGREEN Webinar is available to GRC members.

Source: Green REsource Council, February 2010