A Guide to a Greener Chicago
Everyone wants to do what they can for the environment. Green choices are often fiscally sound – they save you money by decreasing energy usage – and they let you do your part in preserving a healthy environment for future generations.
But there is a dazzling array of options available to consumers who want to do their part, and it can be difficult to tell which choices will have the biggest environmental impact. Many consumers struggle to figure out which options are best for themselves, their families, their communities, and the planet.
Building a Green Home
BrightLeaf believes a greener Chicago is possible through the construction of more sustainable homes. You spend two-thirds of your life at home and consume a lot of energy keeping it heated, cooled, and lit. To put a dent in that energy consumption is to do a lot of good. And BrightLeaf isn't alone in its conviction. Green homes are a rapidly growing section of the U.S. housing market; it's an $81 billion industry, and experts foresee steady growth. This is in large part because of skyrocketing energy bills – 64 percent of buyers want to save money on energy. While sustainable housing is often more expensive upfront, many people find it does save them money in the long run.
How It Works
Many homebuyers want to know what makes an ecologically sustainable home different from a conventional home. Builders like BrightLeaf pursue several methods for making ecologically sustainable homes, all of which result in a high-quality product that's every bit as sturdy and comfortable as a conventional home.
- Environmentally sustainable building materials and practices. A new home takes a lot of materials to build. Companies like BrightLeaf maximize the use of sustainable materials to decrease the impact on the environment. Reputable sustainable builders also work to minimize the amount of waste created during the construction process. For example, they usually focus on recycling as much material as possible.
- Improved insulation. Poor insulation means your home's climate-controlled air doesn't stay inside. You lose warm air in the summer and cool air in the winter, which drives your fuel usage – and your energy bills – up. Sustainable building practices concentrate on insulating a home through techniques like traditional insulation of walls and roofs, and more innovative techniques such as triple-pane windows and an insulated foundation. The end result is a home that's far more comfortable in every season.
- Alternative energy choices. A sustainable home will, ideally, rely on the traditional energy grid as little as possible. (Most energy in the United States is still derived from carbon-emitting fossil fuels.) Many sustainable homes generate power via solar panels or use whisper-quiet geothermal pumps for heating and cooling. In addition to letting you generate your own power, some of these technologies (like solar panels) allow you to create more power than you use.
- Other exciting options. All of the above come standard with most new eco-friendly homes, but some customers go the extra mile depending on their desires. If you're interested in water conservation (and your jurisdiction's OK with it), you might choose to install a greywater system in your home to reuse some of your water. Or, as the home building process moves on, you can make plans to replace your lawn with a garden that requires little watering and attracts native birds and bugs.