Four eco-wise examples prove that you can’t tell by looking anymore: Green houses come in all shapes and sizes.
Green building has progressed to the point where looks can be deceiving: An energy-wise home can be traditional, cutting-edge, or in between. Thanks to certification programs such as Energy Star , NAHBGreen , Passive House , and LEED for Homes entering the mainstream, eco-smarts are becoming a simple fact of building, more common-sense pragmatism than tree-hugging dogmatism. One of the reasons is that green is starting to be less of an absolute and more of a spectrum, says Peter Yost, residential program manager at BuildingGreen, who doesn’t much like the term green. “Any home, existing or new, can be made more resource-efficient—it’s relative, not absolute.”
That eco-sense-as-common-sense is easing its way into common practice is good news: It trickles down to more accessible and easier methods, lower costs, and more experienced subs. It means that a house no longer has to wear its greenness like a badge of self-righteousness or defensiveness. “We’re always thrilled to be able to meet certification standards, but our practice has become much less about point-mongering and much more about assessing how the house performs,” says architect Daniel Gehman of Harley Ellis Devereaux in Los Angeles.
Progress like this also means that an energy-smart house can be whatever you want it to be, even in parts of the country where climate presents challenges. On the pages that follow, you’ll see an ultra-modern home in the Utah desert (LEED Silver), a contemporary cottage in Maine (certified Passive), a gambrel-roofed home in the Carolinas that looks 100 years old but was built last year (NAHBGreen Bronze), and a Prairie-style rambler in Minnesota that the builder didn’t bother to certify because he knew it was an energy miser. All four homes are handsome proof that green comes in all shapes and sizes.