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Flooring From Wine Barrels

I do a lot of reading about new green products for the home. The greenest thing (other than not replacing things) is usually something recycled.


I came across the Fontenay company this week. They recycle wine barrels for use in flooring. Give all the wineries in this area, that seems like a great fit for homes in Virginia's wine country.

They've also got some cool furniture made out of wine barrels.

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Styrofoam House

Date: Apr. 8, 2010
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Greensburg, Kansas was struck by an F5 tornado a few years back. They elected to reinvent themselves and rebuild as a green town.

This story of one family's new home is very interesting. Notice the wife's comment that this very energy efficient home was no more expensive than a "normal" home.

So...why isn't everyone doing this? And, what local towns need to reinvent themselves (without waiting for help from a tornado!)?

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Real Estate Investors Going Green?

Here's an interesting blog post suggesting that real estate investors should be embracing green as a way to improve their bottom line. And they should definitely be taking the free government money to do it!

Smart idea!

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New Green House Built in VA

We're seeing more and more green construction all the time in our area. Sometimes that's a remodeling job using sustainable materials. Sometimes, as in this house in Powhatan, it's a completely new home, built from scratch. This one is LEED certifed and looks like it's a beautiful home.

In case you're wondering about SIPs referred to in this article, they're Structural Insulated Panels. They provide about 40% more insulation than you get in a normal home.

This home was also written up in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

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I66 Producing Energy

Date: Jun. 18, 2009
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I found this tidbit today in EcoTech Daily:

Sainsbury’s Store is the first in Europe to use a green energy system where customers can create 30kWh an hour by driving over plates in the parking lot. The energy that gets made by the cars will be used to power their checkout stands. Anyone else think we should have these on every road in the world?

I immediately had a vision of all the cars on I66 every day and wondered how much power we could produce if these plates were part of the roadway. Cool!

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Energy Efficient and Affordable

Marketplace aired a segment this last week on a new energy-efficient home for $100,000 in Philadelphia.

I think this is an exciting development! Many of the super energy efficient homes we've seen to date have been at much higher price levels.

So, would you find a 1000 square foot, energy efficient (energy bills 50% below average for this size home) home in an urban setting attractive? Let's say the home is in DC instead of Philadelphia. Are you tempted? How about in Charlottesville?

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Virginia's First LEED Condos

More energy efficient housing options continue to pop up in Virginia.

Here's a blog post on Cromley Lofts in Alexandria.

They look beautiful. One of my criticisms of much of the energy efficient new construction I've seen is that it's all very modern in style. I don't dislike modern, but we need more variety if this is going to go mainstream. And, while ultra modern may be a hot sell in California, there's a lot less demand for that look in The Old Dominion.

I look forwad to checking these out in person soon!

Anyone want to go along?

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Earth Craft Homes

At Green Drinks Warrenton last night I had the opportunity to talk with Anthony Palladino from Golden Rule Builders about Earth Craft Homes.

I was aware of the Earth Craft Homes but hadn't realized that Golden Rule was a certified Earth Craft builder. It's great to have local builders who are excited about green building!

Earth Craft Homes are homes that are, by design, more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The standards and scoring system are different than the LEED standards. The Earth Craft designation comes in three levels, Earth Craft House, Earth Craft House Select and Earth Craft House Premium. You need a progressively higher number of points to achieve each certification. There's a worksheet on the Earth Craft web site that shows how points are accumulated.

Earth Craft homes can cost slightly more money up front. But weigh that against the energy cost savings you'll get every month for as long as you own that home.

I'm excited to see more and more activity around green building locally. And, if you haven't been to a Green Drinks meeting yet, you're missing out!

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Shifting from Carbon to Green

I was fortunate enough to hear Glenn Tecker give a speech about leadership last week. It was a terrific speech, but one piece in particular has stuck with me.

He talked about how we are moving from a Carbon Economy to a Green Economy. The path looks like this:

He views the end state here as about a decade away.

And, of course, I got to thinking about what this means for real estate.

First of all, if you're a buyer, you should be looking for energy efficient/green homes. That's not just for your own short term financial/health well being. It's because when you sell that home down the road it's likely to net you significantly more money.

What that rules out, of course, is a McMansion. I'm not saying no one will ever buy a McMansion again. I'm saying the market for those monstrosities is going to be so small, and the existing supply is so large, that you need to seriously consider the financial implications of such a purchase.

If you recently bought a home and are thinking about doing some upgrading/updating, every item you think about improving, add a green filter to that decision making. Ask yourself if what you're doing will make the house more appealing in that future green economy.

And, if you're contemplating selling any time soon, start thinking about what energy efficient qualities your home has already. Talk to your agent about how those can become part of the marketing plan. And, if you're doing any upgrades before selling, factor this into your plans.

One word of caution here. If you're selling in the short term, do NOT invest a lot of money in "green" or any other kind of upgrades. You will not get a good dollar return.

The pain in the diagram above will be unavoidable for the economy as a whole. But some smart planning may help you avoid it in terms of buying and selling real estate.

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Green Olympics?

While I think there's plenty of room to argue about how "green" these Olympics really are given the treatment of Beijing's recyclers there is some amazing architecture here.

If you're interested at all in green building you'll enjoy Jetson Green's look at the buildings China has created for the Olympics.

Hopefully in four years the world has changed so much the descriptor "green" has become meaningless because every building is built with those concepts as an integral part of the design!

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Green Drinks Warrenton

Earlier this week I attended the monthly meeting of Green Drinks Warrenton.

Green Drinks is an international organization designed to connect people involved in environmental causes. These monthly get togethers happen all over the world. And, now they're right here in Warrenton.

Deborah Williamson started the group after a friend from Maryland invited her to one there. She got excited about the concept and went online to find one nearer Warrenton. Unfortunately, the closest one she could find was in DC.

She attended a gathering there, but knew she didn't want to travel into DC all the time. So, she did the only sensible thing and decided to start one here.

The initial event took place in May and was very well attended. Warrenton's mayor, George Fitch, attended to tell us all about the plans for turning our trash into energy.

At this week's Green Drinks we had representatives from Brumfield Elementary School's PTO. They're working on an initiative to not only make Brumfield more green, but eventually, they hope, the entire school system. They're plans involve a lot of wonderful learning opportunities for the students. And, a splinter group from Green Drinks will be joining them to help.

Green Drinks is a great place to meet other like-minded people. It's a great place to kick around ideas. I throw out my wildest ideas for making Warrenton a greener place and find enthusiastic support for them! And, it's also a lot of fun!

As the group grows and matures I look for them to make a lot of very positive changes in our community.

If you'd like to come to the next meeting and check it out, you can contact Deborah directly to get on the mailing list. Her e-mail is gallentina@aol.com


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A New Kind of Affordable

There are interesting things happening all over the country with green/sustainable building. But here's one I especially like!

Why not marry sustainability and affordability? Here's an article on what one guy is doing.

I can't think of any reason something similar couldn't be done in Fauquier, Culpeper or Rappahannock counties!

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3rd Annual Alternative Energy Expo

There's lots to talk about today.

Saturday, in Warrenton, is the third annual Alternative Energy Expo. It runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Fauquier County Fairgrounds. Admission is $5. If you've been thinking about making your home and/or your life more "green" this is a great place to get ideas, talk to people who can help and get inspired! It's bigger and better than ever this year!

Most of you should have received in your mailboxes this week a circular called "Northern Piedmont - Buy Fresh - Buy Local". The Piedmont Environmental Council sent this to residents of Culpeper, Fauquier, Orange, Madison and Rappahannock counties. In it you'll find a guide to buying almost everything you eat locally from produce to meat, from farmers markets to CSAs to buying right on the farm. Great publication!

The WSJ has run a couple of very interesting real estate articles this week. First up was an article called "As Dues Dry Up, The Neighbors Pay" about how as no one is paying the HOA dues on vacant/foreclosed houses, other homeowners are having to swallow large increases in dues. It's another things buyers need to take a careful look at prior to buying.

The other article in WSJ was "Will Upgrading Your Home Help You Sell It?" and the results are clearly mixed. In a declining market I'd always argue that while you want your house to shine, you should never put in expensive upgrades. This article has some interesting details.

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Recycle Your House

More and more homeowners are electing to recycle as much of the material as possible when tearing down a house (deconstruction) or doing a major remodel. This Wall Street Journal article tells one homeowner's story.

In addition to helping save the planet, recycling what you can makes economic sense. Materials you can reuse in your new house can help reduce costs there. And, materials that are donated, say to a Habitat Restore, can provide a tax deduction.

There are a number of places locally to recycle these materials. Some operate for profit. Some, such as Habitat for Humanity's Restores are used to fund charitable organizations.

To find other businesses that help you recycle, check out this previous blog post.

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Green Building and Remodeling Chat

The Washington Post, in honor of Earth Day, is doing a series of online chats this week related to living "green".

Earlier this week they had a chat about green building and remodeling. It's worth taking a look at, especially if you're thinking about doing any remodeling or are looking for ways to save energy around the house.

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Green Matters

Date: Mar. 20, 2008
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With energy prices high and potentially going higher, many of us have already replaced all those standard light bulbs in our homes with CFLs. What now?

I've found a great web site that has a few ideas on that score!

Green Matters has easy, practical tips for things to do around your home to save energy. If you take a look at their Green Guide you'll get a wide range of ideas, with more to come. I'd be surprised if there's anyone who can't find one new idea on this web site.


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Date: Feb. 12, 2008
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I heard a story on NPR this morning about landlords in New England who, in the face of high heating costs this winter, have elected to just stop paying for oil for their tenants. It's a terrible situation. But it did make me think that this time of year, the cold weather is a good reminder about the importance of insulation in our homes.

If you haven't added or upgraded your insulation in a long time, it's a good time to think about it. It can be one of the smartest investments you make in a home.

Insulation's effectiveness is measured with an indicator called "R Value". The R value measures the insulation's ability to resist heat traveling through it. Insulation is most useful in helping keep hit in your home during the winter months, but can also help reduce air condition bills in the summer.

Energy Star has a nice table that tells what the R value recommendation is by state and by type of heating system. For Virginia, if you're using gas/oil or heat pump they recommend R38. If you're using electric resistance, they recommend R49.

Insulation can break down and lose its effectiveness over time. So it makes sense to have a professional take a look and let you know what you have and what condition it's in.

Attic/ceiling insulation is where you should start. It's the most cost effective. Walls can be more problematic and we'll talk in more detail about that in another post.

Stay warm!

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Counter Tops

Date: Jan. 23, 2008
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For those who are planning on some remodeling this year, there are more and more counter top alternatives that are easier on the environment. And, in many cases, they're also better for your health. It's funny how often those two things line up!

One of the new products I've been looking at is Icestone. The product is made of mixing cement with recycled glass. As you can imagine, it's very durable. It's also good for the environment as it's made up of 70-75% recycled materials. For those sensitive to VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and outgassing, there are none with this product. And, best of all, it's gorgeous! And, it's customizable so you can get just the right colors.

Another new product is Toscana Stone Designer Marble. This is made out of recycled marble chips. In addition to being gorgeous as a countertop it can be used as flooring or on walls, say, in the bathroom. And, again, there are lots of beautiful colors available.

If you're looking for a website to give you some other green countertop options check out http://www.greenable.net. It's a Philadelphia resource for green and sustainable products. Even if you don't choose to buy from them their web site is an excellent educational tool.

And, if you're looking for a more local source of information on green products and services, drop me an e-mail or give me a call. There's so much out there, even if you're not finding it in your local homebuilding store. I'm happy to help!

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Green Homes Go Mainstream

There are signs that we may be approaching a tipping point with energy efficient construction. The following article is from the Battle Creek Enquirer in Battle Creek, Michigan but much of the information is relevant here as well.



I blogged last month about the change in the Multiple Listing Service locally to give you the ability to search for homes with energy efficient features. And, there's more coming.

There's such a push in this direction that there's now worry about what's called "greenwashing". That's where you see overuse of the term "green" to describe products, homes, etc. that don't really fit anyone's definition of environmentally friendly or sustainable. So, as this green building movement gathers momentum it will take some diligence to make sure that you get definitions. If someone says a home is "green" or "energy efficient" or "environmentally friendly" make sure you ask for specifics.

But it's going to be a lot of fun to see this develop!

 Oil hit $100/barrel yesterday and while it may not stay at that level, it doesn't seem likely to get to anyplace where we'd be feeling that energy was cheap. The combination of the expense and the worldwide concerns about global warming are pushing this move towards greener homes.
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New MLS Changes for Energy Efficient Homes

I've been saying for awhile that, given the upward climb of energy prices, buyers are more and more interested in knowing about the energy efficiency (or lack thereof) of the homes they're thinking about buying.

New features in our local MLS system now make it easier for buyers to find the homes that have features that cater to that desire.

It is now possible to designate when a home has Energy Star Appliances, an Energy Star Heating System or an Energy Star Cooling System. And, that, in turn, means that buyers will be able to ultimately search on those features.

This is only the beginning of a revamping of the MLS system to help buyers more easily find "green" homes. While "green" is a fuzzy term without any real, solid definition, the changes being made will allow buyers to search for concrete items that make up their definition of green. The rest of these changes will be announced in the first quarter of 2008 and I'll tell you more about them then.

But meanwhile, if you're a seller, or if you're thinking about selling you should be figuring out how to make use of this information.

First of all, if your home is already listed, make sure your agent knows about any Energy Star systems in your home and that they update the MLS system to reflect that.

Secondly, if you're thinking about putting your home on the market in the next six months, think about what "green" qualities your home has now or what things you might want to invest in before you put your home on the market. If you were going to replace that old dishwasher any, make sure you get one that has the Energy Star certification.

This is just the start! I truly believe that investing in energy efficient features for your home will save you money later and will also enhance the marketability of your home when you sell.

If you've got questions on this or would like some guidance on what you can do in preparation for selling your home, I'm happy to help!

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