roof with solar panels

What Is A Green Home? A Beginner’s Guide

Carla Ayers3-Minute Read
UPDATED: July 10, 2023

Global climate change is a major environmental concern that has led many to opt for a more responsible, sustainable lifestyle. One impactful way homeowners can contribute is by creating greener homes to lower their environmental impact.

What exactly is a green home? In this article, we’ll highlight the key elements of green homes and outline what you should know before you buy a house, build a new one or remodel your home to meet the standards of a green home.

What Is A Green Home?

A green home is a type of eco-friendly housing specifically built or remodeled using sustainable building materials, focused on reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency. To meet the formal criteria, a green home must pass certain certifications, such as the LEED rating system, ENERGY STAR® guidelines or the National Green Building Standard, to name a few.

Informally, a green household is any household that works to minimize its carbon footprint, which can be achieved through conscientious resource and waste management in the home. There are a number of small ways homeowners can live more sustainably at home – including winter-proofing by weatherstripping and caulking.

Any style of house can be a green home – so a green home can look like your idea of a traditional home. But there is alternative housing that embraces sustainability, like tiny homes, shipping containers and more.

Get approved to buy a home.

Rocket Mortgage® helps you start house hunting sooner.

NMLS #3030

Rocket Mortgage Logo

What Are The Main Elements Of Green Building Construction?

So, what is green home design? Houses constructed or converted to be green that take steps to ensure energy efficiency, improve air quality and reduce water consumption.

While some of these steps require an upfront cost, they reduce long-term expenses and the home’s environmental impact. The key elements of green buildings include:

  • Energy-efficiency or renewable energy: Using nontraditional energy sources leads to less air pollution and reduces a home’s carbon footprint. In addition to relying on renewable sources of energy like solar, energy-saving homes also use added insulation and windows and doors specifically designed to keep a house comfortable at a lower cost.
  • Indoor air quality: Researchers are finding more links between indoor air quality and illness, so green homes focus on improving air quality. You can achieve better air quality by reducing or eliminating the use of fuel-burning combustion appliances, deteriorating asbestos-containing insulation, removing cabinets or furniture made of certain pressed wood products and more.
  • Water conservation: Many parts of the U.S. experience water shortages and droughts, so green homes do their part to reduce water usage when possible.
  • Environmentally friendly building materials: From utilizing sheep’s wool as insulation to making good use of reclaimed wood, green homes rely on sustainable building materials throughout construction.

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Green Home?

If you’re planning to build a new house, you may have the perfect opportunity to protect the environment by making it a green home, not a code-built traditional home.

The cost of building a green home varies significantly based on location and the homeowner’s specific desires. Green homes cost about 5% more to construct, on average, than code-built homes. The average green home build costs $274,000, excluding the cost of the property.

But keep in mind that this is a long-term investment. While you may save money over time, constructing a green home from scratch will likely cost more than a traditional home build because green builders use different guidelines, technologies and materials – swapping out environmentally harmful elements for environmentally friendly alternatives.

If you prefer to skip construction and upgrade your current home to go green, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Fannie Mae offer loans to pay for green home upgrades. Homeowners can also pay for green upgrade expenses with a cash-out refinance or a home equity loan.

How To Build A Green Home

If you’re building a green home from scratch, hire a construction company specializing in green home building. You can use the ENERGY STAR search tool to locate builders and developers who construct ENERGY STAR certified homes in your state. If you want the home to meet LEED certification, review the requirements and follow the steps listed on the U.S. Green Building Council website.

When buying a new build isn’t practical, you can apply several eco-friendly renovations to achieve a green home. You can remodel your home to become more sustainable by:

How To Be Greener At Home

True environmental consciousness goes beyond remodeling, building or buying a house – it’s also important to reduce waste and conserve the energy that powers the daily activities inside your home. Here are some strategies to be more green at home and live a greener lifestyle:

  • Composting
  • Growing food and herbs
  • Adapting to a minimalist lifestyle to help reduce manufacturing emissions and waste production
  • Making nontoxic cleaning products
  • Eliminating single-use plastic

The Bottom Line

Choosing to live sustainably can have a positive long-term impact on the environment – and your wallet. And embracing eco-friendly components and strategies can even increase the value of your home over time.

If you’re in the market to buy a green home, work with an agent to help you identify the elements of green home design and find a sustainable house that’s LEED or ENERGY STAR certified.

You know your dream home.

We’ll help you find it.

Carla Ayers

Carla is Section Editor for Rocket Homes and is a Realtor® with a background in commercial and residential property management, leasing and arts management. She has a Bachelors in Arts Marketing and Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications from Eastern Michigan University.