<Buy and Sell Southern California Properties Courtesy of Jodi Summers and Sotheby's International Realty
Living La Vida Local
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California is catching on with the concept of "cool" roofing products. As of October, Low-slope roof system installations on new and most re-roofing projects will have to meet the Cool Roof Rating Council's (CRRC) energy ratings. (See http://www.energy.ca.gov/title24/2008standards/documents/index.html#032806 for more details.

The change is required by updates to Title 24, California’s building energy code, which will place a new emphasis on “cool” roofing for low-slope roofing installations on new commercial buildings, as well as most major commercial re-roofing projects. In order to meet the definition of "cool" under the new Title 24 requirements, low-slope commercial roofs must have an initial reflectance of 0.70 and an emittance of at least 0.75, as rated by the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC).”

“Cool roofs are typically expected to reduce utility bills by 3 - 10 percent, through lower cooling loads,” the CRRC website goes on to note. “In order to receive full compliance credit under the new code, the developer or owner will be required to provide reflectance and emittance data as rated by the CRRC.”

If corporate America can motivate the bureaucracy enough to make that change, green home improvements should be relatively easy.
 
A 2003 study defines "green" or "sustainable" buildings as those which use energy, water, materials and land more efficiently than traditional facilities constructed to meet existing building codes. To elaborate, it has come to mean building for energy efficiency, water conservation, and healthier indoor air quality; using products and materials that are sustainable; and reusing or recycling materials rather than dumping more waste into a landfill.
One of the basic principles of green building is to tailor strategy by region. Locally, reusing and recycling is key, since there's no more room in landfills. In New Mexico, water conservation is a critical focus. And the farther north you go, the more insulation factors in.
 
The report said "green" buildings offer healthier work, learning or living environments by providing occupants with more natural light or cleaner interior air, to enhance comfort and productivity.
 
But, Home improvements don’t have to be epic to relieve utility costs. Here are ideas from the department of energy to start you thinking green:
 
  • Turn up the air conditioner thermostat.

  • Change air filters often.

  • Plant trees on the south and west sides of the home to provide shade and reduce interior temperatures.
     
  • Landscape with drought-resistant orindigenous plants, which retain more water.
     
  • Add motion sensor lights, to save electricity.
     
  • Install a gas fireplace in an addition, such as a den or sunroom, which will extend heat to that room.
     
  • Replace appliances with Energy Star or other government approved versions. Energy Star appliances exceed government energy-efficiency standards by 10 percent to 25 percent, and you get a tax break for installing them.

  • Invest in new, more efficient heating and cooling systems.

  • Paint your home’s exterior a light color. Darker colors retain more heat.

  • Plug up air leaks, which are the equivalent of leaving a window open all year. Sealing leaks can save more than 10 percent on energy bills.

  • Install double-glazed windows with low-emission glass, which allow maximum light while keeping out heat and cold.

  • When replacing roofing, install light-colored shingles made of metal or tile to reflect heat.

  • Add insulation in walls.

  • If new-home buyers like a lot that faces the afternoon sun, encourage them to design the house with a shading porch and windows that are higher up on the wall than normal—near the overhangs—to minimize the sun’s heat. The windows will be shaded by the overhang and will allow more desirable reflected, rather than direct, light to penetrate.

For those looking to do more, Currently, three sets of national residential guidelines exist, two of which debuted this year: the National Association of Home Builders’ Model Green Home Building Guidelines and the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes initiative. The national programs are intended to encourage the mainstream homebuilding industry to adopt sustainable practices. The third national program is Energy Star, whose guidelines are set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. A green-building manual, Green Building Guidelines, is available through SBIC.
 
According to says Helen English, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Sustainable Buildings Industry Council, there more than 30 green homebuilding programs are in place around the country, operated by local nonprofits, utilities, and homebuilding associations.
 
Visit the Department of Energy’s Energy-saving Tips for Homes Web page for more information and a do-it-yourself home energy audit.