The Green House Effect

March 2007

Three eco-conscious designers share their ideas on the green building trend, the simplest strategies to create a green home, and how going green may be changing the face of the Front Range—or not.

Ask nine out of 10 people why they love living in Colorado and their answers inevitably include some variation of “because I love the outdoors.” As a result, the Front Range has become a haven for those wanting to preserve the environment they love, and willing to walk the talk: Witness the legions of bicycle commuters, the birth of local businesses like Wild Oats, the thriving farmers’ markets with their local and organic fare.

But beyond those encouraging trends there’s still our explosive growth, our loving the landscape to death—green space gobbled, resources sapped, blue skies tinted brown from smog. Small changes and greener choices do make a difference, but one of the most dramatic ways to live a sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle is to consider how—and where—we actually live. Enter the “green” house.

The problem is, the idea of building of a green home, even for relatively eco-conscious Front Rangers, is still nebulous in a market sense. The consumer desire is there, but the education seems to lag behind, leaving potential home buyers with an understanding of the big-picture goal (build a house that jibes with the environment) but a foggy sense of how to navigate the process. Suddenly, a buyer has to consider PV systems, SIPs, FSC-approved lumber, LEED certifications—an alphabet soup of nature-friendly building materials and standards—not to mention get beyond their own biases, realign expectations, and come to terms with the amount of green it can take to go green to begin with.