Posted by: Michelle on September 22nd, 2008
Several months ago we wrote a brief but apparently provocative post on the idea of implementing a sustainability labeling program for houses. I say provocative because the post garnered a lot of attention on sites like Treehugger and in several print media outlets. The post even roused a certain amount of debate in the blog world, which we were glad to see since healthy debate is essential to the growth of ideas. Today, in order to develop the idea of sustainability labeling even further, we are releasing a white paper on the topic entitled “Nutrition Labels for Homes: A Way for Homebuyers to Make More Ecological, Economical Decisions.” The paper addresses some of the challenges facing the world of green home building and discusses the potential for sustainability labeling to serve as a clear, universal way for homebuyers to evaluate the true worth of a for-sale house.
Earlier this year we performed an energy comparison study that modeled the annual energy usage and carbon emissions of two homes in Menlo Park, California: a Sunset Breezehouse home and a best selling model - what one might consider a “traditional” home - of comparable size. From that study we attained the above data in addition to data depicting the homes’ annual carbon emissions. We used this data as well as water consumption data we collected from another MKD house located in Northern California to create the two Sustainability Facts Labels below.
Above is the label for a Sunset Breezehouse home in Menlo Park, California and below is the label for a “traditional” home in the same location. In addition to data we collected independently, the labels also include information pertaining to national and regional averages as well as local building code standards to serve as a basis for further, more universal comparison. For the mkLotus and Glidehouse home labels above, we used estimated data based on the square footage of a standard model of each home relative to the Sunset Breezehouse home.
Buildings emit more carbon than any other sector in the United States - more than transportation and more than industry. Of the building sector, residential buildings emit more carbon than commercial. We need to do a lot more here in the U.S. to curb those emissions and we need to start now. Sustainability labeling has the potential to be a powerful tool with which to fight our houses’ carbon emissions.