Sustainable Living from the Live Green, Live Smart Institute
By John Kirchner
May 8, 2009
The Live Green, Live Smart Institute is a socially responsible business dedicated to fostering a sustainable planet by changing the way people think about, build and remodel homes and other buildings. The institute promotes green building science practices through primary research, education and training, certification programs, and joint ventures focused on sustainable shelters and lifestyles.
As part of its work, the institute is leading the Sustainable House Project. This remodeled house in Minnetonka, Minnesota, is the worlds’ highest-ranked and highest-rated home for LEED for Homes, Energy Star and Minnesota GreenStar programs. And as you can see from the photo below, being green doesn’t mean giving up on the comfort and great style you’d demand of a major remodeling project. (More photos of before and after the remodel here.)
As the Live Green, Live Smart Institute says, many people don’t recognize how beneficial it is to transform homes into green homes. Sustainable houses are extremely cost-effective over the lifetime of the home’s operation. While the upfront costs may be a bit higher in some cases (though that additional cost continues to decrease), green houses are less costly to maintain, benefit from lower utility costs and greater energy independence, and provide better indoor air quality than houses built to conventional standards and codes.
Case in point: The 2,300-square-foot house, originally built in 1948, now has an estimated daily utility cost of $2.50 — or about $75 per month. All electric energy is sustainable, with additional wind power purchased from Xcel Energy and excess electric energy sold back to the grid. Natural gas is used for heating the home, and the water heater is solar powered. Clothes are dried by wind and sun when weather permits.
According to the institute, the average window is one of the weakest points in a house system, in terms of energy efficiency. With an R-value of 1-0, standard windows do little to keep heat in or out. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the energy lost through inefficient residential windows accounts for two percent of total U.S. energy consumption.
The casement windows in the Sustainable House, from Marvin Windows and Doors, are triple-glazed, utilize a “low-E” coating, and are filled with inert argon gas. All this means that these windows have an R-value around 8 – an eightfold increase in insulation over standard windows. These windows are especially suited for very cold climates, making them perfect for the Minnesota winters.
There’s a wealth of information about this project and sustainable living in general on the Live Green, Live Smart Institute’s site.