Top 10 Eco-Home Trends for 2010

Remember when ideas to conserve energy and save the environment seemed like the fastest growing trend in housing? Back before the recession when people still had money to spend on often expensive "green" improvements for their homes?

Well you ain't seen nothing yet. Despite the recession, the market share for certified "green" new homes rose over the past year, at least in greater Portland and Seattle, according to nonprofit research firm Earth Advantage's reading of multiple listing service data. (What's more, they commanded an average 12 percent premium over non-certified homes, the group found.)

Earth Advantage, which has its own energy standard that is recognized by Oregon's state housing agency and is often used in conjunction with LEED, expects even more green housing business nationwide in 2010.

With strong support from federal and state authorities, energy-saving, environmentally friendly housing may be shaping up for a big year in 2010. So, even if you already bought a set of solar panels in 2008 and caulked and insulated in 2009, here are some of Earth Advantages' top trends for 2010:
Water Conservation
- Do this yourself because its easy and because, as I've heard from landlords who tried it, money spent on water conservation pays for itself almost immediately. The Environmental Protection Agency has even created a new standard called WaterSense to rate homes on how they use water.

Energy Labeling for Homes
- Imagine if every time you saw a listing for a home for sale, it came with a number that represented how energy efficient it was. Would you pay less for a home that wastes energy? A little more for a home with really low utility costs? Federal officials are also looking into rating homes by the access of their locations to transit, jobs, and other amenities.

Green Mortgages - Green experts have been waiting for this moment for years: "Bankers and insurance have come around to see green homes and buildings as better for their bottom line," according to Earth Advantage. That could mean lower interest rates and lower premiums for the owners of green-built houses. Or, the group posits, banks could simply start to charge higher interest rates or not lend at all to homes with high utility costs.

The Home Dashboard - Software designers and energy experts are building web sites that homeowners can use to track and control their energy use. The sites will show exactly how much energy you're using. "In the same way that the Toyota Prius miles-per-gallon indicator has motivated some owners to modify driving habits, these home 'dashboards' may create 'extreme energy' buffs," the group writes in its report.

Green software - New computer tools will make green features cheaper to add to new homes, meaning that more developers will jump on the green bandwagon, the group predicts.

Eco-districts - Sounds like a theme park, but don't laugh: Earth Advantages' idea of places "where residents have access to most services and supplies with walking or biking distance" is looking increasingly like the future. Across the country, there is much talk or smart, pedestrian-friendly development. And the federal government has created a Partnership for Sustainable Communities to support just this kind of new development.
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