6 green renovation trends for 2013

Matthew Grocoff

January 3, 2013

By: Matthew Grocoff, Green Renovation Expert

In: Green Living

Last year's Hurricane Sandy awakened the conscience of America and quickly ignited the conversation about transitioning to a clean energy economy and to smarter, more resilient homes and buildings. We can look forward to some exciting trends for 2013 in the home building and renovation market.

1. Net zero energy

Fine Homebuildling Magazine recently published a special energy issue with an article highlighting a seven-step path to energy savings. The final step was to add renewable energy and go net zero! No longer are people looking to simply pick the low-hanging fruit. Changing a light bulb isn't enough for folks any more. The trending conversation is making your home so energy-efficient that you can eliminate your energy bill . . . FOREVER.

According to the Living Building Institute, net zero energy simply means that one hundred percent of the building's energy on a net annual basis is supplied by on-site renewable energy. Many homes, including my own 112-year-old Victorian home, have achieved net zero energy. But until the Living Building Institute created their Net Zero Certification, there was no independent group verifying claims of net zero energy.

Beginning in 2020, the State of California building code will require all new homes to be constructed to net zero energy standards. The Net Zero Energy Home Coalition is working on setting standards and definitions for certifying net zero energy homes.

2. LED lighting

LED bulb by Phillips

As the price of LEDs drop and the quality surpasses old incandescents and CFLs there's an emerging trend among consumers to transition to LEDs. While the store cost is still two to five times more than comparable bulbs, LEDs cost less than any other light bulb over the course of their lives. A single MR16 halogen bulb is about $4, but they last only two years and use 20 watts. A comparable LED from Philips costs about $12 at Home Depot, but they will last 20-30 years and use only 5 watts. The replacement cost alone will cover the cost of the LED bulb in only 4 years.

The new LEDs have a full range of color options from warm to bright white and many are fully dimmable. Unlike CFLs they contain zero mercury. Cost, quality and durability are making consumers realize that LEDs are the clear winner. As the price comes down further, you can expect them to fly off the shelves even faster in 2013.

3. Smart thermostats

What started last year as a niche gadget trend has turned into a mainstream revolution. As soon as they hit the market I sang the praises of products like the Ecobee (which we have in our home) and the Nest smart thermostats (see my articles "Three Green Gadgets Steve Jobs Would've Loved" and "iPhone Godfathers create coolest thermostat ever." Since then Ecobee has brought other products onto the market and Nest is now available in Lowe's, Best Buy and the Apple Store. This Sunday Nest had a full-page ad in the New York Times' Style Magazine. It's now officially chic and trendy. What more can you ask for from a product that can really make your life better and save you 20 percent on heating and cooling?

4. Salvaged materials

reclaimed wood bar

Reclaimed wood bar

Dumpster diving has gone upscale. Even a major retailer like Pottery Barn is using reclaimed and salvaged materials in much of their furniture and accessories. One of my favorite organizations, Reclaim Detroit, is saving old buildings from the landfill and reselling the materials for use in gorgeous new ways. This photo shows wood reclaimed from a century old home. The home was slated for demolition and headed for the landfill. The Great Lakes Coffee Company in Detroit purchased the wood from Reclaim Detroit. They got a more beautiful product than had they bought new material, and they did their part to save a bit of history.

5. Phase change insulation

Without getting too "Bill Nye, the Science Guy" here, I'll try to explain what this cool new product does and why it's one of the hot items for green renovation for 2013.

phase change material

Phase change materials release or store heat as they turn from a solid to liquid or vice versa. Different materials can have different phase change (or melt/freeze) temperatures. For example, water turns to a solid at 32ºF. Phase change insulation are sheets installed next to standard insulation, and they become solid below around 72ºF. At this temperature they begin to release stored heat. In the winter, heat from the afternoon sun is stored in the material as it liquefies. Like magic, when the temperature dips at night, the stored energy is released, greatly improving the effectiveness of your regular insulation and helping to keep the house cozy and warm.

6. Resilient design

Resiliency became an overnight buzzword after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast. Resilient design is the ability to maintain livable conditions in a home or building after a natural disaster. Read my article: Prepare Your Home for Post-Superstorm Resilience. To learn more about this emerging home renovation and building trend check out the Resilient Design Institute.


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