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Category Archives: Green Homes
On May 16, 2015 I had the pleasure of going to the Micro Showcase Open House. This was no ordinary open house! The tiny home I visited was in a hidden area in the alley. When I walked inside the gate, I was struck by all the vegetables, herbs, and flowers flourishing in the garden. In fact, the garden area was larger than the tiny home. Brian Levy, owner of the tiny home and founder of Micro Showcase, was talking to a group of people and sharing tidbits about his adventures in tiny home living. He explained to live well you don’t have to live in a big home. After going to the open house, I interviewed Brian, so he can share his story in his own words.
1. Can you please share what inspired you to create a tiny home?
In part, having seen many tiny house plans that felt a bit too compromised, I was drawn to the design challenge of reimagining what a micro house could be.
Inspiration also came from my own living arrangements throughout my life, where I noticed that my happiness was almost never correlated with the size of my living space. And practically, for me, I feel life is too short to live big- to spend more of our precious life energy than needed dedicated to the gods of designing, building, financing, cleaning, furnishing, decorating, maintaining, and repairing, when we might better be loving, discovering, creating, traveling. There is a joy to be had in embracing certain limits.
I think many in the micro house movement experience a simplicity of existence, the elegant economy of form of a well designed small structure, an added freedom when unshackled from unneeded rooms and unwelcome mortgages. And last, there are clear environmental costs of living large that we simply can no longer afford for the sake of our civilization.
3. How do you capture water? Any tips about types of systems to use?
All the water is supplied by the rain, then treated to be potable. I have lots of information on how this is done here.
4. What type of composting toilets have you found to work the best?
I have an incinerator toilet, not ideal but 100% sterile and no waste.
5. How much does a Minimhome cost? Who builds them and what types of materials are used to create them?
Around $75K complete. We (Minim Built LLC) are working with a manufacturing partner to build them.
6. How have you dealt with zoning challenges in DC? Any good resources you would like to recommend?
My advice is to always do a bit of research, then head down to DCRA, in person, take a number and have a chat with a zoning official, who can help you understand what is and what is not possible on your lot. Depending on the type/scale of the project, a good real estate lawyer is also recommended.
7. Are there online communities and resources you would like to recommend for those who want to get involved with tiny homes?
We are hoping that Microshowcase.com continues to grow into a well researched, curated resource for micro living. There are many other great sites out there and on Facebook. Find out about upcoming open houses.
Greening your home can help you save money and save the environment at the same time. Some people don’t care about going green, but most everyone cares about saving money. Little changes you make in your own home have ripple effects and help to make a difference locally and globally. You may wonder if the effort you make to switch to energy efficient appliances and water-saving devices really matters in the long-run.
Facing Reality: Limited Energy & Water Resources
The reality is that we live in a world with finite resources. Although there may be an illusion of plenty when it comes to energy and water, they are limited. We grow up in urban environments like Washington, DC where we don’t know what happens to our trash, where our water is purified, or how our electricity and gas are generated. We don’t come face to face with the consequences of our actions. I am just as guilty as the next person for not always realizing the ripple effect of my actions or having an understanding of how I am using limited energy and water resources.
Buying a Green Home
When I bought my first home, I didn’t think about how green it was. I was only concerned about the location, size, layout and amenities. These things are undoubtedly critical when purchasing a new home, but when you are considering two similarly priced homes in the same neighborhood, it may be helpful to consider each home’s ecological footprint and features.
Selling a Green Home
If you are considering selling your current home, it may be helpful to look at everything you can do to make your home greener. It will help to set your home apart from the rest of the homes on the market. You may think that you have to spend a lot of money to green your home, but you can make small, inexpensive changes like adding water-saving devices to adding weather stripping to windows and doors to prevent air leakage. If you have a bigger budget, you can consider replacing your appliances, getting a solar hot water heater and other adding solar panels on the roof.
Here are a few green tips. This is not meant to be a complete, exhaustive list of everything. Feel free to add other green tips by commenting below.
1. Choose a zero-VOC paint – Improve indoor air quality
When you are considering repainting the interior of your home, choose zero-VOC paints. They may cost a little more, but they make a big difference in terms of the air quality in a home. VOC paints give off harmful fumes.
2. Weatherize your home – Prevent air leakage
You may have a very efficient furnace, but if your windows and doors are leaking air, you will end up spending more money heating or cooling your home.
3. Add water-saving devices – Limit your water use
Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators are inexpensive ways to save water. You can also consider upgrading to a water-efficient dishwasher and clothes washer. If you have the space, consider attaching a rain barrel to your downspout and use this water for your garden. All of these devices will help you save water and save money.
4. Compost, recycle & reuse – Generate less trash
Be sure to recycle plastic, glass, cardboard, and paper in the blue trash cans provided by DC government. If possible resuse bottles and containers for food storage. If you have a garden, create a simple composter by taking the bottom out of a trash can and drilling holes in the sides. Make sure there is lid that fits tightly, so it doesn’t attract rodents. You can add all your vegetable and fruit scraps in the compost. No cooked food, meat or dairy. Add in some Fall leaves, mix the compost once in a while and you will see how your scraps slowly decompose. Once the compost is ready, you will be lucky enough to have the most rich “black gold” for your garden.
5. Clean with a Conscience – Improve indoor air quality and avoid water pollution
Many cleaners are filled with harmful chemicals that we end up inhaling. For cleaning the shower or tub, you can use white vinegar and Bon Ami or baking soda. Avoid bleach–it’s bad for you and the environment. Buy eco-friendly dishwashing liquid, detergent, soap, and cleaners. Some of these may cost more, but they are better for you in the long-run. Remember you may save money in the short-run with the cheaper harmful cleaners, but keep in mind the long-term consequences of some of these products.
I recently received the National Association of REALTORS®’ (NAR’s) Green Designation, the only green real estate professional designation recognized by NAR.
I achieved this designation after completing 18 hours of course work designed specifically for REALTORS®. More specifically, I was trained in understanding what makes a property green, helping clients evaluate the cost/benefits of green building features and practices, distinguishing between industry rating and classification systems, listing and marketing green homes and buildings, discussing the financial grants and incentives available to homeowners, and helping consumers see a property’s green potential.
If you are looking to buy or sell a green home, email me at Roshani[at]GreenLineRe.com to schedule an appointment.
DC Area Green Resources
Here are some of the local green resources. Feel free to suggest others by commenting below.
1. RiverSmart Homes – Reduce stormwater pollution by getting rain barrels, getting a rain garden installed and much more.
2. DC Green Homes – Join this online community to share questions and resources about greening your home.
3. DC SUN – Join this neighborhood coalition that focuses on all things solar.
4. Groundswell – Get home energy audits, make energy efficient upgrades and participate in collective buying to purchase clean energy.
5. Helicon Works – Ecological architecture & building collaborative.
6. DC Greenworks – Get a green roof and more.
7. Amicus Green Building Center – Buy green building supplies.
8. Community Forklift – Surplus, salvaged, green building materials.
Other Green Resources
1. Green Home Resources – Green REsource Council
2. Green Home Guide – U.S. Green Building Council
4. Green Home Solutions – EPA
5. Green Guide – National Geographic
6. Good Guide – Green, Healthy Product Guide
8. Green Pages – Green America